It has been an eventful year for Fort Kent race car driver Austin Theriault.
He said in some ways, it hasn’t been eventful enough.
The 20-year-old landed a three-race series in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, and it didn’t go as well as he had hoped. Theriault finished 15th at Iowa Speedway, 21st at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and, last Saturday night, he wound up 18th at Kentucky Speedway.
He also has been in five Pro All-Stars Series Super Late Model North races and won his first ARCA race at Michigan International Speedway.
“In looking back, I was at a racetrack less than I’ve ever been,” said Theriault. “I need to be racing more often. That’s my main goal for next year.”
He will probably conclude his season Saturday afternoon in the Ripley and Fletcher Ford 150 PASS SLM North race at Oxford Plains Speedway. He has four top-five finishes in his five PASS races but is looking for his first win of the season.
He will then hit the road seeking sponsors and a ride for next year.
Theriault made his debut in the Nationwide Series in the No. 5 car, which has gone to victory lane five times this season — four with Kevin Harvick and one with Kasey Kahne. They are among the 16 drivers involved in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.
But there were at least two months between each of Theriault’s three races.
“It’s hard enough to race every week. It’s even harder when you haven’t been in the car for a while,” said a sympathetic Ernie Cope, the crew chief for the No. 5 car.
“It’s hard to learn something and not be able to apply it for two months,” said Theriault, whose car last weekend was decked out in a Maine theme after Gov. Paul LePage’s administration donated $50,000 to promote the state and its business climate.
Theriault was disappointed as his car was so loose, he had to slow down to avoid wrecking it. That enabled the leaders to eventually put him two laps down.
He explained that once Cope and the crew tightened up his car, it was much faster. He wound up passing several of the top 10 finishers. But he couldn’t compensate for being two laps down.
“The guys made some good adjustments. It was good to know we kept improving and getting faster. But we had nothing to show for it,” said Theriault.
He is taking everything in stride.
“I’m going to stay positive. I know things take time. Hopefully, things are happening for the right reasons,” he said. “I’m not going to dwell on it too much. You look at what happened, you make mental notes and you move forward.
“If you stay in the past too long, you’re going to miss what’s ahead of you,” Theriault added.
“Everyone wants to run up front and be in contention to win races. That time will come. I have to think that or else I shouldn’t be doing this,” he said.
He said he does want to continue racing and would prefer “the bigger [3,400-pound] cars with the radial tires.”
That would mean the Nationwide, Camping World Trucks or ARCA series.
But he also knows he has to be a realist and take the best opportunity to get seat time, even if it isn’t in one of those divisions.
Theriault said he learned a tremendous amount and made some valuable contacts this year.
“I’m excited about the next couple of months [seeking a ride for next year],” he said.
Cope said Theriault has a promising future and said he enjoyed working with him.
“He didn’t pick any easy tracks [for the three-race deal], that’s for sure,” said Cope. “He definitely has potential. He just needs more seat time. He’s a good kid, and he comes from a great family.”