Austin Theriault’s childhood dream was to race in the Monster Energy Cup Series. The Fort Kent stock car racer used to go to the Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and recalled seeing his favorite driver, Mark Martin, win the Sylvania 300 at Loudon in 2009.
The 25-year-old Theriault, the 2017 ARCA Menards Series points champion, will fulfill his dream on Sunday, July 21 when he will drive the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet at the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in Loudon.
“This is definitely a dream come true,” Theriault said on Monday. “I spent a lot of time there as a kid playing around the campground with my cousins.”
He also drove a No. 52 car for Ken Schrader Racing when he captured the ARCA points title.
“That’s cool” he said.
Theriault quickly pointed out that this venture isn’t about him alone.
“A lot of companies from New England stepped up [to make this happen]. They’re equally excited to be racing at the Cup level as I am and I’m honored to be part of it,” Theriault said.
Bangor Savings Bank will be the primary sponsor with fellow Maine companies Cross Insurance, Daigle Oil and E.J. Prescott serving as associate sponsors.
Theriault will be the first Maine driver to drive in a Cup race since Newburgh’s Ricky Craven in 2004.
Theriault credited Archie St. Hilaire of Old Orchard Beach, who owns the Go Fas Racing No. 32 Monster Energy Cup Series car driven by Corey LaJoie, for playing an important role in the venture.
“Archie has been a big supporter and has provided a lot of guidance for me. He told me over a year ago that I needed to start putting my focus on getting some experience at the (Monster Energy Cup) level. So I put a lot of focus on it and finally, things started lining up to make it happen,” Theriault said.
“I want to represent New England well along with the companies who are supporting me. I’m hoping to have a solid, respectable day. We want to run as many laps as we can and bring the car home in one piece,” he added.
Theriault said there are plans in the works for him to drive other races for Rick Ware Racing on tracks that are at least 1 1/2 miles long so he can receive NASCAR approval to run at the larger tracks.
He hopes that will lead to other opportunities.
Loudon is a 1.058-mile track track.
Theriault hasn’t raced since he finished 22nd in the NASCAR TruNorth Global 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway (Virginia) on March 23.
But he isn’t concerned, saying “I have a lot of experience to rely on” and he expects to do a lot of homework to get ready to run at Loudon.
Theriault, who most recently has partnered with Crazy Horse Racing, a company based in South Paris that builds Super Late Model and Late Model race cars, has competed several times at NHMS. He has raced there in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series and NASCAR K&N Series.
He posted a fifth-place finish in a K and N Pro Series East race in 2016.
“I’ll go back and see what I’ve done in my previous races there and look at the notes and videos,” he said. “I’ll talk to other drivers about the track.
“It’s going to be different for everybody because they have a new rules package this year and they only race at Loudon once a year now,” he added.
There used to be two Cup races at Loudon every year, one in July and one in September. But that ended after the 2017 season and now there is just the July race.
Due to NASCAR rules, Theriault won’t be able to test the car until he sits in it for the first practice on race weekend.
Because Rick Ware Racing is a chartered team, he will automatically be included in the field and won’t have to qualify to get in. Qualifying will determine his starting spot.
The Ware Race team has three cars, the Nos. 51, 52 and 53 cars, and they have used nine different drivers this season.
The No. 51 Petty Ware Racing team had a season-best 19th place finish with B.J. McLeod behind the wheel in the Daytona 500. The three cars have combined to race 36 times this season and they have four top-30 finishes.
“We are proud to be giving deserving drivers their chance, and RWR has been fortunate to give some outstanding drivers their chance in the Cup series over the years,” team owner Ware said in a news release. “We are just as excited to see Austin Theriault showcase his talents on this big stage. We have been following Austin’s career and are thrilled to have him in the Bangor Savings Bank No. 52 at New Hampshire. We are equally excited to have Bangor Savings Bank join the RWR family as a marketing partner.”
Ware is in his third full season as an owner in the Cup series.