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LOUDON, New Hampshire — Do you remember when you finally arrived with your family at that vacation spot long dreamed about? That once in a lifetime feeling that comes when dreams come true.
Fort Kent native Austin Theriault experienced that moment when he arrived at the front gate at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday.
“I have been so busy preparing for this event, when it finally came, I thought ‘It is finally happening!’” Theriault said.
The Foxwood Resort Casino 301, a NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race, is the longest race distance that Theriault has attempted, which presented him with a new challenge on Sunday.
It proved to be a moot point when he went behind the pit wall and retired from the race on lap 185 when a plate in the rear end of his car sheared off.
He finished 35th after qualifying in 36th on Friday.
The race was won by Kevin Harvick, who held off Denny Hamlin in a last-lap thriller. Harvick’s pit crew includes Oxford, Maine, native Mike Morneau, the rear tire changer.
Going into the race, Theriault goals were to, “Stay out of trouble, do as many laps as possible, and stay out of the way of faster cars. I am fortunate to be here I have worked hard for this chance.”
Theriault’s journey to reach a Cup race began at age 13 in 2007 when the youngster made his first laps in the Young Guns class at Spud Speedway, Caribou, Maine. With success at the track, including winning the Spud 150 in a V6-powered late model the family had owned only a week, he decided to pursue his dream to race in the most prestigious stock car series in the world.
Theriault has developed a reputation for tenacity and perseverance. After winning the ARCA Championship in 2017 with Ken Schrader Racing, the next season did not result in opportunities which many expected to come his way.
The Maine racer, now living in Mooresville, North Carolina, worked with several businesses to help them to expand their market and allow him to achieve his goal. That work came to fruition when Theriault and Bangor Savings Bank announced in June 2019 they would team up as primary sponsor on the No. 52 Chevrolet in the Rick Ware Racing stable.
The bank sponsored Theriault in 2014 for the Nationwide Series car and in 2018 for the Oxford 250.
With a heat index of 91 degrees at the New Hampshire track, Theriault, an avid bike rider, prepared for the extreme conditions by doing cross country rides in the North Carolina heat. Debuting in a Monster Energy Cup car lends itself to comparison with other race cars he has driven.
“The Cup car is heavier and responds different than my PASS (Pro All Star Series) car. It has more horsepower though,” he said.
Theriault is a popular racer in New England.
Twin sisters Brittany and Ashley Cote of Oakland, Maine, met Theriault at the Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta two years ago. They made the trip to support the Maine driver this weekend.
Bob Masse and his son Keanen from Woodland came to root for their favorite drivers yet wanted to show their support for a fellow County racer. Keanen brought his friend Connor Soucy also from Woodland.
Limestone’s Gage Theriault, no relation to Austin Theriault, called the “Biggest Little Fan,” was on hand. He got to tour the team hauler and get some photos
“I couldn’t wait to get to New Hampshire to see Austin race,” he said.
Theriault will be racing next at the Pro All Stars Series) at Spud Speedway on Aug. 4. Several of his fellow competitors who will be running at the Caribou track were at New Hampshire including Wyatt Alexander, Shawn Martin, and fellow NASCAR Monster Energy Cup rookie Andy Seuss.