Austin Theriault’s racing season is over, but the Fort Kent native will be on hand for Sunday’s NASCAR Monster Energy Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He will be there to support the Maine-based Travis Mills Foundation, which supplies support, rest and relaxation to veterans and their families at a vacation retreat. Mills, a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant, is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries. He is an honorary official for the race.
The Travis Mills Foundation will be the primary sponsor on the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Ford at the Ford EcoBoost 400. The sponsorship is a gift from Bangor Savings Bank, which has sponsored Theriault several other times.
Theriault was supposed to drive the car but has not been cleared by NASCAR doctors. He suffered what he termed an “upper body injury” in a multi-car wreck Oct. 14 at the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
Josh Bilicki will fill in for Theriault in the No. 52 Ford.
Theriault would neither confirm nor deny whether he is suffering from a concussion but said he is feeling better and is optimistic about his long-term health outlook.
“The prognosis is good. When you get hurt, sometimes [healing] goes quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Theriault said.
He said there is a positive spin to his situation this weekend.
“I’m certainly disappointed that I won’t be driving this weekend, but it will give me more time to spend with Travis and his team,” Theriault said.
Theriault will also be involved in the Mortach Million Dollar Challenge, a matching fundraiser for the Mills Foundation, which runs through Dec. 31. Dave Mortach and Sophie Mortach of Cleveland will match every donation to the Mills Foundation up to $500,000.
Theriault called Mills an inspiration and said he will take the foundation’s ‘Never give up. Never quit’ motto to heart as he recovers from his injury, although he said his injury pales in comparison to Mills’ injuries.
“[Mills] message is about determination and overcoming challenges. It is motivation for me to work hard to get back to the track,” Theriault said.
Theriault’s year was a productive one.
He made his Monster Energy Cup Series debut for Rick Ware Racing and ran five races. He finished 32nd at both Michigan International Speedway and Richmond Raceway, was 34th at Pocono Raceway, and wound up 35th at both New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Talladega.
“I fulfilled a lot of my long-term goals, including racing at the Cup level and being in front of a lot of influential people and sponsors,” Theriault said. “My career has been filled with a lot of moments where my only option was to make the best of my situation, and I think that’s something I do pretty well.”
Theriault, who led a lap at Talladega for the first time, also entered into a healthy partnership with Bangor Savings Bank.
“If it wasn’t for Bangor Savings Bank and their [willingness] to take a chance on us, I would have never been in this position,” Theriault said. “They’re more than a sponsor. They’re like a lifelong partner. They have been so gracious. We have worked together better than any company I have ever worked with. They were so involved. It was a dream sponsorship.”
Theriault is optimistic that he will run some Monster Energy Cup Series races next season.
“And maybe there will be some other opportunities to mix and match in some other series in which we’ll be able to race for wins,” he said, referring to the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
He has competed in six Xfinity Series and 13 Truck Series races during his career.
Theriault also will be heavily involved in trying to gain more sponsorships.