LOUDON, New Hampshire — Five years ago, Fort Kent native Austin Theriault was a 20-year-old with big dreams.
"NASCAR is where I want to get," is what Theriault said back then.
Fast forward to the 2019 NASCAR weekend at New Hampshire Motor speedway where Theriault's dream is finally coming true. Austin will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Sunday, July 21.
"Coming from New England, especially coming from Maine where there's not a lot of roots with NASCAR, even though there are a lot of fans, I've had to work connections and work a lot harder," says Theriault. "It's finally starting to pay off."
Rick Ware Racing is giving the rookie his shot. This is the first time Theriault has been behind the wheel of a cup car, but luck is on his side.
"To come back and race the number 52 means a lot to me just because we won a championship in ARCA Racing the 52," says Theriault.
His cup series number 52 car is covered in Maine business names -- Bangor Savings Bank is Austin's primary sponsor. Theriault's debut is a proud moment for Maine, and even prouder moment for his family. This opportunity has been a long time coming.
"My first memory is at the local short track in Caribou, Maine when Austin starts driving around and the car is literally on three wheels because we don't know how to set up the car," laughs Austin's dad, Steve Theriault. "It's a milestone for us as parents to be here to see this all happening."
Theriault's goal for this race is to finish, and to continue to make a name for himself.
"I want to gain respect, I want to learn these cup cars. This is my first race in a cup car. It's my first time ever practicing in a cup car," Theriault says. "You don't have the opportunity to test or to hone your skills, you have be mentally prepared to do it on race weekend."
Theriault says he is ready, and he's already feeling the love from the region. He's the first Maine native to drive in the Cup Series since Ricky Craven's last race about 15 years ago. Austin's hope is that his struggle to get to this point will pave the way for future Maine kids with the dream to drive.
"Knowing that I am going to wake up every day and this is going to be really difficult is what keeps me going," says Theriault. "I wish there was more representation, but maybe this is the start. We'll see."
The Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 is on Sunday, July 21 and you can watch it on NBC Sports Network. If you want to catch Austin racing again in his home state, he says he'll be in Caribou on August 4.