ARUNDEL, Maine — A young race-car driver from Maine is gearing up to compete on the racetrack closest to home this weekend.
Austin Theriault, originally from Fort Kent, is making his debut at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, sponsored by Monster Energy.
Theriault's racing career has been a long time in the making. This is the first time he will race in the NASCAR Cup Series -- a personal dream of his -- and he is the only Mainer from Aroostook County to do so.
“I remember sitting in the grandstands at Loudon in 2009," Theriault recalled. "I actually had been racing a couple of years at that time, but only at the amateur levels. I never thought I'd have a chance or an opportunity to race in the same sort of race."
On Wednesday, July 17, Theriault stopped by Bentley's Saloon Car Show in Arundel to meet fans and sign autographs. Theriault says their support is special to him.
"At the end of the day, the fan base in New England has always been really, really, really strong -- and I know that because I was a fan myself, sitting in the grandstands at Loudon in 2009, even before then, with my grandparents," said Theriault. "It’s going to be special to see everybody -- whether it’s family, friends, people I don’t know that I’ll meet this weekend."
Theriault says that the Cup Series level will be a whole "new avenue" for him. He's just happy to have the support of local sponsors -- and to be representing Maine for his family.
"When it comes time to buckle on the seatbelts and the national anthem is played...I’m sure they’re going to probably feel a little bit emotional about that," Theriault smiled. "Just to see their son supported by Cross Insurance and Bangor Savings Bank at that national level -- you know, there’s really no higher form of motor-sports to go."
The race kicks off at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 21 and will stream live on NBC Sports.