Pro All Stars Series
Top 50 Drivers in Oxford 250 History - No. 20 - 16
Jul 20, 2023
Austin Theriault may not have been behind the wheel of a race car in nearly four years, but the Maine native is gearing up for the 50th running of the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway on Sunday, August 27.
Theriault was the 2017 ARCA Menards Series champion, earning seven wins, 16 top fives and 19 top-10 finishes that season, and had a strong career going that led him to the NASCAR Cup Series. He had five Cup starts in 2019 with Rick Ware Racing, driving the No. 52, finishing a career-best 32nd at Michigan International Speedway and Richmond Raceway. However, the October 2019 race at Talladega Superspeedway was Theriault’s last time behind the wheel of a race car.
Now working with Derek Ming and his team out of Vermont, Theriault is ready to get back to work at one of his favorite racetracks and at an event he has been chasing victory at for over a decade.
“To get back behind the wheel at Oxford, which is one of my favorite tracks, means a lot,” Theriault told Racing America. “It's fairly close to home and is Maine’s, well really all of New England’s, most prestigious late model race and arguably one of the country's probably top five biggest late model races. It’s just really exciting for me, and I’m looking forward to getting out there dusting off the cobwebs.”
Theriault has six previous starts in the Oxford 250, starting with a pair of third-place finishes in 2011 and 2012. After a fourth-place finish in 2013, Theriault finished second to Travis Benjamin after leading 95 of the 250 laps. This will mark the first time since 2018 the Maine native will be back behind the wheel of a Super Late Model at Oxford Plains Speedway, driving the No. 45 Bar Harbor Bank/Travis Mills Foundation Ford.
The Oxford 250 effort came about relatively organically and quickly between Theriault, Ming and sponsor Bar Harbor Bank. While Bar Harbor Bank has worked with late model racer D.J. Saw in the New England area in the past, they wanted to expand their involvement in racing and partnered with Theriault and Ming for the Oxford 250.
In addition, Theriault will also be supporting the Travis Mills Foundation to raise funds and awareness for the organization, which helps recalibrated veterans and their families. Theriault and the Foundation will also be bringing a number of recalibrated veterans and their families to the Oxford 250 at the end of August.
Based in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine, the Travis Mills Foundation was established by retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne. Mills was critically injured by an IED while serving his third tour in Afghanistan, becoming one of only five quadruple amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mills and his family now help other recalibrated veterans find rest and relaxation as they deal with their injuries, recovery and new reality.
“The Travis Mills Foundation jumped in, and they shared that vision with me for us to focus on their efforts during the Oxford 250 and to get as much exposure for Travis and his foundation as possible,” said Theriault. “I had already done some previous work with Travis back in 2019 when I was running NASCAR, so that relationship had already been established and it's been great working with him in the past and it seemed like a great fit for this because once again it's a great story and I think it's something that everybody can get behind.”
Between his efforts and those of Bar Harbor Bank, Theriault hopes to raise over $25,000 for the Travis Mills Foundation. Donate or learn more about the Travis Mills Foundation by clicking HERE.
“We are thrilled to join forces with Austin and his team once again as he highlights our Foundation's incredible work to assist recalibrated veterans and their families. We wish him the best of luck as he competes in the biggest race in Maine. We extend our special thanks to Bar Harbor Bank & Trust who are making this collaboration possible,” SSG Mills said on the donation website.
“We have some pretty big goals,” Theriault said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but I’m pretty confident we’re going to be able to raise that.”
Theriault also knows he and the team have work to do I they want to contend for the win in the 50th running of the Oxford 250, and he knows that starts with qualifying well and getting a good draw for the heat race.
“I always feel very comfortable when I’m at Oxford Plains, and in the past the results have proved it,” he said. “The unknown is how much has the track changed since I’ve been there? How much has it worn out? I’m sure the tire compounds are always changing.
“The people that race there more often always have an advantage, so for those of us that are just jumping into this as a one-off race, we certainly have a bit more of an uphill climb to learn and to get up to speed. It’s not like I’m going to the track for the first time, and I feel like we certainly have enough practice to adjust ourselves out, so that means we have enough to adjust ourselves in."
I’m just really excited to get back behind the wheel. It’s been too long, and I’ve obviously had a lot of other things going on that’s been keeping me busy. There’s rarely a dull day.”
While Theriault has not been behind the wheel since 2019, he has certainly kept busy. Since stepping out of the car, he has turned his focus toward helping young, up-and-coming drivers through Austin Theriault Racing Development.
Residing in Maine and traveling occasionally back to North Carolina, Theriault has partnered with Candice Hornaday and Team Hornaday Development, which has opened a lot of doors and allowed him to expand his reach and impact more drivers. One of the biggest advantages of working with Team Hornaday Development is the fact NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday is very involved in the program. The program, which mentor drivers both on and off the racetrack, currently works with Howie DiSavino III, Hudson Bulger, and more.
“Ron is super involved and he's a very accomplished driver,” said Theriault. “For these young drivers to be able to absorb just day-to-day things that you may not realize, like, how to handle yourself at the racetrack or how to be more prepared during the week or how to practice your restarts when you have limited practice, especially when practice is way limited compared to before.
“You've got to be a good driver, but you’ve got to have more than just talent on the racetrack,” he said. “You've got to have a good personality, you've got to be able to sell yourself, you've got to be able to work and promote your sponsors, you've got to be able to work with teammates. You have to have a positive attitude, you got to have work ethic and you have to be able to manage your time effectively, all of those things and more.”
While Theriault is helping teach these valuable skills to young race car drivers, he is also putting those skills and lessons learned in a more civic sense of the matter. At just 29 years old, Theriault also serves his first term in the Maine House of Representatives, serving as a Republican out of Fort Kent and representing House District 1.
“It's been interesting to get involved in the civic and governments side of things,” he said of his role as a representative. “I'm on the Transportation Committee, and there's so much to learn about all of our infrastructure and all the different aspects of it and how the funds get delivered to where they need to get delivered to and how we keep the roads together and how we build infrastructure and all that stuff.”
He admitted the state still has a lot of work to do in that area, but said it was great being on a committee that was making a direct impact and improvements to his state. After spending years in the racing industry, competing and traveling the NASCAR circuit, Theriault believes some of the lessons learned behind the wheel and in the garage have directly applied to his role in government.
“Teamwork is very critical and working with people and collaborating with people is critical,” he said. “In racing we work together, and the goal was to achieve something beyond just us, us as individuals, you know, sometimes in politics, people unfortunately don't always look at it like that and it's sometimes about one person getting ahead of the other person and that's not the way it should be. So, we have a lot of work to do across the board to get more people involved in government and politics so that it's more representative of the people and not special interests and politicians and all that stuff.”
While special interests might not have their place in politics, Theriault’s involvement in race has certainly drawn interest from his constituents.
“I would say some people have heard a little bit about what I’ve done before,” he said. “NASCAR can even be exciting for people who wouldn’t consider themselves a NASCAR fan, so I think there’s a level of respect for the position that I was in before, and I appreciate that.”
Those same constituents will now have the opportunity to cheer on their representative in his return to action August 25-27 at Oxford Plains Speedway for the 50th running of the Oxford 250, and you can catch all of the action right here on Racing America.
Image courtesy Austin Theriault
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