The teenaged Austin Theriault would have been surprised to see where the adult Austin Theriault ended up.

Theriault doesn’t have a full-time racing schedule lined up for himself this summer, but that doesn’t mean the 24-year-old Fort Kent native isn’t keeping busy. After winning the ARCA Racing Series championship last season, winning seven of 20 races, Theriault has made only a few starts this year while working as a consultant to MDM Motorsports for driver Chase Purdy.

“I don’t like ‘coach,’ because it has a weird connotation to it, but I guess you could call me somewhat of a driver coach,” Theriault said. “Going to the race tracks with him, spending a little bit of time during the week going over notes and trying to do some prep work. I feel like having both perspectives — as a driver and doing what I’m doing now — I think I’m a bit more well-rounded than I used to be.”

MDM, based out of Mooresville, North Carolina, where Theriault lives now, fields cars in ARCA and in NASCAR development series at the K&N Pro Series level. Drivers for the team include Harrison Burton, son of longtime NASCAR driver Jeff Burton.

After racing in ARCA for a team owned by Ken Schrader, Theriault did not have the financial backing to defend his championship in 2018. Still, his impressive 2017 season opened the door to MDM.

But even though he’s now helping the next wave of young drivers accelerate their learning curves, Theriault is still working to secure opportunities for races this season and next, though he said he has nothing concrete currently lined up.

“We had such a good year last year, but the puzzle pieces didn’t come together,” Theriault said. “All in all, I’m still in the industry and still contributing as much as I can.”

Four times in his career, Theriault has finished in the top five in the Oxford 250 (with a career-best second in 2015), though he’s unsure if he will be back to take another crack at the region’s marquee event next month. A one-off Pro All Stars Series start at Spud Speedway on July 3 — where Theriault began his racing career as a 13-year-old in 2007 — may prove to be his only return to Maine this season.

Any opportunity to race for a team in a national series later this summer could trump the chance to run the Oxford 250 again.

“It would be cool to do both,” Theriault said.

ARCA is a national series which was purchased this spring by NASCAR, after years of holding companion events with NASCAR at places like Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and other intermediate tracks.

Theriault’s ARCA title came in his first full-time season with any series since he finished third in the American-Canadian Tour standings in both 2011 and 2012. From 2013-2016, Theriault was piecing partial schedules together in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series, as well as local Late Model races. His most high-profile opportunity came driving Trucks for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski in 2015, when he posted four top 10s in nine starts.

But the chance to go full-time racing a year ago was something Theriault looked at as a means to reset his career.

“It can be difficult racing part-time in a series that’s more competitive than you’ve ever raced before, so it takes a while to get it all figured out. Full-time seasons give you more time to build confidence and chemistry,” Theriault said. “I feel like every year you approach it as if it’s your one shot. Most drivers, including myself, say, ‘Hey, look, this is my shot.’ If you get multiple shots, I guess you’re doing pretty well. It’s difficult. It’s a competitive industry.”

Theriault is blessed with perspective he might not have had when he was still a promising teen in New England. Whether he drives again or stays in the sport in some other capacity, he’s open to whatever the next couple of years presents him.

“I feel like I would definitely have been surprised (at where I am now),” Theriault said of where his career has gone. “I don’t even know if it was in the back of my mind (when I was younger). They say that what you think about becomes reality, but at that point and time I hadn’t thought about it. I was still racing locally… and having some success, but we just did it for fun to start. By no stretch of the imagination did I think I was going to be here. A lot more racing happened between when I started and then when I finally started to wonder, ‘Hey, how far can we go with this?'”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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