FORT KENT, Maine — Fort Kent native and former NASCAR racer Austin Theriault is gearing up to return to the race track in late August.
Theriault, through a partnership with the Travis Mills Foundation and Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, will race in the 50th annual Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway Aug. 27
The upcoming race marks Theriault’s first time on the track since 2019 when he raced in the NASCAR Cup Series. With a seating capacity of 14,000, Oxford is the state’s largest spectator facility.
Theriault took some time off after his last race at the Talladega Speedway for a NASCAR cup in 2019, when he was injured.
He said he also had a serious back injury in 2015 during a crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At the time, he said the course did not have SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers. He said the damage to his back in 2015 was likely worsened as a result of the 2019 crash.
“Racing is an inherently dangerous sport,” he said. “We can never guarantee that we’re not going to put ourselves in harm’s way. But it sure is exciting.”
And now, he is excited to get back behind the wheel and help support the Travis Mills Foundation.
Travis Mills lost all four of his limbs in 2012 while serving in Afghanistan. But a year later, Mills established the nonprofit foundation with his wife Kelsey to help veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001, and were injured either during active duty or as a result of their service.
“We are thrilled to once again join forces with Austin and his team as he highlights the incredible work our foundation does to assist recalibrated veterans and their families,” Mills said in the press release.
And while Theriault does not have any long-term plans to get back into racing, he said he would like to continue working with Mills through his organization AT Racing Development. Through this organization, Theriault consults and mentors younger racers.
“As these up-and-coming drivers are moving up the ranks and becoming more popular, if we can promote Travis, we’re definitely going to do that,” he said. “It’s a conversation I’ve already had with them. We just have to figure out how to make the timing work.”
Theriault first hit the track as a teenager at Spud’s Speedway in Caribou. From there, he quickly worked his way up to racing on some of NASCAR’s biggest tracks. Theriault currently works as a sports business consultant. He also serves as a Maine state representative for District 1.
Gates open at the speedway at 9 a.m. on Aug. 27, and the races begin at 1:30 p.m.
“We wish him the best of luck as he competes in the biggest race in Maine,” Mills said.