New England natives Seuss, Theriault ready to make Cup debuts at NHMS

  • Hampstead native Andy Seuss returns to the garage area on Friday after his qualifying run for Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Hampstead native Andy Seuss speaks to reporters on Friday during the press availability period before his Monster Energy Cup Series debut in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Hampstead native Andy Seuss speaks to reporters on Friday during the press availability period before his Monster Energy Cup Series debut in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Seuss used to visit NHMS as a child to watch his favorite drivers. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Austin Theriault walks through his garage prior to a NASCAR Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Friday. AP

  • Austin Theriault heads to his garage during a NASCAR Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Saturday. AP

  • Austin Theriault sheds a layer of his fire suit in his garage following a NASCAR Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Saturday. AP

Monitor staff
Published: 7/20/2019 6:49:46 PM

Years ago, Andy Seuss was the kid who would do whatever it took to get a better look at the drivers flying down the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In the early 1990s, around the time NHMS first opened its doors, there was no stopping him from getting a peek at Dale Earnhardt or any of his other racing idols.

“I’d actually run up to the fence, grab it and try to be on top of the cars when they went by,” Seuss said. “The security guards, because you’re supposed to stay behind the line, they don’t like that.”

Now, at 32, the Hampstead native will have his moment on the other side of the fence. Seuss will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at his home track for Sunday’s Foxwoods 301 in Loudon – and security won’t be a problem this time.

“Emotional,” said Seuss on his reaction to receiving the nod. “It’s pretty cool. It’s been a long road to say I grew up 40 minutes from (NHMS), and now I go from there to here. It’s been a big, long journey.”

Seuss isn’t the only New Englander making his first appearance in NASCAR’s top series this weekend, either. Rick Ware Racing will also field 25-year-old Austin Theriault, an up-and-coming driver out of Fort Kent, Maine.

Both will start on Row 18 with Seuss in the No. 51 Jacob Companies Ford and Theriault in the No. 52 Bangor Savings Bank Chevrolet when the green flag comes down Sunday.

Like Seuss, Theriault has plenty of memories of the Granite State speedway.

“It’s special because it’s Loudon. It’s the New England NASCAR track, basically,” Theriault said. “We used to come to races here with my family, my grandparents, and just like every normal fan, we had the whole experience. We stayed in the grandstands when it felt like 100 degrees and rooted for our favorite driver (Mark Martin).”

The starting line

Like many in the sport, both Seuss and Theriault uncovered their penchant for racing at an early age.

Seuss, who went to school at NHTI, recalls his dad buying him a second go-kart at 14 so that he could race at Sugar Hill Speedway in Weare. Theriault’s grandfather bought him his first car at 13 and the two quickly turned it into something that could race at Maine’s Spud Speedway in Caribou.

“I’ve kind of just been moving up since then and raced all across New England. Growing up, between 15-18 years old, we did a lot of traveling from Maine to New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and some in Quebec and other parts of Canada,” Theriault said.

“Then I made the jump. I jumped off the deep end,” he added.

That built the foundation, and eventually connections for both drivers.

Seuss took the checkered flag one night when the Pro All Stars Series came to Star Speedway in Epping. That led to a Late Model ride, more success and a relationship with Epping business owner Jerry Morello, who Seuss raced for in the True Value Modified Racing Series.

Seuss eventually moved to the South to run in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, establishing important relationships and gaining even more traction for his career.

“It’s a long line of if any one of those little things didn’t happen, I’d still just be fixing boats at my dad’s boat shop in Hampstead,” Seuss said.

Speeding to success

Seuss and Theriault are both champions in their own right.

Theriault has been featured across NASCAR, racing six times in the Xfinity Series, 13 times in the Gander Outdoor Trucks Series and 12 times in the K&N Pro Series East. He really made a name for himself in the ARCA Menard Series where he won the championship in 2017.

“You have to fail in order to get the right opportunity and I feel like that’s been my career,” Theriault said. “It’s been more yesses than nos, but you have to be prepared to put yourself out there.”

Seuss found his success in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Starting at 19-years-old, Seuss has 115 races under his belt over 11 years, going back-to-back with titles in 2014 and 2015. Those magical two years included six overall victories, 17 top-five finishes and a total of 772 laps led.

He isn’t a stranger to racing at Loudon, either, making 20 appearances at NHMS during his time in the Whelen Modified Tour – part of the reason he got the call to compete Sunday.

“If I had my way, sure, I’d have two seasons of trucks under my belt and a season of Xfinity and all that. It would probably even help my debut,” Seuss said. “But for the people that know me and know what I’ve had to go through to get where I’m at, no one is holding me back.”

Cup expectations

While Seuss and Theriault are the lone locals making their first appearance in the Cup Series, they’ll have plenty of company in terms of New England racers, notably Connecticut drivers Ryan Preece and Joey Logano.

“I don’t really know them that well. I maybe know Austin a little better than Andy,” Logano said. “But it’s cool to see the New England guys get into this more and more.”

Seuss’s plan for Sunday is rather simple.

“Keep the car in one piece,” he said. “It’s a small team, they can’t afford to be wrecking cars and they’re definitely not going to be asking me back if I don’t finish it one piece. Just want to try and complete all the laps, or as many as we can, and go from there.”

Theriault isn’t taking the opportunity for granted, either. He knows only a small percentage of drivers ever reach this stage and he will be relishing every moment.

“We’re going to run as hard as we can, but at the end of the day, to be in the field of 38-40 cars, that’s something nobody is ever going to be able to take away from us,” Theriault said. “The support I’ve received is hopefully just the beginning of what can grow into more in the future.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)


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