Austin Theriault of Fort Kent will race in a NASCAR series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire, this summer for the third consecutive year.

But to use a baseball analogy, Theriault, 22, has dropped in that time from a brief Triple-A call-up to the Class A level – though, as he points out, there’s an upside.

In 2014, his appearance at NHMS in the Xfinity Series – one step below NASCAR’s major league Sprint Cup – was one of the three races he competed for JR Motorsports.

Last September, Theriault was in the Camping World Truck Series (call that Double-A) on a part-time basis with Brad Keselowski Racing. He finished eighth and led nine laps at NHMS.

On July 16, Theriault will race in the K&N Pro Series East (formerly Busch North) event at NHMS. He is fifth in the standings after a season-best, second-place finish at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway on July 2 – and happy to be running in a series full time.

“This year I’m running for a championship, and if you look at it that way it’s definitely not a downward projection,” Theriault said. “It’s really an improvement for me because now I’m running a full series.”

What Theriault doesn’t bring up – unless he’s asked about it – is that his career path took a dramatic turn last year after a frightening crash the week after he raced at NHMS.

On Oct. 3, Theriault suffered a 10 percent compression of two vertebrae after his Ford F-150 Truck smashed into an unprotected stretch of concrete wall at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He had to wear a back brace for a few weeks and missed four scheduled starts before returning for the final race of the season.

When January rolled around and the 2016 racing season neared, Theriault was without a ride – part-time or otherwise.

That’s when Shigeaki Hattori, the owner of Hattori Racing Enterprises, approached Theriault about driving his No. 1 Toyota Camry for the 14-race K&N Pro Series East tour.

“What I try to focus on is what opportunity is there in front of me. Most of the drivers that make it to the top level, whether it’s because of adversity or growing stages, have had to take a sideways step or a lateral step,” Theriault said. “I don’t look at it as a negative. It’s a different car, a different series, another thing to check off on your resume.”

Theriault was introduced to Hattori by four-time K&N champ Andy Santerre, a Cherryfield native. Santerre was Hattori’s competition director in 2013.

“Through that introduction I’d kept in contact with (Hattori),” Theriault said. “I’ve been fortunate to make friends and develop some relationships.”

Theriault has also continued a solid working relationship with BKR. He raced a BKR truck at Daytona in February and led 31 laps before a late-race wreck bumped him to 27th. This weekend Theriault is in Kentucky spotting for former BKR teammate Austin Reddick.

“Now I go to the race tracks and spot for them when I’m not racing,” Theriault said. “It’s different for me but every track I go to I get a chance to watch where guys make moves, and learn.”

Theriault’s K&N team is also learning how to be successful. Four consecutive top-10 finishes moved the team from 10th to fifth in the standings. Series leader Justin Haley might be out of reach but Theriault is only 16 points behind second-place Noah Gragson.

“I feel like we’re in striking distance for second place,” Theriault said. “The most important thing for us now is to go out there and get our first win of the season and once we do – it’s not that things will get easier – but we’ll have that extra bit of confidence and that’s so important.”