Michael Self Hunting ARCA Menards Series Hat Trick at Talladega
The 2018 ARCA Menards Series season started with Salt Lake City, Utah native Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) celebrating in victory lane. Self, driving for Venturini Motorsports, cemented his reputation as one of the series best superspeedway racers with a dominant performance on Daytona’s legendary high banks and he only furthered that reputation with a second win later in the year at Chicagoland Speedway.
Self ran a partial schedule last year, and thanks to an increased commitment from his sponsor he’s running the full schedule for the first time in his career. With the championship now in play, Self has to maximize his bad days while still chasing wins.
He took the momentum of the sponsorship announcement into the 2019 season opener at Daytona looking to repeat last season’s success. His day was cut short on lap three, however, when contact with another competitor send him sliding – and literally flying – out of control down the backstretch. While the Venturini team affected repairs and Self returned to the track he finished a disappointing 31st. Not the start he wanted for his first run at the ARCA championship.
“It’s tough to describe just how disappointing that moment was,” Self said. “We’d worked so hard to get this full-time effort into place, and felt so good about everything, especially coming off two great superspeedway races last year, and then the season starts in a literal disaster in a matter of less than five minutes into the first race. It’s tough to be mentally strong through that when you know that Daytona is the biggest race of the year, with the deepest field of cars, and especially with us having felt like we had a car good enough to win again.”
Self quickly rebounded at the next event on the schedule at Five Flags Speedway, the first short track of the season. Self qualified on the front row and led early before leading the final 29 laps on his way to the first short track win of his ARCA career. Self’s win, however, didn’t close the points gap up as much as it could have as he and his team were penalized 25 points for a post-race height infraction. Despite the penalty, Self leapt into the top five in the standings. He further closed the gap after his second consecutive series victory at Salem and now sits just five points behind leader Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford). He is poised to take the lead in the standings for the first time in his career with a strong run in the General Tire 200 at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.
“I can’t express enough how excited I am by the way this 25 Sinclair Oil team has rebounded. We’ve had great cars at all three races this year, and I’m really focusing on racing smarter and with the big picture in mind, and fortunately that’s helped us get right back in the championship hunt. Going to the track with my team is just a fun experience all around right now. We have great chemistry, Shannon (Rursch) and I are really starting to mesh and understand each other, and that’s all really important to me on a race weekend. I think more than the wins and championship standings, I’m most excited about the team right now and knowing I’ve got 16 more races to develop those relationships and truly enjoy this season at the track.”
Self impressed at Talladega last year, starting from the General Tire Pole and leading 21 laps on his way to a third-place finish. Self had a fast car, but lined up outside the second row for a one-lap dash to the checkered and just couldn’t muster enough energy in the draft to slip past Zane Smith and Joe Graf, Jr. (No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford), the top two finishers, on his final trip around the legendary high banks.
“Talladega was an up-and-down race for me last year, and fortunately ended positively overall, so maybe we can repeat that this year. I feel like I have the experience and knowledge to do well at Talladega, but there’s just so much that’s out of your hands at the superspeedways. I think we have to be smart the whole day, race around the right people, and focus on staying clean and being in position to be up front at the end.”
Self could be seen as extraordinarily positive in an industry known for being filled with eternal optimists. Ask most racecar drivers and they’ll tell you they have a great chance to win the next time out. Self has seen those “up” days, but he’s seen the downsides of the business. He’s had great opportunities and had them go to the wayside due to reasons out of his control. Yet he’s never given up on himself and still found a way to come compete for the ARCA Menards Series championship. That positivity minimizes those bad days and keeps him focused on the next goal to be achieved.
“No matter what kind of day I have at the track in the racecar, for me it’s still better than the days I had at the track outside of the racecar for those few years. I love working with my team, my sponsor is a dream company to work with, and I get so much positive feedback from fans and other people in racing about what I’ve come back and accomplished or how much they love seeing me partnered with Sinclair that it makes things really special and fun. I know the opportunity to race 20 times a year won’t be here forever, so I’m trying to really savor it and enjoy it while it is.”
The 56th ARCA Menards Series event at Talladega Superspeedway, the General Tire 200, is scheduled for Friday, April 26, the opening event of the track’s 50th Anniversary season. Practice is scheduled for that morning at 9:30 am ET/8:30 am CT, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 3:35 pm ET/2:35 pm CT. The General Tire 200 will go green shortly after 6 pm ET/5 pm CT and will be televised live on FS1. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat for free throughout all on-track sessions at ARCARacing.com. New members can register at ARCARacing.com/login.
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