The 2019 ARCA Menards Series season has been one of firsts for Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota). For the first time in his career, after several seasons of running a partial schedule, Self is pursuing the series championship. That means Self is visiting many race tracks he’s never seen before.
But just because he hasn’t been there before doesn’t mean he’s going to struggle.
Self made his first-ever appearance earlier this season at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida and put on a clinic. He led midway through the race, and then let everyone else use up their equipment before patiently working his way back to the front to lead the final 29 laps on his way to his fourth career series win, and his first ever on a short track in ARCA competition.
The next time the ARCA Menards Series was in action, on the legendary highbanks of Salem Speedway, Self registered another first. For the first time in his ARCA career he won back-to-back races with a dominant performance in a rain-shortened race. Self led 72 of the race’s 101 laps and positioned himself as one of the favorites to win the series championship by taking over the series points lead.
Self has made his first visits to places like Gateway, Toledo, Madison, and Elko this season as well. With the exception of a 13th-place finish at Gateway, all of those first-time visits resulted in a top-five at the end.
But the next “first” for Self may be the most challenging yet.
Self heads to the Illinois State Fairgrounds for Sunday’s Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil to make his first career stock car start on dirt. One of the most adaptable drivers in the series – Self comes from a road racing background and coaches young drivers at road courses on off weekends from the ARCA Menards Series – he will have to rely on every bit of that adaptability if he hopes to score his fourth win of the season.
“Springfield is definitely going to be interesting for me. I have such little dirt experience, I’m going in with a very open mind and wanting to learn,” says Self. “I’ve asked everyone I can think of questions about dirt racing, from guys that have won the dirt ARCA races, to dirt professionals, and really tried to gather a variety of information and knowledge to have some idea of what I’m getting in to.”
Although he doesn’t come into the race with any stock car experience on dirt, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to win. Last year’s winner, his Venturini Motorsports teammate Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), scored the win in his second-ever dirt track start. The story of a driver without a lot of dirt experience winning at Springfield has been repeated a couple of times in recent years, most notably by current NASCAR Gander Outdoor Trucks driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman who won both of ARCA’s dirt track races in 2009 in his first two dirt track races of any kind, ever.
Knowing it’s been done before gives Self an added boost of confidence, but he also knows it will be a challenge to not only race his fellow competitors on the track but keep up with the ever-changing track conditions throughout the day.
“I think that’s been one of the most consistent pieces of advice, is how much the track changes throughout the day. In the limited amount of dirt experience that I do have, I know the track can change dramatically over the course of 50 laps of just one car driving on it, so I know I’m going to have to be able to adapt lap-to-lap.”
One thing Self will not be doing at Springfield is counting points. Currently the ARCA Menards Series championship leader with an 80-point advantage over his teammate Eckes, Self still has one goal in mind: winning races.
“I am not really looking at points at all,” Self said. “Our priority to is come out and win races. If we do that, the points situation will take care of itself.”
The ARCA Menards Series returns to action after a three-week hiatus with the first of two dirt track races in the Allen Crowe 100 presented by Lucas Oil on Sunday August 18. Practice on the one-mile dirt oval will begin at 10 am ET/9 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 12 n ET/11 am CT, and the 100-mile feature event will go green at 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit TrackEnterprises.com.