After financial difficulties almost sidelined Michael Self’s career only a few short years ago, his Daytona win is undoubtedly a sweet vindication in his racing comeback. Self, 27, took his second career ARCA win in the wild season-opening Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona. The win was his second-straight overall and his fourth win in five starts between ARCA and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West division.
Self, a former Richard Childress Racing development driver, had won six races between 2011 and 2013 during his tenure in the No. 21 Chevrolet. However, due to financial constraints, he was left without a firm ride for the 2014 season. A pair of starts for Tom Venturini’s ARCA team in 2014 netted a best finish of 18th at Mobile, and he also made seven NASCAR XFINITY Series starts for JD Motorsports in 2015, with a best finish of 11th at Road America.
Self made one ARCA start in 2016 for Doug Fuller, finishing third at Kansas, and didn’t race full-time again until 2017 when he returned to the K&N Pro Series West for Bob Bruncati, winning at Meridian and Roseville and tying his career-best fourth-place points finish. He also made six ARCA starts for MDM Motorsports, winning the season finale at Kansas before signing on for a limited engagement with Venturini Motorsports in 2018, where he responded with what could be the biggest win of his career so far.
“It was absolutely a dream for me to win at Daytona,” said Self. “But it was one I didn’t necessarily think would be a reality for a long time. Now, after a few weeks, whenever I think about the win or look at the trophy I get excited and it feels great. A few years ago I didn’t have the opportunity to race at all, because financially I didn’t have any backing, but Sinclair Oil Corporation gave me the chance to get back in the seat, and after working the partnership from the ground up and knowing how much has gone in to me being to compete at Daytona at all, the win feels especially rewarding, and I’ll always be proud of that and what we’ve done together.”
Despite only being listed for 10 events in 2018, Self maintains that he plans to use the momentum not only from his Daytona win but from those last four wins in the next nine events. He has proven himself to be a versatile driver; not only has he won on short tracks, mile-and-a-half tracks, and superspeedways, he’s also a road racing coach who has coached for Chip Ganassi Racing drivers.
“I’ve got nine more races this year and I go to every race with intentions of putting on a good weekend for the Sinclair folks, and winning the race,” he said. “That’s my job and that’s what I have to do at every race no matter what the results were the race before.”
When it comes to which speedways he’ll feel the strongest at, Self feels that he’ll be the strongest on the mile-and-a-half speedways. This is highlighted by his runs at Iowa and Chicagoland, where he finished fourth and 19th respectively (the 19th-place was the result of a late-race crash after running near the front all race). He will be teamed up with Reed again this season, so he feels that the VMS Toyotas he will pilot will be a force to contend with.
“I’m really confident in the 1.5-mile program after having a good bit of success there last year,” Self explained. “I felt like we ran really well at Iowa and Chicagoland last year in cars that were built by Kevin Reed, so I’m excited to be back with him for all the big tracks. I love racing on anything that’s a mile or larger, so those are the races I look forward to the most.”
In the off-season, he was faced with other options on where he wanted to go with his racing career, but according to him, the staff at VMS went “went above and beyond” to work with him and current sponsor Sinclair Oil Corporation. According to Self, the group showed great initiative in helping him where he needed assistance, like growing the Sinclair program. With VMS’s experience with sponsors, as well as the massive commitments made from both financial and time standpoints Self said he knew he could help the program excel in 2018.
The relationship between Self and VMS can be seen as going both ways in terms of expertise and drive.
“They have a lot of young but talented rookie drivers under their stable this year, so I hope I can help guide some of them on track while I work with Kevin Reed to make the cars the best they can be for all of us driving them,” said Self. “Everyone at VMS just inspires confidence in me. For the most part, they’re people I know and have worked with in the past, so it’s nice to have preexisting relationships and to know the guys working on my stuff. It makes it easy to trust the scenario whenever I jump in one of their cars. There’s also no one in the garage area that wants to win more than Kevin Reed and Billy Venturini, and I know both of them will give me whatever I need to do that.”
Self will be back in the car on April 7 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.