Michael Self collected his fourth career ARCA Menards Series win Saturday at Five Flags Speedway, in the series’ first race at the Pensacola, Florida half-mile since 1996. On Monday, Self joined “The Morning Bullring” on Speed51 to discuss the win.
The 28-year-old racer from Park City, Utah has settled into a role as an ARCA racer with Venturini Motorsports after once being a promising young racer. Self beat out several younger stars in the Five Flags field, with eight of the 20 starters in the field aged 18 or younger.
Self told Morning Bullring host Bob Dillner that he is grateful for the chance to compete full-time in the ARCA Menards Series and is content if the series becomes a long-time home for his racing career.
“I look at every opportunity I have each weekend to get in a race car, and I’m so thankful for it,” said Self. “There was a period of time where I was that age, I was 20, 21, I was on the Short Track Draft and on NASCAR Next, I had won Iowa and Phoenix [in the K&N Pro Series West] and all these great races and I was going to the future.
“All of a sudden, that was all gone, and there was no racing at all,” Self continued. “That was hard for me to grasp, especially as a younger adult with not a whole lot to hedge my bets on. I took it upon myself to switch my life path around and focus on going back to school, focusing on doing marketing stuff.”
That change of course led to his partnership with Sinclair Oil, which has opened the doors that led to his newfound ARCA career.
“I got the Sinclair deal, and I’ve tried to make a big impact with that and control that,” Self said. “Now I get to go race every single weekend because of that stuff. That’s all stuff that I’m really proud of.
“I’ve got to be realistic,” Self added. “My future probably hinges on what Sinclair is going to do and how far they want to go in racing and if some of these other sponsors step up and want to go forward in racing. It’s probably not realistic for Joe Gibbs or Rick Hendrick to call and say, ‘We want you to be next in line to drive this Cup car.’ That’s okay. That’s fine with me. I’m making a decent living right now running 20 races a year in the ARCA Series. I love working with Sinclair and I love having time to finish school and do work for my partners.”
Time away from racing helped Self appreciate the opportunities he has now to race for a living and provide for his family.
“I really enjoy any chance I get to go racing, no matter what level,” said Self. “At one time, that wasn’t there. I would absolutely be happy staying here and doing what I can for the foreseeable future. It’s fun, it gives me a chance to have another life outside of racing and focus on my family, do a little bit of everything I really care about.”
The win at Pensacola came as a bit of a surprise to Self. Compared to many of the ARCA Menards Series competitors who had more experience at Five Flags Speedway, Self didn’t have the short track expertise he thought would be necessary to pick up the win.
“I probably underplay my own short track ability,” said Self. “I don’t feel that I’ve performed well on the short tracks. I’ve gotten wins at I-44 Speedway in the K&N Series, All American Speedway, a handful of good finishes in the ARCA Series. Finished second at IRP a couple of years ago, ran fourth at Nashville last year. I would just say I’m not perceived as much of a threat as I am on the intermediate tracks.”
Self also discussed the importance of the win for the championship hunt. Currently, teammate Christian Eckes leads the points standings after a pair of top-five finishes in the first two races of the season.
Self finished 31stin the season opener at Daytona while Eckes finished fourth, giving Self a gap to overcome moving forward.
“It was big. It was everything we needed on the 25 team,” said Self. “We started out at Daytona in a serious hole. To come out with Christian having a good run and finishing fourth, knowing these short tracks coming up are going to be really good tracks for him, possibly the places I struggle to him.
“You don’t want to be in a deficit and then weary and hesitant of losing even more time,” Self added. “To gain some back on Saturday night was a big deal for us to get some motivation and confidence with the 25 guys and get that chemistry built with me and my new crew chief, Shannon Rush. I feel like he and I have really hit it off with where we left off in 2018 when I was coaching Justin Haley and Shannon was his crew chief at the time. We were able to build a good relationship and we just continue to do that.”
Self also talked about some of the young challengers that impressed him at Five Flags, the inflatable Sinclair dinosaur that garnered social media attention at Pensacola, and much more in the Morning Bullring interview.
Fans can listen to the full interview, as well as the rest of the Morning Bullring via an on-demand replay now by clicking here. Be sure to like Speed 51 on Facebook and turn on notifications, so you can be alerted when “The Morning Bullring” comes on each Monday.
Interviews from the show are also available individually in podcast form on iTunes and Google Play.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Venturini Motorsports photo