For most accomplished veteran drivers there are few racetracks they haven’t been to or seen in some form or fashion. Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) is one of the more accomplished drivers in the ARCA Menards Series, with six career series wins on top of eight career NASCAR K&N Pro Series West wins and experience in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driving for Richard Childress Racing. Despite all of that on his resume, Self is making his first-ever run through the complete ARCA Menards Series season and that means he is seeing a lot of race tracks for the first time in his career.
Self already made his first career appearances at Five Flags Speedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, Toledo Speedway, and Madison International Speedway earlier in the season. Self proved himself a quick learner as he scored a win at Five Flags, one of three wins he has so far this season. Additional victories at Salem Speedway and Michigan International Speedway have boosted him to the series championship points lead, which he holds by 35 points over second-place Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation/Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet).
Although he’s been to World Wide Technology Raceway before as a spotter, he’s never raced on the tricky egg-shaped 1.25-mile oval before. He’ll have his first chance in Saturday’s Day to Day Coffee 150.
Self is a noted driver coach, working with dozens of young drivers in various levels of the sport in both oval track and road racing. But the teacher isn’t afraid to ask questions and become the learner. And he has some pretty good resources to draw from.
“I watch video and talk to guys like my teammates Christian Eckes and Chandler Smith who have been there before,” Self said. “At least with Gateway the Trucks have been there before so there is a lot of footage out there to watch. I can jump online and catch some on-board stuff. Since it’s bigger than a mile, it’s the kind of track I adapt to pretty easily and look forward to going to. Knock on wood it will be a little easier than adapting to some of the short tracks we go to.”
The track’s unique layout – turns one and two are sharper and carry more banking than the wide-open, sweeping, and flatter turns three and four – offer drivers and their teams a challenge to get around. Self is looking forward to his first attempt at WWT Raceway for that very reason.
“I love the tracks these series race on and World Wide Technology Raceway has always looked fun for me,” he said. “I have always liked going to any track that’s bigger than a mile. I like to compare myself to (defending ARCA Menards Series champion) Sheldon Creed, who won this race last year. We have very similar driving styles. We perform well at the same tracks and we don’t perform at the same tracks. He didn’t like Madison very much last year, and I didn’t like it very much to begin with either. We were able to get better and finished second, and hopefully I can do what he did last year and find a way to victory lane at Gateway on Saturday night.”
Self is making the most of his first full season chasing the ARCA Menards Series championship. He has three wins, three General Tire Pole Awards, and seven top-five finishes in the first ten races of the season. He’s led 349 laps, second only to his teammate Chandler Smith, to this point in the season. Just because he’s in the middle of a tight championship fight doesn’t mean he’s not able to slow down and enjoy some of the off-track benefits that come from traveling across the country to each of the series’ 18 different venues. St. Louis, located just across the Mississippi River from Madison, Illinois from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, is one of Self’s favorite destinations, not only for the race track but for the chance to tour one of the country’s most impressive manufacturing operations.
“The Gateway Arch is pretty cool, but you know what’s way cooler than that? The Anheuser-Busch brewery down the street,” he said. “We went there a couple of years ago and it’s unbelievable. It’s absolutely massive. The volume they do is just incredible. And they let you sample it as you go on through. It’s so fresh. They have they Clydesdales there too. Just to go see the whole process from start to finish was really cool. Even if you aren’t a beer drinker to see the scale of it is really impressive.”
Practice for the ARCA Menards Series Day to Day Coffee 150 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is scheduled from 12:35 pm ET/11:35 pm CT and 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT; General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 5:30 pm ET/4:30 pm CT, and the green flag will fall on the 120 lap/150-mile race at 7:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat throughout all on-track activities at ARCAracing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCAracing.com/login. For ticket information, call 618-215-8888 or log on to www.wwtraceway.com.