TOLEDO, Ohio – There is always a first time for everything. Such will be the case for 16-year-old Daytona Beach, Florida rookie driver Michael Lira, who will make his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards debut in this Saturday’s Primera Plastics 200 at Berlin Raceway.
Lira, who tested at Berlin about a month ago, is aligned with Kimmel Racing, which fields teams for a variety of drivers, including third-generation ARCA racer Will Kimmel. Lira’s crew chief for the Berlin adventure will be the patriarch of the Kimmel Racing clan – Bill Kimmel, Jr., an eight-time Cometic Crew Chief of the Year.
“Like any young, up and coming driver, Michael needs lap experience,” said Bill Kimmel.
“We need to get as many laps as we can so that we could possible run all the short track races next year. Berlin is a tough little short track. He did good in the test, but it’s not like any other track he had ever been to. Berlin’s an animal all its own, and there’s not a lot you can compare it too. If things go okay, we’d like to run Michael at Madison, Iowa, and Salem yet this year.”
Lira will be aboard the No. 69 Gary Yeomans Ford for his debut.
“We definitely don’t have anything like that (Berlin) in Florida,” Lira said.
“I did get to race at Hickory, which has shorter straightaways and gives you the essence that you’re turning all the time, but nothing like Berlin where you actually are turning all the time.
“I found out that you really have to be on top of your toes all the time. You have to exit the corners the right way so you can set up properly for the straightaways; if you don’t, you’ll spin down the straight. At Berlin everything is linked together, so you can’t miss your marks or it puts you in a bad position for your next mark, which you’re on before you know it.”
Lira says his ARCA debut at Berlin is already triggering a mixture of feelings.
“It’s a mixture of nerves and excitement, but the nerves should go away once I’m in the car. My number one goal is to finish the race – be there at the end. To get there, we obviously need to keep our nose clean at the beginning of the race, and be around for the finish; then we’ll see where we end up.”
Lira will be attending his junior year in high school this year at Spruce Creek High School in Daytona Beach. He says his closer friends keep an eye on his racing pursuits.
“My closer friends care about the racing but the others mostly don’t realize what I’m doing yet. For those that don’t know a lot about racing, I think it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around what it’s really all about.”