TOLEDO, Ohio – It’s not very often that a championship contender in a racing series will visit a track that’s been on the schedule for years for the very first time.
That’s exactly what’s going to happen when ARCA Menards Series contender Michael Self visits Toledo Speedway for the May 19 Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200.
Self, who has raced in the ARCA Menards Series for the past few seasons, but only partial schedules – mainly on superspeedways – as funding would allow. But a major commitment by his sponsor has allowed him to contend for the title for the first time in his career in 2019. That means visiting racetracks he’s never been to before.
On the strength of victories at Five Flags Speedway in March and Salem Speedway in April, the Salt Lake City, Utah resident was leading the standings for the first time in his career. After bad luck at Nashville, Self is now second, 30 points behind leader Travis Braden.
Self has been a superspeedway specialist in recent years, and there’s no disguising the fact it’s a style of racing that he enjoys, but he’s also out to prove he is every bit as good on the short tracks.
While he may not have a lot of experience on the short tracks that comprise the ARCA Menards Series tour, Self is no stranger to racing on the bullrings. He has plenty of short track experience in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, and he’s earned six of his eight career NKNPSW wins on short tracks.
But even with that experience, it takes some time to learn the way around a racetrack you’ve never been to before. Self has a wealth of experience to draw from as his team owner Bill Venturini is a two-time series champion, in 1987 and 1991, and team co-owner Billy Venturini is himself a former driver and heads up the organization’s driver development program. The team fields multiple cars at each series event, cycling through some of the most sought after talent in stock car racing’s developmental leagues. Some of those drivers, like Christian Eckes and Chandler Smith are themselves winners in the ARCA Menards Series.
Self, himself a driver coach when not racing, has no qualms on leaning on that support system to find speed.
“Over the years I’ve learned how important it is to listen to others that have experience and not be hard-headed about asking for advice,” Self said. “I’m far from knowing everything about every track on the ARCA schedule, so if I can ask guys like Frank Kimmel, Billy, or Christian questions about those tracks and get their input since they’ve been there, sometimes that really helps advance the learning curve for me.”
Self will make his first series start at Toledo Speedway, the series home track. The track has played host to 77 previous ARCA Menards Series races and has seen some of the biggest names in the series long history visit victory lane over the years. Ten-time series champion Frank Kimmel, now a crew chief and consultant at Venturini Motorsports, is a nine-time Toledo winner, including his first-ever series win in May 1994.
Kimmel won five of those races in years he won the series title, something Self hopes he can make happen this year. With two previous short track wins in 2019, his hopes could easily turn into reality.
“Without ever having been to Toledo I have no idea what to expect, but I do know that the VMS guys have been bringing fast cars to every race this year, so I can have confidence there,” he said. “People have told me Toledo is a fun, fast track, so I’m anxious to get there and get some laps under my belt and see if we can rebound from Nashville.”