Self Hoping Road Course Skills Pay Off At Pocono

Michael Self leads the ARCA Menards Series into Pocono Raceway this weekend. (ARCA Photo)
Michael Self enters the ARCA Menards Series finale 15 points behind Christian Eckes in the fight for the title. (ARCA Photo)

LONG POND, Pa. – The nickname for Pocono Raceway – the Tricky Triangle – is a cute and fitting slogan.

It might win the overly obvious award because the speedway’s triangular layout is indeed tricky for drivers and teams alike.

For the drivers in Friday’s FortsUSA 150 at Pocono, the track’s three distinct corners present a challenge. Each has a different radius, a different degree of banking, and a different way to approach each one.  For some drivers, the best way to approach the track’s challenging turns is to use skills from road racing.

On a road course, every one of each circuit’s turns is vastly different. The same thing goes for Pocono, except there are no turns to the right. So drivers with a little road racing expertise may have a slight advantage over the competition.

At least that’s what Michael Self is hoping.

Self, who has a 90-point lead in the ARCA Menards Series championship standings over second-place Bret Holmes, made the transition to stock cars after starting his career in road racing. Although he doesn’t compete regularly in sports car events on road courses, he’s still an active driver coach. He recently guided recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner Justin Haley to the 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship and assisted Haley when he raced in the SCCA Trans-Am TA2 Series.

Even with expertise that other drivers don’t have, Self and his Venturini Motorsports team led by veteran crew chief Shannon Rursch found the Tricky Triangle to be just that.

“This year the biggest challenge we had the first time we were there was setup,” Self said. “We fought it all weekend long before we had a mechanical issue with the car. As far as driver goes, Pocono is very demanding. It’s very disciplined. It’s easy to over drive even though it’s so big. You can bite yourself really badly and not even realize you’re doing it until you watch video or on Dartfish.”

Dartfish is a program that allows a driver and team to overlay video of two laps to make a direct comparison. Self and his team use it extensively and it helped him figure out the best way to handle Pocono as a driver.

“On test day I was over driving it really bad,” he said. “I watched the Dartfish video and decided that I was going to calm down and we went out and finished third that day.”

Self can pinpoint exactly why that road racing background helps him in his quest to score a victory at Pocono.

“The variety of corners you get in road racing, every corner is different,” he said. “It’s the same at Pocono. You expect something different every time. The techniques you use in road racing, wanting to be back on the throttle early, that applies. The discipline it takes to be good at road racing applies as well.”