DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the 56th time, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will take to the 2.5-mile Daytona Int’l Speedway, kicking off Daytona Speedweeks on Saturday with the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire.
Driving the No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota, defending race winner Michael Self will be back to go for his second consecutive victory, but he’ll be faced with steep competition throughout the field.
Self returns to Daytona brimming with confidence. Not only will he be chasing his second straight Daytona win, he’ll be pursuing the ARCA Racing Series national championship for the first time.
“As we focus on a championship for the first time, it’s really important that we get things right and are as prepared as possible for Daytona,” said Self. “If we can go in and win again, obviously that’s the best scenario for many reasons but ultimately this year is about the championship so coming out of Daytona clean with a solid finish is important on its own.”
Self, one of four Venturini Motorsports drivers entered for Daytona, had a productive test in January. The four VMS cars stood atop the leaderboard in combined speeds over the two days, with Self fourth quickest of the bunch.
“All four of our Venturini cars were really strong,” he noted, “but individually our car was a little bit off of where we want to be. We got stuck in a spot that no matter what change we made we weren’t able to pick up speed.”
While Self’s team is focusing on fine tuning his car to go for another ride into victory lane, last year’s runner-up Willie Mullins is also brimming with confidence as he returns to the site of last year’s incredible underdog run with his No. 3 County Waste Systems/CW Recycling Ford.
Mullins has added veteran NASCAR crew chief Tony Furr to his team’s roster for Daytona. Furr is a former Daytona-winning crew chief, calling the shots for John Andretti’s 400-mile win in July, 1997.
“The main thing is the knowledge Tony brings,” Mullins said. “He’s such a large wealth of knowledge and we’re able to tap into that. He’s spent so much time in the wind tunnel with Hendrick, and we’re going to use a lot of that knowledge to find speed with our car.”
Mullins, whose full-time job is maintaining a fleet of garbage trucks in his hometown of Fredricksburg, Va., is confident he can again contend for victory with his small team against the powerhouse multi-car organizations.
“There is a lot of excitement this year,” Mullins said. “Last year we had the unknown of the new body and this year we have the excitement of going back with a second-place finish and knowing we have a fast car now. Now we’ve got to turn that excitement into a result. We’re very much looking forward to going back and having a lot of our crew back with us this year and hopefully we can try and come out of there with a good result again.”
Other notable drivers who have filed entries for the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire include Self’s Venturini teammates Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), Harrison Burton (No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota) and Leilani Munter (No. 55 What The Health Toyota).
Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavating/Southern States Bank Chevrolet), Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Healthcare/Liberty Village Ford), Joe Graf Jr. (No. 77 Eat Sleep Race Ford), 2017 ARCA rookie of the year Riley Herbst (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) and last year’s Daytona pole winner Natalie Decker (No. 54 N29 Capital Technologies Toyota) are also expected to be in attendance.