VIRAL IMPACT: Michael Self

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Michael Self Has Phoenix
Michael Self is like all the other racers in the country right now wondering when he'll get back in a race car. (Kate Gardiner/ARCA photo)

Editor’s Note: With the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing racing around the globe to a sudden stop, SPEED SPORT is reaching out to members of the racing community to find out how the outbreak is impacting them, both as racers and in their daily lives. This story is part of that ongoing series.

CONCORD, N.C. — ARCA Menards Series championship leader Michael Self should be preparing for the third race of the season at Indiana’s Salem Speedway.

Instead, he’s sitting at home wondering when he’ll be able to strap into a race car.

Self, like every other race car driver in the world, has been sidelined due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak that has sickened thousands in the United States. With social distancing guidelines in place and most states instituting stay-at-home orders, Self knows he could be in for a long wait to get back in a race car.

“For us, at least Salem and Talladega are being postponed in the ARCA Menards Series,” said Self, who drives the No. 25 Toyota for Venturini Motorsports.

That’s not all though. In addition to Self’s duties as a driver for Venturini Motorsports, he also serves as a driver coach for several competitors. He was scheduled to work as a driver coach during a Trans-Am Series race at Road Atlanta, but that event was also postponed.

“Hopefully that one still works out and doesn’t get pushed to a conflicting date with an ARCA race,” Self said. “That’s a pretty big source of income for me. So that one is a little bit hard to swallow. But thankfully the majority of those races aren’t until later in the year.”

Michael Self (25) leads Hailie Deegan (4) on the final restart during the ARCA opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway. (Jason Reasin photo)

Self said he also had some work lined up in the Toyota simulator, but NASCAR banned simulator testing during the COVID-19 shutdown, taking away another revenue source.

“Simulators are closed off to all drivers and I had a little bit of work scheduled for some of that stuff up in the Toyota simulator. So, unfortunately, I lost a little bit of work there,” Self added.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is the postponements and cancelations due to the COVID-19 pandemic are costing Self money. It’s far from ideal, but he said he and his wife, Dana, are dealing with the situation the best they can.

“The life at home is actually fairly normal for me as someone who is in school full time taking online classes,” said Self, who is pursuing a degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “I’ve actually had a chance to get pretty far ahead on my schoolwork because I’ve been home so much. That’s my plan, to tackle that and get through the rest of semester and get this finished up while we’ve got a break here.

“Also doing a lot of work on the house. Getting a lot of painting done and some trim work done. A couple of things that my wife, Dana, and I really had on our list.”

Despite not being able to get on the race track anytime soon, Self said it’s been nice to see iRacing helping to fill the void for not only race fans, but also for the drivers.

“I see everything that’s going on with iRacing on Twitter. I think that’s great. They’re coming up with ways to keep drivers in front of fans in kind of a different way,” Self said. “The eSports world has grown a lot recently. I think that’s a great thing.

“I think as people see this, this NASCAR Pro Series and the iRacing stuff, I think people are going to continue to be attracted to that. I encourage people to look into that. The whole platform of it is really great.”

Self, like everyone, is hopeful to get back on the race track as soon as he can. In order to do that though. he acknowledges we all need to work together to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The more we work together, the faster the world — and racing — will get back to normal.

“Everyone’s got to look around the world and see what’s happened and read the news. See what’s happening and why it’s happened,” Self said. “Don’t be a contributor to the issue. We’re gonna get by this, in my opinion, by the measures that are proven to work. What South Korea, did, social isolation, staying away from each other, taking precautionary measures and not being stubborn about it.

“The sooner that we get through this, the sooner we get back to racing. Everyone has to be responsible.”