Michael Self looks to Daytona chasing a pair of trophies – one that he’s won before, and another that barely eluded him last season.
The 28-year-old from Park City, Utah, is the only driver entered in Saturday’s season-opening Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire who has ended up in ARCA Menards Series Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway. And he’ll arrive in the No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota for Venturini Motorsports as one of the favorites to take home the season-long championship after a runner-up finish last season.
“The biggest thing I learned last year is you have to be so aware and so cautious who’s around you,” Self said. “There’s so much that’s out of your control at these places and that’s what makes it so stressful.”
Self took advantage of a spate of late-race cautions and avoided several crashes in overtime to score the win in 2018. The victory enhanced his reputation as the best superspeedway racer in the ARCA Menards Series, and was a springboard to a full season with Venturini Motorsports in 2019.
Returning last year with a sense of optimism as he attempted to become the race’s first repeat winner since Grant Enfinger went back-to-back in 2014-15, Self found himself sliding backwards through the grass – and the air – on lap three. The damage to his car was significant, ending his chances for victory.
Self’s team, Venturini Motorsports, dominated the ARCA Menards Series season in 2019. The organization won a total of 12 races, including the Daytona race with driver Harrison Burton. Self won four times and battled teammate Christian Eckes all season long for the series championship. Eckes narrowly edged Self by just 25 points for the title.
The first item on the agenda for 2020 is to return to Daytona and click off another victory. A productive January test has Self feeling that same sense of optimism he felt in 2019.
“I was really pleased with our test overall,” Self said. “We were able to find some speed and make gains over the two days, and the biggest thing from my standpoint is that our car was very stable in the draft. That’s extremely critical at the superspeedways.”
Self and his Kevin Reed-led team have already started working on their plan for the race but won’t really come up with their definitive strategy until the field is set in General Tire Pole Qualifying just a few short hours before the race.
“We’ll have to see how qualifying shakes out when we get there,” he said. “Then we’ll come up with a race plan of who we’d like to race around.”
Excited to finally let everyone know I’ll be coming back for more in 2020! I’ve got lots of work left to do with @VenturiniMotor, @SinclairOilCorp and @ToyotaRacing. Ready to get it started at @DISupdates! https://t.co/TOHEryWlOu pic.twitter.com/zeJdtePFtq
– Michael Self (@michaelself) January 23, 2020
Track activity for the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire starts with practice at 1:30 EST on Friday, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying Saturday at 12:30 pm EST. The 80-lap race will go green shortly after 4:30 p.m., and the race will be televised live on FS1.