By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
2021 was the first ARCA Menards Series season without Michael Self since 2015.
Despite leaving the ARCA Menards Series, Self still holds a steering wheel. Self runs in the TransAm Series and serves as the general manager of Silver Hare Racing. With the TransAm Series racing in downtown Nashville, Kickin’ the Tires had the chance to catch up with the former ARCA Menards Series driver to discuss his post ARCA life.
“I’m really enjoying my role as General Manager at Silver Hare Racing,” said Self. “This year has been a massive learning experience for me, but in a good way. I graduated from college in June with a degree in business administration, and while it was tough to wrap up school with a full-time job and racing duties, it’s been really cool to combine the knowledge of the two and feel like I’ve accelerated my learning curve in the business side of racing.”
As noted, 2021 was the first season where Self didn’t run in the ARCA Menards Series. Shifting his focus to TransAm Series, Self still serves as a fan of ARCA and continues to watch the points battle between Ty Gibbs and his former teammate Corey Heim.
“I do keep up with the ARCA stuff this year,” said Self. “I’m super impressed with both of those kids (Heim and Gibbs). I think you’re watching two future NASCAR stars develop, and two drivers that are going to be competing together for a long time. It’s turned into quite the championship battle, and I’m excited to see how it plays out over the last few races of the year. Every now and then when I’m watching the races at one of the tracks that I liked to drive and I do miss it. I’m hopeful an opportunity will come up at some point to run one of the road courses or big tracks that I liked racing at.”
Serving as one of those long-term drivers in the ARCA Menards Series, Self has heard the negative discussion about ARCA’s demise. Having a total of 132 starts in ARCA’s three divisions, Self has seen it all. He’s been through the highs and the lows and seen the good and the bad.
“Yeah, it’s tough to hear that, but I used to hear the same thing about the K&N series when I was racing in that back around 2010, and while it has a different name now, it’s still the same series and still getting a decent car count,” Self said about the talk of ARCA’s slow death. “That being said, I think the thing that’s tough for the ARCA series is that to be with a competitive team, the cost has gotten really high, and for a developing driver that’s looking to move through the ranks, they have to determine whether or not they want to pay that amount, where a decent truck ride isn’t that much more. For the people that are paying their own way into the sport, they’ll have to look at the value of the experience they get from driving an ARCA car versus driving a truck, which of course includes the value of driving on more national-series tracks, live pit stops, and those things that they’re going to continue to face as they climb through the ranks. I think you’re seeing a lot of drivers that just do a handful of ARCA races or even skip ARCA altogether because of that.”
Even for Self, the ARCA Menards Series began just not being what was best for him as a driver nor his family. After two runner-up finishes in the ARCA Menards Series, Self saw the drivers around him move up but he remained in the Series. Self was in the right place but just wasn’t considered for any chances in the NASCAR Camping World Truck or Xfinity Series via the Toyota Development program.
“For me the reality kind of set in that it was going to be extremely tough to make a living as a driver,” said Self. “As far as that went, I was tied to what Sinclair wanted to do. Without them, it didn’t seem like any rides were being thrown my way that would allow me to make a living and provide for my family, so I took the avenue that I felt was safer and more reliable long-term. Meanwhile, I always felt like Toyota was straightforward with me from the beginning in that their pipeline was really full with younger drivers. I certainly had the desire to get one of those chances but never banked on it.”
Self tallied nine victories in his ARCA Menards Series career with his most recent coming on the Daytona Road Course last season. The tracks that Self earned a victory were rather diverse including short tracks like Five Flags and Salem, dirt oval of Springfield, and the big tracks like Michigan and Daytona. He’s tied for 37th on the all-time wins list tying the likes of Grant Adcox, Chandler Smith, Bobby Gerhart, and others.
“Every win I had was special,” Self said. “The two Daytona Superspeedway wins always stand out above the others for me as I’m sure they would for most drivers, and the Daytona Road Course win was one of my favorites since that’s the only road course I ever got to race in an ARCA car, but beyond that, I’m really thankful to have formed some great relationships through ARCA. My favorite win was probably the 2018 win at Daytona Superspeedway. That one was so unexpected for me and such a wild night, it’s definitely one I think about often. The Daytona Road Course was probably my favorite race overall. It was a mixture of a lot of things that I’d always wanted to do in a stock car. I got to race in the rain, at night, at one of the most historic road courses in the world. It also came at a time when our performance had really been struggling throughout 2020, so it was a huge emotional lift just to be at a road course and know that I had so much more experience and comfortability than everyone there.”
We finished this interview giving Michael Self the chance to talk to you the fans who have continuously shown him support and still show him support from the ARCA grandstands despite his departure.
“I love hearing that I still have fans out there,” Self said. “Driving the Sinclair car was so special because it was always a fan favorite. That car attracted so much attention, and I love that people will remember it and like seeing it in the TA2 series. I urge everyone to follow us at Silver Hare Racing and follow TA2. The series puts on some great races. In my opinion, it’s one of the most competitive road racing series in the country right now, we race on some great tracks, and the cars are that perfect cross-over between a stock car and a GT car, which adds to the show.”