ARCA: Self Satisfied with Third; Anxious for More

RaceChaser Staff ARCA, Featured, MidSouth, Stock Cars 0 Comments

TALLADEGA, Ala. – team release — ARCA photo – Austin Wayne Self made his superspeedway debut memorable, with a third place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200, while helping to push his teammate, Tom Hessert, to victory.

“This was my first time at a superspeedway, since I’ve only just turned 18, it was fun and I wasn’t scared. We had a great car thanks to my crew chief Chad (Bryant) and our whole 22 Cunningham team. It was awesome to see Tom Hessert in victory lane and it was a great day for everyone,” Self said.

Both of the Cunningham Motorsports teams, the No. 22 of Self and the No. 77 of Hessert, tested two weeks earlier at the track.  Last week at Salem Speedway, the two were among the cars battling for top five positions at the end of the race.

“I am glad Tom and I could work as a team, and I could push him to that win,” Self said. “It felt good to know that we were able to work together like we did, and have such a successful day. Our No. 22 AM Technical Solutions Dodge was fast the entire day and we made the high line work for us, which a lot of drivers weren’t able to do.”

The 18 year old from Austin, TX worked his way to 8th on lap 31 and remained in the top-10 for most of the day.  For much of the race he and teammate Tom Hessert were hooked up nose-to-tail, working their way through traffic and experimenting with other cars and drivers to determine who they worked best with for the potential final lap shoot out.

Crew chief Chad Bryant called his rookie driver into the pits for a green flap stop on lap 36—a fuel only stop. After restarting in 12th, Self moved up to the sixth spot just eight laps later, still following closely behind his teammate.

The race remained caution free until lap 56.  Neither of the Cunningham teams pitted during the yellow and lined up for the restart with Hessert in fourth and Self in sixth.  After falling back a few spots when the teammates tried to get the outside lane moving, Self continued to work with his teammate to pick off one spot after another.

As Self and Hessert finally got the ‘right’ drivers working together, the outside line started moving toward the front.  With five laps to go, Self was running seventh.  By the time Self crossed the start/finish line on lap 72, he had fought to fourth.  As Self pushed Hessert to the lead, with two laps to go, Self claimed second.  Many spots changed hands on the final lap after the white flag waved.  Self remained hooked to Hessert’s bumper and got nipped at the line for second, ultimately settling for third.

Third was a strong enough run for the rookie to earn the Scott Rookie Challenge of the Race award for the second consecutive week, also winning last week at Salem Speedway.  In the four races of the 2014 season, Cunningham Motorsports has earned 3 of the Rookie of the Race awards, with Self winning the last two and Tyler Reddick grabbing the first award at Daytona International Speedway.

“This race was a huge confidence builder,” Self said. “I am a race down from the entire field since I was ineligible at Daytona because my age, but we are still seventh in points now. That says a lot for our team and how hard we are working. We have one eye on rookie of the year, and the other well this weekend we proved we could be the dark horse bet for the championship. We have what it takes and we are bringing everything we have.”

Both of the Cunningham teams have two scheduled tests before they head to Toledo Speedway for the next race on May 18.  They will test at New Jersey Motorsport Park on Monday, with a Toledo Speedway test planned for May 12.

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