CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There was an overwhelming sense of relief in Michael Self’s voice after last week’s announcement that he will drive for MDM Motorsports in the 54th annual Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Feb. 18.
The marquee event and season opener for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will be Self’s debut on the Florida high banks, as well as the Utah native’s second race partnered with MDM and Sinclair Oil Corporation, his most recent primary sponsor.
But the team and sponsor tell little of the tail; in fact, Self’s road back to the national spotlight has not been an easy one.
In 2011, the Utah native was a development driver for Richard Childress Racing and a top prospect for success among the national levels of NASCAR. During four full-time seasons in the K&N Pro Series West, Self had earned six victories and 22 top-five finishes.
After three wins in the 2013 season, where he also finished fourth in the championship standings (behind Derek Thorn, Cameron Hayley and Greg Pursley, respectively), Self appeared poised to accomplish more big things in motorsports.
And then, like so many other potential NASCAR superstars’ national careers, the funding ran out.
For his four seasons in the K&N Pro Series West, Self was fortunate enough to have backing and support from his parents. But, once the 2013 season ended, there were no funds left and no one was willing to step up and foot the expenses involved in auto racing for him.
In effect, he had run smack into a brick wall.
Knowing that he was now stuck without a ride, Self spent the 2014 season actively pursuing sponsors — and not with a marketing team or public relations help, but under his own guidance and with support from his family.
After 58 races in the K&N Pro Series West over five years, the NASCAR Next alumni competed in just two ARCA Racing Series events with Venturini Motorsports during the 2014 season.
In that limited campaign, he finished a frustrating 18th and 22nd after transmission and handling issues. It was the worst possible outcome for a driver looking to draw sponsors attention.
Not letting his feelings bring his positive attitude down, Self then signed a seven-race deal with JD Motorsports in 2015, which gave him his first appearances in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. At least for the moment, he had made his national dreams possible.
During those seven events, Self received support from Nebraska Transport Company and Auto Remote Warehouse, while recording his best finish at Road America (11th), a road course.
Following his first few experiences in the national series, Self then looked to reconfirm his status in chasing a NASCAR dream. He spent the 2015 offseason searching hard for sponsors, but unfortunately, nothing materialized.
Self entered last season without a ride, sponsor or even a sense of direction: just three seasons removed from a remarkable campaign in the K&N Pro Series West.
“There was a lot of time, during that period, where I thought about giving up and what else I should do,” Self told Race Chaser Online. “I often wondered the reason it did not work out.”
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