Austin Wayne Self finished out the first race of the Short Track Challenge in the top five, giving him premier positioning for the remainder of the challenge races. It was looking like a final showdown between Austin and Grant as they checked out on the field after the last round of pit stops. But a late race caution allowed the field to catch up and make the finish a door-slamming, tire burning battle for the top 5.
The starting line up was determined by 2014 owner’s points due to rain cancellation of qualifying giving Self the opportunity to start on the pole. Within the first few laps Self dropped behind Grant Enfinger. “I learned a lot running behind Grant at the beginning of the race. Seeing which lines he was using helped me out later in the race.” – AWS
The green flag racing didn’t last long as the 69 car went rolling off the track in turn one, jumped a barrier and found itself among fan vehicles in the parking lot! After the driver’s safety was confirmed the green flag dropped again and the #98 AM Technical Solutions, Pirate Energy Ford was rolling. Self continued to shadow the veteran leader until lap 52 when he would come on to pit road under the sixth caution of the race. The #98 pit crew kept Self in for an extended pit-stop to fix a brake fan. The team ended up removing the fan and ducts and sent Self back out to track in the 17th position.
There was no denying the talent of the young driver when he returned to the track. Self skillfully began to pass other drivers one by one until he returned to the front of the pack and took over the lead on lap 143. “Fans and guests of the #98 Pirate Energy Ford were going wild when Austin got back up to the front and took over the first position. It was one of the most entertaining parts of the race for the Asian American Store Owners Association President and members that Pirate Energy brought to the race!” Explained Matt Donovan, AMDMS Sponsorship and Partner Relations Manager.
“I have to give all the credit for our performance here to the shop, and our crew. The 98 AMTS Ford was the best car at the track. We were better than anyone on long runs and should have won this thing. I let Grant control all the restarts and just got caught off guard when he didn’t go early on the last big one with 23 to go. That opened the door for the 25 car to drive into my left quarter panel. Even though he couldn’t wreck me he burned up my left rear tire and we didn’t have enough grip to come back and battle for the win. I think the 25 car made a few enemies at this race, driving dirty and causing several incidents during and after the race. Probably not the best strategy for the second race of the season. I’m proud that the 98 crew kept their composure.” – AWS
Except for pit cycle shuffles, the race consisted primarily of the 98 and 23 car battling up front. During Self’s final pit stop, Crew Chief Matt Weber made the call to put on their last set of 4 tires. A move that paid off as Austin came through the field to take the lead. 12 laps later the rest of the leaders made a stop to take their last fresh tires and to race each other through the field.
“I felt like we had the car to beat Grant with to end his streak. Some hard racing gave the team some things that they needed to work through during pit stops and they did an awesome job! Even though we weren’t able to get the W, crossing the line fourth was a great accomplishment for our second race and I feel we have a great amount of momentum heading into Nashville. I think we might even end a streak and start one of our own.” – AWS
After the first two races Austin Wayne Self sits third in ARCA Championship Points, 110 points behind the leader. Self looks to increase his points count at the next ARCA race in Nashville on April 11th but before then Self will hopping into the Late Model seat, first at his home track in Texas and next in Nashville. Hometown fans can visit Austin, get autographs and watch him race at Central Texas Speedway on March 28th.
Tickets to the race on sale at CentralTexasSpeedway.com. Stay tuned for more updates about Austins trip back to Texas.