Austin Wayne Self and the 98 team celebrated a third place finish at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Saturday, April 11th. Self started the Troop Aid 200 in the 13th position and put on quite the show during the 200-lap race as he and the AM Technical Solutions Ford made their way through the field. The team’s car set up and Crew Chief, Matt Weber’s pit strategies put the team in top contention. Ten more laps and they may have had their first win of the season. Self really enjoyed the Fairgrounds racetrack. He said it was an honor for him to participate in the first ARCA race at the track in over 20 years and he can’t wait to return. The 98 team got off to a rocky start but their hard work and determination earned them a well-deserved podium finish.
After the first practice session Self said they struggled with the rear end being loose. The crew made several adjustments during the two practice rounds including a blind adjustment at the conclusion of practice. “We won’t know how that last change will affect the car until we get out on the track for qualifying,” explained Self. The track temperature was about 114 degrees during practice. The 98 crew believed that the track would cool down to well under 100 degrees when the green flag dropped. The team set the car up a little on the loose side thinking that that would put them closer to where they needed to be on the cooler track.
Self started in P13 and made his way up to the ninth spot during the first twenty laps of the Troop Aid 200. With only six tires to use throughout the race, pit strategies were crucial. The first caution came out on lap 42, prompting the first pitting opportunity under caution. The majority of the field stayed out but Self brought the AM Technical Solutions Ford to pit road and took two right side tires. He lost one spot coming to pit road and restarted in the eleventh spot. The two new tires gave Self the momentum he needed to start making his way back up through the field. He quickly made 4 passes in the first few laps following the restart. He made a fast pass on the outside to take over P10, two inside passes for P9 and P8 and then another outside pass putting him in the seventh position. Self continued to fly and made his way up to P4 in the next five laps. The young driver raced nice and clean; didn’t touch anything but the gas pedal.
Another caution on lap 70 brought the leaders to pit road while Self stayed out scoring him as the leader on the restart. Self and the second place driver got the jump on the field at the green flag but then Self began to fall back. He lost a few more spots as drivers with fresher tires gained momentum ending him up in P5. The final caution of the race came out on lap 155. All cars came to pit road. Self and 98, AM Technical Solutions Ford took four tires and no fuel for the last 30 laps of the Troop Aid 200. Self quickly made his first pass at the restart. With less than 30 to go he and the driver of the 6 car raced side-by-side for he third spot. After picking up the third position Self tried to run down the leaders. He came within inches of the second spot and with one more lap would have had it. It made for an exciting finish with loud yelling and cheers coming from the packed stands. The team was all smiles and celebrated the finish on the track and in victory lane with the race winner. From position thirteen to three, the young driver displayed his talent and love for coming from the back of the field. It was a heck of a race and the fans couldn’t have been happier about ARCA’s first race back at the Fairgrounds Speedway.
“Taking the two tires earlier in the race under the first caution really helped us gain momentum. We started out pretty loose but we got the car where it needed to be and never gave up. We just kept pushing to put ourselves in a better position. The set up and the pit strategies that Matt (Weber) came up with really paid off and I know we were all excited about a top 3 finish after starting 13th. I really like this track and I had a lot of fun driving it tonight. We sure went flying after those pit stops!” – Austin Wayne Self
Self will be scored third in the unofficial point standings. Official standings will be released Monday, April 13th. This was the second short track race of the Short Track Challenge in which Self was scored fourth prior to the Troop Aid 200. He is expected to move into the third or second position with points gained from the race in Nashville. From here the 98 crew will head to Salem Speedway for the Federated Auto Parts 200. This will be another race towards the dual championship, as the points will count towards the Championship and the Short Track Challenge. Salem always draws a crowd for Austin Wayne Self with large groups of family and friends traveling from nearby towns to watch their favorite driver compete. He finished in the third position at his last visit to Salem. This time he’ll be looking for his first win.