To say Michael Self’s day at Chicagoland Speedway ended in heartbreak would be an understatement. In an event that was added to Self’s schedule just two weeks before the ARCA Racing Series hit the track at Chicagoland, Self showed dominance in his Sinclair Oil No. 88 out of the Mason Mitchell Motorsports stable up until a blown tire with eight laps to go erased his three second lead, and also his potential first career win in the ARCA Racing Series.

 

The day started strong for Self and the MMM team. With shots being called by former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series crew chief Chad Kendrick, the No. 88 shot to the top of the board during their first run of the day’s sole hour-and-a-half practice, never to fall down the pylon, ending the session fastest with a lap of 30.637 seconds around the 1.5-mile oval, averaging over 176 miles-per-hour. With confidence being established early on, Self, Kendrick, and the No. 88 crew focused on fine-tuning their race-run balance, and preparing for the nighttime track conditions for the 100-lap event.

 

“I didn’t expect us to roll off the trailer as fast as we were,” said Self. “The car felt great, but we were like half a second faster than second place for the majority of the practice, so that was a huge boost in confidence early on. Whenever you’re able to start that good, it’s great because then you just focus on the little thing. Chad’s experience told him that the track would free up a little at night, so we tried to get it just a little snug in the daytime, and that’s where we ended.”

 

Qualifying presented a challenge for Self, as he’d never qualified an ARCA Racing Series car on a half-mile track before. After what Self referred to as a “tentative” lap, he timed in fourth quickest, which would put him in the preferred outside groove for the start of the race.

 

At the drop of the green flag, Self fell back a few spots to the seventh position, fighting a loose racecar, but after heat built in the tires, he was able to work his way back up to his original starting position and settle in. Throughout the early stages of the race, Self battled both loose and tight conditions, bouncing back and forth between the third and fourth position on track. The yellow flag waved just before the halfway mark, and the No. 88 team opted to pit for their last set of four new General Tire’s. A quick stop allowed Self to get off pit road as the second car, lining him up in the sixth position for the restart, behind several cars who opted to pit for fuel only. With 50 laps to go, the race went back to green, and Self wasted no time by using the high-side of turns one and two on the restart to vault in to the third position. Within three laps, Self had used the same line to rocket to the lead, and stretch a gap out over the field. Green flag conditions allowed Self to stretch his lead out to nearly three seconds with ten laps to go. With the finish, and win in sight, Self settled in to a conservative pace trying to maintain his car’s balance, but with eight laps to go, the right front tire on the No. 88 exploded, taking the right front fender with it, and ending Self’s shot at the win. After assessing the damage on the car, the crew sent Self to the garage, unable to cross the stripe for the checkered flag, and coming home with a 19th-place finish.

 

“That’s definitely one of the more disappointing results of my career,” Self said. “We showed dominance at the right time once again, but just didn’t have the luck to finish it off. The car was on rails after that last pit stop. No one was going to catch us, and it would’ve been such a huge deal to seal the win here with Mason Mitchell Motorsports, against what is probably the most competitive group of driver’s ARCA has seen in a long time. Just a huge thanks to all the guys on the team for giving me a car this good, everyone at Sinclair for tuning in and being supportive, and giving me the chance to drive one of the best looking cars on the racetrack. I’ve got one more chance to try and get an ARCA win at Kansas in a few weeks, so I’ll just regroup, and try and put on the same performance there.”