Michael Self is a 22-year-old race-car driver from Park City who will compete at the Daytona International Speedway in the UNOH Battle at the Beach on Feb. 18. Self locked in his position at Daytona by achieving wins in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2012 at the Brainerd International Raceway, the Iowa Speedway and the Phoenix International Raceway. He has been driving since he was 10 and currently races with the Golden Gate Racing Team, owned by Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (the same team for which the late Dale Earnhardt raced). Self also coaches at the Ford Racing High Performance Driving School at Miller Motorsports Park.
How did you get into racing?
I was born in Alabama, and my dad hung around the NASCAR crowd with people like Bobby Allison. When we moved to Utah, I started racing dirt bikes then tried out a go-kart. I had a lot of success right away, even though I was competing against kids who had been racing for years. In a couple years, I moved up into a car with a bigger motor and started racing nationally. In 2007, things really took off because I got the Champ Car ROTAX Scholarship, which allowed me to complete a season of racing with the Skip Barber Regional Racing Series, which was my step up into full-size cars. I decided I wanted to try out a stock car, so at 18, I got what was called a late model and won a couple races and by the end of the year had a couple track records. Age 19 was my first year in the K&N Pro Series.
What’s your favorite thing about racing?
Definitely the adrenaline rush. One of the greatest quotes I’ve heard is, “You know you love something when the thrill of adrenaline overcomes the fear of death.” Racing gets me substantially more excited than anything else and is the top priority in my life.
Besides winning races, you also have to raise a lot of money to make it to the next step. How do you go about doing that?
The toughest thing I’ve ever had to do is get sponsors. It’s just like sponsoring the NFL or anything like that. It’s advertising on a national level to get a business-to-business connection and prove that your method of advertising is going to get a return on a company’s investment. Since I’m the first person to grow up in Utah to win a regional NASCAR series event, we’re really pushing that and trying to find companies based in Utah to sponsor us.
Have you ever been in a bad crash?
I was racing in the Irwindale 2010 All Star Showdown, and we were coming down the back straightaway when I got checked. It hooked me to the right, and I hit the wall at about 105 mph. It knocked me out for a while, but, luckily, it’s really hard to break anything in a stock car because you’re so strapped in. They’ve done a lot to minimize the deaths in auto racing since the death of Dale Earnhardt.
What is the next step for you?
My goal is to one day race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but it’s going to take time to get there. I’m a development driver for Richard Childress Racing, which is one of the top five biggest teams for NASCAR. Being a development driver means that I’m kind of in line in their program to race their cars through the next couple steps in my career. My goal for this year is to try and do eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, which is the next step up.