Michael Lira is a young 17-year-old from South Florida. As a child, he knew that racing was in his blood. As an infant, he watched his father step behind the wheel of a racecar every single weekend. He knew that racing was in his blood, and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Lira started his racing career at nine years old. He began driving a Quarter Midget and quickly moved up through the rankings. In 2011 and 2012, Lira raced in his home state in the Florida United Pro Truck Series and quickly claimed success.
He has found that being young has helped him out just a little bit as he quickly progressed into the ARCA Series.
“Finding sponsorship is just a really hard thing to do,” Lira said in an exclusive interview. “Being young, I think helps a little bit just because younger people are more into social media because I’m really into my social media. I have a lot of fun with it and get a lot of followers and have a large fan base.”
However, there have been some speed bumps along the way that has set Lira back.
Lira is fully committed to being a top-tier driver, but also just graduated high school and will major in business at a college in Florida.
He made the move to the ARCA Series in 2013. Being only 15 years old at the time, he was enabled to race a limited schedule. But what better way to start off a career than with Kimmel Racing.
He raced with Kimmel Racing for the 2014 season, yet still being too young to race at some of the larger venues. Lira enjoyed his time as a developmental driver for those teams but needed to move on.
In 2015, his father, Carlos, decided to let his young son race for his organization. He will race 16 out of the 20 races this season in the ARCA Series as he is still too young to race at the restrictor plate tracks, along with a few others that conflict with his school life.
“We have newer equipment,” Lira said about his team. “The Kimmel’s are good people and that was really the perfect way for me to start out in the ARCA Series. When I started out, I didn’t have as much experience as everyone else. They were very patient with me at first, and I think being with a big team like Venturini or the one like I’m in now would have been too much pressure.”
Much of the family-run team’s funding comes from the help of Ford Performance and Roush Yates. However, the current funding that the team has will not be able to take Lira up the ranks of auto racing. He will need to find sponsorship elsewhere as he looks to increase his resume.
“It’s not enough to pay for everything, but it is help along the way,” he said. “Definitely need some bigger sponsors to make our next steps to the top.”
With the newer Ford engines powering his racecars, it has granted Lira a better opportunity to prove that he has what it takes and get it done with his newly acquainted team.
The driver of the No. 58 Ford has been fast every week that he has been at the track. In all but one qualifying session this year, Lira has wound up starting fourth for the race.
“The only time we haven’t started fourth in the race was when qualifying got rained out and we started by owners points,” said Lira. “I want to top that and get into the top three.”
“Try to improve on qualifying and try to get my first pole. But definitely to get a win or at least to get a top-five I have yet to get a top-five.”
Even if they cannot capitalize and pull in to Victory Lane, improvement is the main thing that they want to focus on.
Throughout the young season, the team has qualified very well, but when the race rolls around, they seem to fall back.
The up-and-coming driver wants to run well at the ARCA events that are held on the same weekend as NASCAR. These races include Pocono, Kentucky and Kansas. If he can run well at these venues it may spark an interest in some NASCAR teams.
“It would be really cool to win Pocono, Kentucky or Kansas,” he said. “One of those companion races with NASCAR just because the big NASCAR teams are there watching and your right in front of them.”
Lira doesn’t care where his first win will come, but two of his favorite tracks are Winchester and Salem. He believes that he had a car to win at Salem in April, but got together with a lapped car, which ruined his day. He is looking forward to redeeming himself in late September at the .555-mile track.
Evidently, the No. 58 team sits 14th in points after running six of the eight races thus far in the 2015 season. Track time will be crucial for Lira as he tries to improve on season-best finish of eighth back at Mobile, in his first race of the season.
“We’ve definitely performed way above my expectations at first,” Lira said about his 2015 season. “First of all, our equipment is far better than anything that I’ve ever driven before, so that’s been a blessing. And the team is just really good to work with, very smart and resourceful and work together well and we’ve had a lot of bad luck this season in the races, but we’ve qualified well and showed a lot of speed. I think there is potential there for a win.”