It’s the most highly anticipated event of the year playing out on racing’s biggest stage. On Saturday, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards kicked off the new season with the 55th running of the series’ Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway.
Coming off a sub-par season, Venturini Motorsports dedicated the offseason to regaining their form. After an organizational reboot, the long-time ARCA Series team went to work rebuilding from the ground up in preparation for the season opener.
Rising to the occasion the team’s off-season commitment was rewarded and on full display Saturday evening when Michael Self drove his No. 15 Venturini Motorsports’ prepared Sinclair Oil Toyota Camry to Daytona’s Gatorade Victory Lane giving the 27-year old driver his second career series victory and first at the World Center of Racing.
Self’s victory handed Venturini Motorsports it’s 45th overall ARCA win and second at Daytona since 2012.
Self's teammates Tom Hessert (No. 55 U.S. Turf Equipment Toyota), Natalie Decker (No. 25 N29 Capital Partners Toyota) and Leilani Munter (No.20 VeganStrong.com Toyota) finished fourth, fifth and eighth respectively, giving Venturini Motorsports four finishes inside the top-10.
Decker, who made headlines of her own, started from the pole position and notched a new career best with her top-5 finish. Decker became the third female driver in history to win a pole award for the ARCA race at Daytona.
Leilani, making her 12th career series start since 2010, set new personal bests qualifying fifth and finishing eighth earning her first ever top-10 finish.
Self, a native of Park City, Utah, survived two late-race multi-car crashes to get in position for the biggest win of his career.
"Survived man…just survived," said Self in victory lane.
"I got really lucky. I made it through all the wrecks. This thing is rough…it's beat up. I made some mistakes, but we were able to overcome them. I had a lot of help on the radio…that's why we're here. This is especially great for Sinclair. It's insane how rewarding this feels. That company took a chance on me. They're from my home state, and that's really special."
With the leaders bunched up the entire way, even Self had no idea how he managed to drive away from the pack in the end.
"I have no idea how we got that big lead…I really don't. The car just took off. I was worried going down the backstretch…all those cars behind me with all that momentum. Those guys just seemed to stall each other out behind me.”
The next event for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is the Music City 200 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville on Saturday night, April 7.