NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Austin Wayne Self on Coming Home to Texas

Austin Wayne Self made his ARCA Racing Series debut in 2013. Running just six races, he posted five top-10 finishes, including a runner-up result at Winchester Speedway (Ind.). Over the next two years, Self ran 39 of 40 races, scoring one win (2015) and a combined 25 top-10 results, en route to a runner-up finish in the point standings to champion Grant Enfinger as the 2015 season came to a close.

Fast forward to the 2016 season and Self joined the Camping World Truck Series as a part of a healthy rookie class. Piloting his family-owned No. 22 Toyota, the 20-year-old continues to familiarize himself with the trucks and the tracks in an effort to become a more well-rounded driver.

Just before the teams headed out for intros ahead of the race under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this month, Self took a few minutes to talk about debuting at his home track in his rookie season.

Beth Lunkenheimer, Frontstretch.com: You finished second in ARCA last year. How has that transition been coming up to the Truck Series?

Austin Wayne Self: It definitely gave me some racing experience; just seat time sitting in a race car. It’s hard to take a lot from a car to the trucks since these trucks drive so much different. It’s been like restarting when it comes to race mode – you really gotta drive the crap out of these trucks. They drive different by themselves too. I think it’s prepared me — the competition is a lot different but it’s

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)
“…It’s like watching TV and seeing your favorite actor and you get to meet that actor.” — Austin Wayne Self on racing at Texas (Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

definitely important to continue being in a racecar.

Lunkenheimer: What’s it like coming home to Texas?

Self: It’s the best feeling ever. I’ve been to Daytona now; I’ve been to a few of the big tracks – Talladega. But I don’t think any of them mean more to me than this one. I’ve been going to this one since I was four. It was the first place I ever went to a race and it was a family tradition to come up here to watch the IndyCars and also this week to come up and watch the trucks and IndyCar. I’ve watched hundreds of laps here and I’d never driven it until yesterday.

This one’s big; this one’s cool! I’m happy because – I’ve been saying it a lot this weekend – but it’s like watching TV and seeing your favorite actor and you get to meet that actor. You hope you love that actor personally as much as you did seeing them on TV. I really love this racetrack; I love everything about it. I was just hoping once I got on there that I still loved it and didn’t have a sour taste in my mouth. I ended up loving it; this track’s a lot of fun.

I think this track is one of the toughest we go to in the season. It’s definitely a huge learning night tonight. I always have my expectations high, but it’s going to be big learning. We get to come back in November, so I’m trying to learn everything I can tonight and better myself as a driver as the season goes on.

Lunkenheimer: Tell me a little bit about this ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ campaign you’ve got going on this weekend.

Self: Don’t Mess With Texas has stood by me – it’s more than just a littering campaign. They’re very Texas proud and I think they represent Texas in a way. Plus the slogan’s just cool to say. They have a lot of cool people on board with them, and everything they’ve done for me is really cool. Just being from Texas, it’s a Texas thing, so being able to have them on the car out on the track and having a personal relationship with them has really been cool. I’ve dreamed of getting to drive a racecar, and having my home state represent me and having a relationship with all of these awesome Texas companies, even having Sid Miller out here is really cool.

Lunkenheimer: How do you feel about the caution clock?

Self: I like it. This series is all about racing, and I know some people didn’t know what to think about it. It gives more restarts, and that’s what I love doing. I love racing, and that’s where you do the most racing. That’s where the most opportunity is. It calls for harder racing on the restarts, but it also still a whole lot of strategy. It’s not all about fuel strategy anymore until 20 laps to go. It puts it a little more in the drivers’ hands to drive the racecar and stay up front.

Lunkenheimer: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced coming into this first year?

Self: To start off trying to learn the truck. Trucks are probably one of the most difficult things you can drive, and I’ve talked to many

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)
“…It’s a tough series. I think as a driver, that’s what makes it fun.” — Self (Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

drivers about it. But the competition is something else too. I think we’ve had a great year. We’ve had some finishes we don’t like and haven’t been super happy with, but I’ve learned a lot. Back in Charlotte, we started 24th and Matt Crafton started a row in front of me and John Hunter Nemechek was right ahead of me. You’ve got 20-something drivers – most of them have won, all of them knocking on the door – so it’s a tough series. I think as a driver that’s what makes it fun.

Lunkenheimer: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Self: My crew chief told me before I got out for qualifying: don’t let off the gas. And he reminded me about the the red pull lever that says fire on it. He reminded me what that was, and I thought that was pretty dang good advice (grins).

Lunkenheimer: What’s fun for you away from the track?

Self: I like lake days. Those are fun. I enjoy hanging out at the shop, spending time with the team. It’s all about the racing, and a lot of times where not here with the trucks, we’re racing somewhere else. I’m either racing or when I’m not doing anything, I’m trying to do the compression and not think about anything. The lake is a good place to do that.

After starting 18th at his home track, Self managed to avoid any drama and brought home a career-best 13th-place finish. Since then, he finished 16th at Iowa Speedway and 28th at Gateway Motorsports Park after a hard crash.

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