Drivers from the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will descend on the “World Center of Racing” this weekend for three full days of testing at Daytona International Speedway. Among them will be the young hometown hero Michael Lira, from nearby Spruce Creek High School, who has been approved to test for the first time at the superspeedway.
“I couldn’t be more excited to test at Daytona this weekend,” Lira said. “I’ve grown up watching my dad run sports cars there, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn and to improve as a driver.”
Lira will race the No. 69 Ford Fusion for Kimmel Racing in 2014, with Gary Yeoman’s Ford as the car’s primary sponsor. His crew chief will be ARCA legend Bill Kimmel, who won eight straight championships in the ARCA Racing Series from 2000 – 2007 as the crew chief for his brother, Frank.
“Kimmel Racing is such an established and successful team in ARCA” Lira said. “They’re a championship-caliber organization, as they have proven in the past, and I’m excited to do my part in continuing that tradition.”
Lira plans to run 14 races in 2014 of the full 20-race ARCA schedule. Series rules dictate that, because he is only 16 years old, he is not eligible to race at tracks that measure more than one mile in length. Once he turns 17, Lira will be authorized to run the intermediate tracks as well, which include tracks up to 1.5 miles long. Only once he turns 18 will series rules permit him to run the full range of larger tracks and superspeedways.
“While Michael will not be able to compete on the superspeedways for a few more years, this weekend’s test sessions will be the first step in an important learning process for him,” said crew chief Bill Kimmel. “We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen from Michael so far in his racing career. He’s still very young, but he’s had a lot of success early on, and we’re excited to see him take the next step.”
Lira began his career at an early age, racing Quarter Midgets when he was only 9 years old. In 2011, Lira won Rookie of the Year in his first season in the FASCAR Pro-Trucks division. In 2012, he competed in both the FASCAR Pro-Trucks Series and the Florida United Pro-Trucks Series. He also made his debut in a Pro-Late Model stock car, finishing fourth in his very first race, the Pro-Late 100 Lapper. After that, he made his Super Late Model debut in the Red-eye 100 and finished 2nd.
Lira ended the 2012 season winning the track championship at New Smyrna Speedway and tying for the track championship at Orlando Speedworld for the FASCAR Pro-Trucks division. He finished 6th in points in the Florida United Pro-Trucks standings.
Lira began his ARCA Racing Series career in 2013, running four races in association with Jack Roush, Roush-Fenway Racing and Kimmel Racing, but 2014 will be his first real season in ARCA.
“The opportunity to run 14 races this season is huge for me,” Lira said. “I’ve got an incredible team around me. I’m excited to get out there and compete and to win some races.