Michael Lira, the 16-year-old high school student and stock car racing standout from Port Orange, Florida, finished up a strong series of test sessions at Mobile International Speedway earlier this week in preparation for his first big race of the 2014 season, the ARCA Mobile 200.
“We had a great test,” Lira said. “It reminded me of Toledo, although I think the corner speed is faster (at Mobile) than Toledo with the longer straightaways. I feel like I got the hang of it pretty quick. We did a couple of long runs and the car was really consistent. I think we’re going to have a really good race.”
Lira, driver of the No. 69 Gary Yeomans Ford Fusion, plans to run 14 races this year with Kimmel Racing in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. He faces a challenging schedule and a tough field of competitors, and will rely heavily on mentor Bill Kimmel for coaching as he travels to some of the country’s most famous speedways. This weekend will be Lira’s first career start at Mobile International Speedway.
“The Kimmels are so much help and so great to work with. I tell them exactly what I’m feeling in the car, and they take it from there. They brought a set-up (to Mobile) they used here last year, so the car was good right off the trailer. The car was really consistent all day long. I practiced staying consistent and tried to run the same line all day. I also practiced getting off pit road a little better. Worked on my short runs, the qualifying, and worked on my restarts — getting through the gears better.”
It has been a very busy offseason for Lira, who has squeezed in as many track hours as possible before the beginning of the ARCA season. Lira began by participating in three full days of ARCA test sessions at Daytona International Speedway. It was his first time on the famous superspeedway. Lira also spent time in his Pro Late Model car, and is fresh off a strong week of racing in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway.
“There’s a lot to learn when it comes to these ARCA cars. These cars are so tough to drive considering how heavy they are, and with all the power they have. Running a super late model seems like a cakewalk now compared to these big, heavy ARCA cars. My first goal is to run all 200 laps, but I think the car is good enough to be a top five or even three. If we have something towards the end, we’ll do something about it.”
Lira has also been busy trying to secure additional sponsorship, and is currently a contestant in the PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge, a contest supported by some of NASCAR’s biggest names, like Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.
“The PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge is a great opportunity,” Lira said. “I’m excited to be a part of it. The finalists are chosen by fan voting, and, so far, my fans have been really great in participating. I’m always trying to do as much as I can to keep improving and show what I can do.”
You can cast your vote for Michael Lira at http://peakstockcardream.com/contestant-bio.php?CID=639.
Lira will face a variety of tracks this season, from ARCA short-track staples like the famous Berlin Speedway and Lucas Oil Raceway, to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series mainstays like Pocono Raceway and Kentucky Speedway. He will also be racing at two dirt tracks, as well as the New Jersey Motorsports Park road course.
The ARCA Mobile 200 weekend kicks off Friday, March 21, with a full day of practice sessions followed by Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell that night. Saturday, March 22, Lira will participate in an autograph session at noon. The ARCA Mobile 200 race is scheduled to get underway at 2 PM CT Saturday.