Michael Lira is a rising young star in the racing world. The sixteen-year-old from Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, Florida, completed his first day of testing at Talladega Superspeedway yesterday, when the track opened its doors to the ARCA Racing Series for two full days of testing. It was the first time that the young Lira had run on the legendary Alabama race track, and he passed his introductory course with flying colors. “Since I’ve already run at Daytona, it came pretty naturally to me here,” Lira said. “The tri-oval here is kinda tricky. It’s a weird line that you have to take through there. It only took me about two laps to run wide-open all the way around the track though. It was like muscle memory from Daytona, so I felt comfortable out there pretty quickly.” Lira cracked the top 10 in the morning speed charts with a top speed of 178.205 mph and a best lap of 53.736 seconds. The lap was good enough for ninth place overall, but he would improve upon that later in the day. The start of the afternoon session was marked by near-disaster, when Lira’s left-rear tire blew up and sent the No. 68 car into a spin in the middle of Turn 4. Luckily, Lira felt the tire going down and was able to brace for the blowout. Some smart handling by the rookie kept the car out of the wall and avoided sending the whole team home early. “Going into the middle of Turn 4, it started vibrating really bad and slowed down. By the time the tire blew coming off the turn, I was really on my toes and ready for something bad to happen. I tried to control it as much as I could, turned the wheel to the right and hoped it stayed off the wall, but you don’t have much control at 180 mph. It was the first time that I’ve had a tire go down, so I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but I was ready for something big.” Thanks to Lira’s quick reactions behind the wheel, the only real damage to the No. 68 car was very minor body damage to the left-rear quarter panel from where the tire exploded. The Kimmel Racing crew quickly went to work in the garage. They straightened out the left-rear quarter panel, replaced the side skirts and put on four fresh tires. The repairs were complete within minutes and Lira was back in the car. With the nerves of the spin in his rearview mirror, Lira went back out and turned his strongest laps of the day. His best lap time of 53.428 seconds, with a top speed of 182.650 mph, bumped him up to 6th position in the final afternoon speed charts. He also managed to fall into the draft for a period of time and gain some very valuable drafting experience. “I got to run some really good laps and get a good feel for the track. I got to draft a little, and I even got to save the car in a spin. As far as a learning experience, which is the whole reason I’m here, I’d say Day 1 gave me everything I could handle.” Lira heads back out this morning for Day 2 of ARCA testing at Talladega Superspeedway. For updates and photos from today.