For seventeen-year-old Michael Lira, the Spruce Creek High School student from Port Orange, Florida, who doubles as a professional race car driver in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the upcoming ARCA race at Pocono Raceway may just be the biggest challenge of his young career.
At 2.5 miles in length, the world-famous Pocono Raceway, known as “The Tricky Triangle” because of its unique three-turn layout, is bigger than any track Lira has faced previously in competition. The track’s length qualifies it as a superspeedway, which means that Lira will face speeds that are higher than anything he has experienced before in competition.
Lira has tested at Pocono Raceway earlier this season, so he has some familiarity with the infamous Long Pond, Pennsylvania, race track. However, his age at the time restricted him from racing ARCA’s first Pocono event. But, as the series returns to Pocono Raceway this time around for the track’s second ARCA event of the season, Lira, who turned seventeen in July, now meets the minimum age requirement to race.
“I am very excited for the Pocono race,” Lira said. “Even just testing there was both nerve-racking and incredibly exciting. I learned a lot from that test that I think will help me during the race, and I’m feeling confident. With most of the tracks that I’ve faced this year, I haven’t had the luxury of testing at them first. All of the learning has had to happen the weekend of the race during qualifying and practice, so I’m looking forward to racing at a track that I’ve tested at a little bit, even if it is the most daunting track that I’ve ever raced at.”
In addition to testing at Pocono Raceway this season, Lira has also tested at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, so he has some superspeedway experience under his belt.
In addition to his testing experience, Lira has a great team supporting him. As a driver for Kimmel Racing, Lira has access to a wealth of knowledge through his crew chief Bill Kimmel and his teammate and mentor Will Kimmel. Bill is an eight-time champion as a crew chief in the ARCA Racing Series and his son Will is an experienced driver running part-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season.
“Michael’s doing a great job,” Will said. “We’re doing exactly what we set out to do… to go to these tracks he’s never seen before and get him experience. We’re not running for points, so each race is like a practice race for Michael. But, when we do run for points with Michael, he’ll be ahead of the curve. He’s a good kid, comes from a great family and really tries to pay attention and learn whatever information he can from everybody. I think it’s going to pay off for him. Pocono’s just a lot of fun; it keeps you on your toes. It’s got three different turns so it adds extra challenges we don’t get anywhere else. I like it a lot better now that we run better there.”
The ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway is scheduled for August 1, 2014, at 5:15 p.m. EDT and will air live on Fox Sports 1.
To keep up with all of the action on race weekend, follow Michael on Twitter at @LiraRacing and @1MichaelLira and on Facebook at /MichaelLiraRacingOfficial.