The Pocono race week started on a high note for recent high school graduate Michael Lira, as he recorded the fastest lap time in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards open test session on Wednesday. With great test results, combined with a top ten finish at the track last year, Michael was excited for official practice to get underway on Friday. He was ready to fine-tune his skills on the track known as the “Tricky Triangle.”
Throughout the two hour practice session, Michael was consistently among the top five fastest drivers. As the session was coming to a close, the crew set up his car for a mock-qualifying run. Exiting turn one is where Michael’s weekend went from good to downright terrible. He entered the turn deeper than he previously had, then spun backwards, hard into the outside retaining wall.
“I had no warning at all. It just went around,” Michael stated after a quick visit to the infield care center. “That car was fast. I hate this for my crew. We’ve got a good back-up though, and I’m pitching in, helping however I can, to get it ready for tomorrow.”
Michael’s Lira Motorsports crew, led by Crew Chief Danny Johnson (DJ), worked late into the evening on Friday, then went back to work at 6:00am Saturday to prepare the car. In qualifying, Michael’s time was good for 16th position in the 34 car starting field. With the qualifying lap being the only laps Michael had run in the newly prepped car, the team decided to make some adjustments to the set-up after qualifying, relegating Michael to the back of the field for the start of the race.
When a caution came out on lap 1, DJ decided to adopt a fuel-strategy plan for the race. Michael came in and topped off the tank before the restart, then had raced into the top 25 when the second caution came out on lap 13. Michael again came to pit road for fuel, but the car stalled when he was leaving the pit stall, and he was not able to get it refired. He took the car behind the wall, where an terminal engine issue was diagnosed. Michael’s day ended after only 16 laps. He was credited with a 26th place finish.
“As bad as this week ended, this is still one of my favorite tracks,” he said. “I’m looking forward to when we come back here in August. I think we will really have something to compete for the win.”
Still a few weeks away from his 18th birthday, Michael does not meet track requirements to race in the next two ARCA Series races at Michigan and Chicagoland. He will rejoin the team when it heads to Winchester Speedway for the Herr’s Chase The Taste 200 on Sunday, June 18th. He has plans to race his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway while he is away from the ARCA Racing Series.
The Lira Motorsports team will head to Michigan with Scott Rookie Challenge leader David Levine in his usual number 59 car, and Canadian driver Cole Powell in the number 58 car. Cole rejoins the team after racing to a 3rd place finish at Talladega Superspeedway in May.
Connect with Michael online… follow Michael Lira on Twitter at @1MichaelLira and explore his official website at www.MichaelLiraRacing.com. You can also find him on Facebook at /MichaelLiraRacingOfficial. Learn more about Lira Motorsports at www.LiraMotorsports.com.