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Actor Muniz headed for the fast lane
LAGUNA SECA - Frankie Muniz jumped into my Grand Prix outside Turn Six at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Friday, and while we rode to the paddock he talked about the latest love of his life: Racing.

Muniz, 21, the Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actor best known for the critically acclaimed Fox TV series "Malcolm in the Middle," got a taste of racing in 2004 when he competed in the Toyota Celebrity race at Champ Car's Long Beach Grand Prix. The following year, he substituted for another driver - and won. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled in an advanced three-day racing course at Laguna Seca, and recalls how former Salinas resident Jonathon Bomarito was his driving instructor.

"He was a great teacher," Muniz said. "Once we sat outside Turn 10 and he gave me pointers on the other drivers. It's always better if you have someone you can relate to."

That relationship may soon be put to the test because Muniz is putting his acting career on hold to compete as a rookie racing the full season in the Atlantic Series - the top-feeder series to Champ Car. Among his competitors will be Bomarito, a 2000 Palma High graduate, who got his first win last year in the Atlantic season finale.

"I don't think people realize that Frankie never sat in a race car until just a couple years ago," said Chandler Team Jensen president Eric Jensen during a press event at Laguna Seca Friday. "He has come a long way in a short time and has tremendous talent."

Muniz will be driving the purple and gold No. 13 for Chandler Team Jensen.

Muniz may appear in three films in 2007, but he said racing is where he'll be focusing his abilities. He recalled how Jason Priestly, a former star on "Beverly Hills 90210," got the racing bug but was severely injured in a testing accident.

Does that worry you any, I asked?

"Not really," he said. More at the Californian

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