Champ Car scholarship winner victorious Michael Self was able to gain some valuable firsthand knowledge this past weekend. The 17-year-old high school student from Park City, Utah, learned that in the sport of auto racing, there are many peaks and valleys.
In Self’s case, he experienced the valley before cresting the peak. The winner of the 2007 Champ Car ROTAX Career Enhancement Scholarship crashed while warming up for the Saturday Skip Barber Western Regional Series event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and was unable to take part in the race. Fortunately, he overcame the setback to win his race on Sunday.
“For the Saturday race, they put me in what they call the Championship Class and I wasn’t quite ready for that,” Self admitted. “We were fast, but not as fast as we wanted to be. The Championship Class is for drivers who have multiple seasons of experience. So I raced in Sportsman Class today (Sunday).
Self recorded timed laps in two practice sessions and one qualifying session prior to the Championship Class race. He managed to improve his lap time by more than a second. Unfortunately, a crash on the warm-up lap prevented him from taking part in Saturday’s race.
“Yesterday (Saturday) was a big-time downer,” he said. “I made a mistake and crashed and so I didn’t get to start the race. I was pretty bummed about it. Today (Sunday) I took it easy and calmed down and had a much better race.”
Indeed. Self made the most of the switch to another class. Starting 15th out of 17 Skip Barber F2000s, he improved to ninth by the end of the first lap. He gained two more positions on the following lap and was fifth by Lap 5. Self moved up to fourth a lap later and took over third place on Lap 9. For the next six laps he followed the cars of race leader Sarena Traver and Brian Skinner. On the final lap, he went from third to first to finish 5.51 seconds ahead of eventual race runner-up Ethan Stone. It put a happy ending to what could have been a most frustrating weekend.
Self probably had an inkling Sunday’s race would be more productive after setting quick time in the morning practice session. Because he had not participated in Sportsman Class qualifying or race on Saturday, he was relegated to 15th starting position on Sunday. However, as he had shown in last summer’s Grand National (where he started 31st and finished sixth), his spot on the grid was not much of an obstacle.
Next up for Self is the Jan. 26-27 Skip Barber Southern Region Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Self is also scheduled to run Western Region races at Sebring in February, Las Vegas in March and the series finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in April.
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