DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will always hold special memories for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Wayne Self.
Last February, the Austin, Texas native survived an accident-filled NextEra Energy Resources 250. Slicing and dicing his way through the carnage, Self found himself in contention for his first career victory – and came within inches of doing so, after escaping a breathtaking pileup on the last lap.
Inches from passing leader Kaz Grala, emerging from the smoke on the backstretch, Self settled for second, a career-best in his young Truck Series career. Twelve months later, Self returns to Daytona hoping to find himself in a similar scenario.
“You never know what to expect at Daytona,” said Self. “This race is certainly a crap shoot. You can play all your cards right and then something happens ahead of you and your night is over.
“Last year, everything went right and we almost ended the night in Victory Lane. I’m hoping that the kind of luck can strike twice, and we can have a good race with my Niece Motorsports team.”
Shifting organizations during the off-season, the former ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Rookie of the Year has joined Niece Motorsports, for his second attempt at a full season schedule, aboard the No. 22 Don’t mess with Texas Chevrolet Silverado.
Of course, Self realizes that the game plan has changed this time around and the experience he’s gained since then should help his cause to enter the post-season Playoffs.
“I feel really confident about the season,” said Self. “Niece Motorsports has a great alliance with GMS Racing and these guys on our No. 22 team are incredibly focused. I think like any race at Daytona, there’s pressure to perform.
“The guys have certainly put the manpower and hours into building our No. 22 Don’t mess with Texas Chevrolet and hopefully their efforts will be rewarded during practice on Thursday and then qualifying and the race on Friday.”
Like last year, the Don’t mess with Texas campaign and AM Technical Solutions will support Self in his 41st career start.
The Don’t mess with Texas campaign is part of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) litter prevention program, which includes Don’t mess with Texas, Adopt-a-Highway, and a grassroots partnership with Keep Texas Beautiful.
For more than 30 years, Don’t mess with Texas has made tremendous progress educating Texans about the impact of littering on the state’s economy, environment and physical landscape.
“I really can’t thank Don’t mess with Texas and AM Technical Solutions enough for helping make not only Daytona possible – but my second full-time season,” Self added. “It takes a lot of commitment and financial responsibility to put these race trucks on the track.
“As a driver for Niece Motorsports, it’s my job to go out there every weekend and leave nothing on the table and give our partners a finish they can be proud of. We did last year at Daytona and it would be great to do that again.”
The season-opening race on Feb. 16 will also mark Self’s first race working with new crew chief Joey Cohen.
Cohen enters the Niece Motorsports picture after a successful stint at GMS Racing where he most notably gained attention for the development of the team’s successful XFINITY Series program.
The Texan is hopeful that Cohen can continue his success by leading the No. 22 team into the spotlight.
“I have a lot of trust in Joey,” offered Self. “We’ve spent some time getting to know each other and it’s easy to see why he is well-liked. He has a great work ethic and cares about winning.
“That drive, motivation and expertise should put us in a position to surprise a lot of people this year. At least, I hope. We’re optimistic we can go to these first three races and do good work and then take a break and come back at Martinsville and make a charge towards the Playoffs.
“I think anything less than that, we’d be disappointed.”
The NextEra Energy Resources 250 (100 laps / 250 miles) is the first of 23 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races on the 2018 schedule. Practice begins on Thurs, Feb. 15 from 2:00 p.m. – 2:55 p.m. A final practice session is set for 4:00 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. Qualifying is set for race day, Fri., Feb. 16 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The 32-truck field will take the green flag shortly after 7:30 p.m. with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, the Motor Racing Network (Radio) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Satellite Radio, Channel 90).