Wayne Self got to do his favorite thing in front of a rowdy Texas crowd; come from the back and win. Not once but twice. 15-year-old Austin Wayne self claimed a piece of NASCAR history when he took the checkered flag in both the Pro Modified and Late Model Divisions at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas.
“The past four races have been very frustrating for our team and fans, and it feels so good to finally get that next big win and it’s almost unreal to think we just pulled off a double. My crew, family and fans deserve this win more than anything. The guys always work their butts off, to give me great cars, we qualify pole, lead a bunch of laps, our fans get excited and then we get taken out on a restart. That kind of thing just kills us all. But this week, by the grace of God, we came up big, really big. You can’t imagine how cool it feels to deliver a huge night for my fans, family and team,” says Self.
“Terry James (Crew Chief) and I had a little chat about the last four races and then he told
the team that we were going to race hard but we had to stay away from some of the more aggressive drivers. So that’s what we tried to do and it worked out real well in the Modified race. But we had some problems in the Late Model Race.”
Self qualified off pole in the Pro Modified race after being edged out by Heath Stewart by 0.030 seconds with HE Naumann, Zac Hausler and Ryan Englehardt rounding out the top five. But a full inversion of the qualifying order put Self and Stewart at the rear of the field for the race start. Self and Stewart eventually made their way to the front by taking advantage of the double file restarts and the developing outside groove that just got better as the night went on. Self made it to the front first and the two drivers proceeded to check out on the field. Self kept his car on the bottom to protect the inside and forced Stewart to use the high line. Stewart could not make it work good enough to get a run on Self out of the turns. It was a dash for the finish with Self holding his position for the win.
“Heath (Stewart) is a great driver and he races clean so I wasn’t worried about getting clipped. But he has a great motor so I was a little worried that he might be able to drag race me out of 2 or 4 if he could get the upper groove working for him and keep me pinned down on exit. I give a lot of credit to Heath for keeping the race clean,” says Self.
Less than 10 minutes later, Self was climbing into the 07 Late Model and starting 3rd row outside. Self had to dive to the bottom of the track and lock it up to avoid contact when the front two cars on the front row collided on lap 1. Because he left the racing surface during the maneuver, race control would send him to the back.
Unfortunately, Self suffered damage to the front of his Late Model when he could not avoid another spin that involved the two cars in front of him. Self would eventually head to the pits to fix some of the damage and start in the back again.
With no hood, a damaged front end and a set of Goodyear Tires that had been locked up twice, Self began his amazing march to the front. He brought the crowd to a roar by choosing the outside line on every subsequent restart. That strategy paid off when he got by the 96 (Robert Barker) and then passed the 92 (Taylor Brandes) car for the lead. Self would go on to lead the balance of the race and take his second win of the night the hard way.
“The crew made all the right calls in this race. We knew our car had lost a little speed with the crash damage and we had some fast cars in front of us running the low line. We figured we couldn’t get under them so we would try to go around them. This has pretty much been a one groove track so I don’t think the 96 and the 92 thought we could get by on the outside,” says Self
Evidently neither did the crowd that went crazy when Austin pinned the 92 car down coming out of 4 and won the drag race down the front stretch.
Self would go on to thank all the right people and give all the glory to God in the ensuing post race interviews. He spent the rest of the night hanging out with his fans and giving out autographs.
NASCAR recently lowered the age limit for drivers in the Whelen All-American Series to fifteen. Austin’s fifteenth birthday was on March 5, which was opening day for the racing series. As a result of that change, Austin joined the Pro Modified class and earned his first win on May 21. By winning both the Pro Modified and Late Model class, Self becomes the first 15-year-old NASCAR driver to win two premiere Divisions on the same night.