By CARSON FIELD, Four Points News
Though Texas is most often known as a high school football powerhouse, one former Vandegrift and Canyon Ridge student found another calling — stock car racing.
Austin Wayne Self lived in Austin for the first 18 years of his life before moving to North Carolina to pursue his racing career. He attended Vandegrift for his freshman year in high school, then switched to homeschool.
Self said he was in his early teens when he began to fully pursue his dream of professional stock car racing.
“When I was younger it was always my dream to drive race cars for a living, but I think when I was 14 years old I realized how hard it was going to be,” Self said. “I was ready to do anything to make that dream happen.”
Since then, Self has raced on the NASCAR Gander RVs & Outdoors Truck Series, K&N Pro Series and ARCA Racing Series. His best finish in a race this year was 5th at Michigan International Speedway in August.
Self did have a set back earlier this year when he failed a random drug test in Daytona. He apologized to his fans for this and was suspended from NASCAR. In May, the suspension was lifted and he was reinstated after a Road to Recovery program.
Despite missing two races, Austin finished 14th in the championship standings with one top-five and three top-10 finishes.
Now that he is a full-time driver in NASCAR, Self’s daily routine is much different from when he lived in Austin. When he isn’t racing, he still works to improve as a driver.
“Days I’m not at the racetrack, I spend time at the shop with my team to try and get our trucks faster,” Self said. “I go cycling to train my body for high temperatures in the race car, spend some time on a racing simulator.”
The racing grind may take up plenty of Self’s time, but he still finds a way to spend time with his girlfriend, Jennifer Anderson.
“Most of the time I end my day with my girlfriend, who’s a great cook and has adapted to my Texas-style cooking,” Self said.
Because he’s now been racing in NASCAR for a few years, Self has gained confidence on the track, but it did not come immediately.
“I don’t have too many fears on the racetrack anymore,” Self said. “I’ve become comfortable at the high speeds, so my biggest fear is usually not having a fast enough truck. There’s nothing like driving into a corner at 185 mph, and for me, there’s nothing more comforting than that.”
Of the 23 tracks used in the NASCAR circuit, only one of them is in Texas — Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Long before he began racing professionally, Self periodically attended the Truck Series and IndyCar races at the track. As a child, he dreamed of racing on the track, and Self said it feels great to have achieved that dream.
“Texas Motor Speedway has always meant so much to me,” Self said. “I grew up going to watch the Truck and Indy Car races there. It was always a dream of mine to be racing instead of sitting in the stands — truly an amazing feeling.”
The Truck Series season spans from February to November, prohibiting Self from spending extensive time in the Austin area. That being said, Self said he makes the most of his time in Austin when he does visit from his home in Troutman, N.C. His parents, Tim and Joann Self, moved out of Grandview Hills and have a residence in Lakeway now.
“I miss Austin all the time,” Self said. “When I do (visit), I make sure I eat local food: tacos, barbeque and Tex-Mex. I take trips to South Congress, Barton Springs, and I always have to go on a drive down Bullick Hollow.”
Despite not coming to Austin very often, Self said he represents Texas with everything he does, including his affiliation with several local sponsors.
“For me, it’s about representing the Lone Star State,” Self said. “I love where I come from, and I want to take Texas with me on this journey.
“It has been a real blessing having GOTEXAN and other Texas companies by my side, and I always look forward to bringing other Texas companies on my journey.”
Self said growing up in Texas gave him motivation to excel in racing and helped created valuable connections.
“I did grow up racing in Texas, meeting a lot of great drivers where I learned so much,” Self said. “But the biggest thing is that Austin has given me motivation to be the best at what I do.”
Lynette Haaland contributed to this article.