Friday 5: Frankie Muniz wants to show ‘I’m where I’m supposed to be’ Daytona 500 starting lineup Long: A mother’s hug caps emotional night for Conor Daly Aric Almirola wins second Daytona 500 qualifying race; Kyle Busch crashes Joey Logano wins first Daytona 500 qualifying race
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida. The ink has faded, indicating how old the tattoo is. For years, it served only as a reminder of what it was, a message once so meaningful that Frankie Muniz wanted it to be with him forever. But when his path took him in a different direction, the tattoo lost its sheen.
On his left wrist are engraved two checkered flags and the words “Please take care of me”. They take on new meaning as the actor/drummer returns to what he says is his true passion, racing.
Now 37, he is married, a father, and starred in the TV shows Malcolm in the Middle and the films Agent Cody Banks nearly two decades ago. pm ET on FS1).
He insists that this is not a publicity stunt. Instead, he tries to make up for lost time by following a dream. One he marked with this tattoo more than ten years ago.
“It’s hot again,” Muniz told NBC Sports, looking at the tattoo. “I’m so excited about this.”
He remembers the day he got the tattoo. He wasn’t sure what racing look he wanted when he met the artist. Muniz thought of a racing car as a tattoo. Most likely, it was a car with open wheels. At that time, production cars were not in his field of vision.
From 2007 to 2009, he competed in 32 races in the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship series, a stepping stone to what is now the IndyCar series. Among his teammates then was Simone De Silvestro, who started six times in the Indianapolis 500.
So what kind of tattoo to get?
The artist had an idea.
“It turned out great,” Muniz said.
Muniz was aiming for a racing career as the second step in his life until a crash in 2009 left him with a broken back and other injuries that took time to heal. He thought he would return to racing, but then acting opportunities continued. He then started playing drums in a band and that took him on a journey.
Every day took him away from racing.
Until March 22, 2021 and the birth of their son Mauz.
“When he was born, I felt like a nobody, as silly as it sounds,” Muniz said. “It seemed to me that racing is what I always wanted to do. I’m not getting any younger.
“If I’m going to do this, I need to do it now. I want him to grow up in an environment where he saw me go to the goal, go to the dream and strive for something that is not easy. There are a lot of guys who do it and succeed, and a lot of people don’t. This is what I wanted and I am doing everything in my power to achieve this.”
Acting, especially on stage, performing in a band and racing is a visceral experience. It’s as if Muniz is jumping from one vigorous effort to another in pursuit of something.
“Those three things are all things that you really need to show,” Muniz told NBC Sports. “You have to perform. If you can’t do any of these three tasks, chances are you won’t succeed.
“I like complex things. I have always been challenged since I was eight years old. I changed a bunch of different professions and different things. Maybe that’s what I’m chasing. I like to feel the challenge, and then hopefully (experience) the feeling you get when you feel you’ve completed it.
“I don’t know what that means in the racing world. I want to be accepted as a driver. I want people to look at me and say, “Wow, he belongs on this show.” He belongs in this car.”
This does not mean the end of his acting career. He said there would only be three ARCA races in the next two months, and he said he would film a movie that would start the day after the March 10 ARCA race at Phoenix Raceway. He will need only three weeks of filming, giving him time to prepare for the race on April 22 at Talladega Superspeedway.
He admits that he could race on a smaller scale, with less focus and attention, but he aims for bigger goals. He wants to race in NASCAR, but he knows it’s a step up and there’s no guarantee he’ll make it past this season. He got off to a good start on Thursday with the fastest lap in ARCA practice at 182.212 mph. Qualifying Friday.
The practice circle has made the most of the last two years trying to get to this point, which has been worth it for Muniz. It took almost the same amount of time to raise funding and find the right team at Rette Jones Racing to make the move.
Muniz will now be racing against riders almost half his age with much more racing experience and other riders who have competed in the last decade when Muniz was not in the sport.
Among those who will take part in Saturday’s ARCA race, Jack Woodwho will run Kyle Bush Motorsport in the Craftsman Truck Series this season, Connor Mosackwho will run three Xfinity races for Joe Gibbs Racing this year, and Jesse Lovea two-time ARCA Menards Series West champion who will compete in three truck races for Tricon Garage this year.
Rookie Cup Noah Gragson and veteran of the Cup Corey Lajoie both have helped Muniz prepare for the challenges he faces.
“It’s really great to have Frankie on the team,” Gragson said. “He raced open wheels in his career many years ago and he has another opportunity and he tried to do it. You can tell that he went for broke and bought into it. He wants to do it. He starts a little later, but he has a different perspective that he could have at an earlier age and in his career for the first time.
“They are a great band and I know he is in good hands. I know when I first came I had a lot of things I wanted to know but didn’t know what questions to ask. Therefore, it is important for me to be close to him and not to hold his hand, but to talk to him about everything.”
Now that Muniz is here at Daytona and will be racing soon, the importance of the moment strikes him.
“It means a lot to me that it’s here,” he said, “because it proves to me that I’m where I’m supposed to be… and it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
2. Game changer?
The second qualifying race on Thursday night marked the first time Cup drivers had to choose which lane to restart the race on. Drivers said the rule change could have a big impact on Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Among the changes to the Cup rules this season was the permission to apply the selection rule in Super Speedway racing. Previously, cars lined up in two rows while driving. They can now choose which lane to resume in, just like any other oval.
Corey Lajoie said he was surprised at the impact this had on his qualifying race.
“It will definitely change the dynamic on Sunday, a little more than I expected,” Lajoy told NBC Sports. “Even with the last choice, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a big decision.’ Which lane is on, which lane is not. It’s so hard to get a position on the track with these cars.”
Joey Logano, who won the first qualifying race, admits that the rule change is “a new thing to think about. There’s a lot of talk around this, so we’ll see what happens.”
Could there be a case where a driver decides not to line up behind a teammate on a late restart because the other lane might have a better chance of winning?
“Perhaps,” Logano said. “It all depends on the scenario. Who is nearby, who is fast, who is a good draftsman, who is not.
“You want to position yourself in the best place and you never want to punish your teammate. Better to have a friend than not to have a friend. But being together and being the 15th doesn’t cost anything.”
To complicate matters, drivers will have to make quick decisions about which lane to take.
“You don’t have much time to think about it because many of these decisions will be in reaction to what happened right in front of you,” Logano said.
“Your spotter needs to be able to understand as a team what you want and then react quickly because as a pilot you can’t see very well what everyone is doing there. It definitely complicates the task, very difficult.”
3. 235ft reminder
Coming and going, the message is always there for the people of Trackhouse Racing.
The line crosses a road leading to the team’s race store in Concord, North Carolina. There is another line that crosses the road for 235 feet.
Distance is not a mistake.
Team owner Justin Marks lines were drawn in the off-season to mark how close Ross Chastain came to win the championship. Chastain finished 235 feet behind series champion Joey Logano in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
“There is room for improvement within those 235 feet,” Marks said. “My message to everyone at the company is: What are the little things you can do to contribute every day to building those 235 feet? … It is this philosophy of continuous improvement and self-control that is the message we want to champion in our workforce.”
The message works for Chastain.
“The more I go through (the lines), I get a little clinging to the steering wheel and it makes me feel better,” he said. “Justin has that attitude about him.”
Trackhouse Racing is entering its third season and both drivers have signed multi-year agreements. The team announced the signing of Daniel Suarez on Wednesday, followed by the signing of Ross Chastain on Thursday in front of friends and family at Daytona International Speedway.
Both Chastain and Suarez had never won a cup race until last season. Chastain won twice and Suarez won once. Both made the playoffs.
While pushing his team to greater success, Marks is also looking for other ways to grow the organization. Designed for non-NASCAR drivers, the Garage 91 project debuted last year at Watkins Glen with former F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen. Marks said the announcement of this year’s program could be made in 14 to 18 days.
Marks has also expressed interest in owning a car to compete in the Indianapolis 500 someday…