‘Malcolm in the Middle’ Frankie Muniz leads NASCAR

These days, he’s more like “Malcolm at the Front.”

The multitalented actor-turned-race car driver led the standings in the ARCA Series, one of the lower levels of the NASCAR feeder system, through the first three races of his first full season. His goal is to reach the Cup Series eventually, but the 37-year-old Muniz has no misgivings about how difficult it will be to climb that ladder.

Especially since he’s still trying to figure out what all the switches in his car do now.

“I’m very focused on everything I have to learn today at ARCA,” said Muniz, who was eighth-fastest in Friday’s practice at Kansas Speedway, where the series will race on Saturday. “This is the fourth race of 20 this season. I thought it was OK; I don’t know that I’m in the points lead at this point. But I’m focused on continuing that and learning.”

Muniz has always been fascinated by race. He saw some of Charlotte growing up and went to the Daytona 500, where he drove the pace car in 2001, the year Dale Earnhardt died in a last-lap wreck. And during his younger days, when he starred as the titular character of fox sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” he engaged in competitive racing.

Muniz entered 14 races in 2006 in the Formula BMW USA series, and the following year, moved to the Champ Car Atlantic Series. He continued racing until 2009, when a crash left him with injuries that led to his retirement.

He focused primarily on acting, although by that point “Malcolm in the Middle” had long since ended its seven-year run on Fox and was fast becoming a cult classic, and the light began to shine. of the month as the drummer for the indie rock band Kingsfoil.

Muniz’s comeback, so to speak, begins in late 2021 when he drives a late model at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California. Next came an ARCA Series test at Daytona last year, and in January, Rette Jones racing announced that Muniz was behind the wheel for the No. 30 Ford full-time this season.

“I love my past. I love everything I’ve done,” said Muniz, “but I don’t remember saying I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a garbage man, to be honest, and acting took over my life. This race opportunity is when I say: ‘What do I want to do? What do I want to do with my life?’ And here I am. I chose it. And when I put on my helmet and left the pit land, before I knew it, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.

It’s on the front of the package.

While he has yet to win through three races in the ARCA Series, Muniz has been a model of consistency. He was the only driver to complete all 316 laps, and so he led 18-year-old Jesse Love by the slimmest margin in the points race.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for Frankie to lead the ARCA Racing Series championship point standings as a Rette Jones Racing driver, but it’s still very early in the season,” said team co-owner, Mark Rette. “However, Frankie is extremely focused and he knows that if he just focuses on his skills behind the wheel, the points will follow.”

One thing Muniz wants for him is Ford’s support. The racing powerhouse recently stationed him at its world headquarters for several events, and his car this weekend carried the “Built Ford Proud” banner on it.

“Obviously that’s an important part of making the jumps,” Muniz said, “the fact that I’m with an amazing manufacturer.”

That will only take Muniz so far, though. He also understands that showing enough ability to climb the ranks is paramount, and he doesn’t have much time to do it. Muniz started stock car racing at the same age that many drivers start thinking about what’s next.

That’s an added pressure that most of his peers don’t have.

“There’s good and bad, obviously, at my age,” Muniz said. “I’ve been through a lot in my life — a lot of good, a lot of bad. I’ve experienced a few things, even racing before. I felt like I was pushing hard in the race, but I always felt like I could push harder, try harder. I have this opportunity now here I get a second chance to do it right. “

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