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Frankie Muniz is a race car driver.
Long gone are the days of his appearances in “Malcolm in the Middle” or on the big screen as the protagonist in “Big Fat Liar” or “Agent Cody Banks.”
This week, Muniz puts on the fire suit, helmet and gloves. He takes down the netting of his stock car and switches on the engine.
It’ll be time to go racing.
Muniz will be one of the 40 drivers who start their engines Saturday in the first ARCA Menards race of the season — the Daytona 200. The drivers will go around the 2.5-mile paved oval 80 times to determine who will be riding into Victory Lane. It’s Muniz’s first time racing in an ARCA stock car. He joined Rette Jones Racing in January and will drive the No. 30 Ford Mustang. He participated in a test last year.
“I thought about this moment, like how I would feel, a lot. The fact that I’m actually here — I’m in Daytona — I don’t know. It’s almost hard to believe still,” Muniz told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “Until I’m at the racetrack and climbing into the car, I feel like it’s still like a dream of mine. And then it obviously becomes reality when I get to do it.”
Muniz starts practice Thursday afternoon and was feeling anxious after being one of the quicker cars during testing in January. He said he was feeling confident after the testing and, since then, has discovered just how difficult a place like Daytona International Speedway is to prepare for.
“Daytona is one of those races where a lot of it has to do with having a fast car, being in the right place at the right time and a little bit of luck,” he said. “I’m hoping I got luck on my side on Saturday for sure. It would be amazing to win that race.”
Muniz Will Race In The Daytona 200 In His First Season On The ARCA Menards Series
Muniz enters the ARCA series alongside youngsters looking to make a name for themselves in the series and grizzled veterans who have been in the series for quite some time. Finding a place in the garage area as a 37-year-old newcomer isn’t easy. Muniz said veteran stock car racers like Noah Gragson and Corey LaJoie have mentored him.
Even though Muniz said he may look like an outsider, he still feels like he may have to prove that to everyone else. He said he took some solace knowing he’s not the only driver on the track making his first ARCA start.
“I am very confident, and I hope to surprise people,” Muniz told Fox News Digital. “But I also need to prove it to myself because even in the prep and testing, whatever you’re doing to prepare, nothing matters until (practice), qualifying or the race. It’s a long season, and I try to remind myself that.
“If Daytona doesn’t go like I hope it goes … because a lot of people get knocked out of the race it’s completely out of their control. You get caught up in a wreck, you’re watching. It sucks. And now, I’m hoping that’s not the case, but it might be. But it’s a long season, and we got to stick with our program.”
Muniz said he’s been doing everything to prep for the race, from doing racing simulators to watching the last 22 ARCA races at Daytona. The unknown is what he can’t prepare for.
“Sure, I can say I want to stay on the inside against that yellow line the whole time, but who knows where the pass line is. Maybe I stay on the outside line the whole time. So, it’s really hard to prepare for the race,” he said. “For other races, you kind of have a game plan. I think Daytona is just one of those you just go for it.”
Muniz said he’s confident in his ability and the team’s ability to win the race Saturday.
“We are all in to have the best showing we can on Saturday. I believe I have the ability to win, and I think that we’re gonna have the car to do it.”
Saturday’s Daytona 200 will start at 1:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on FS1 and the FOX Sports app.
This article was contributed by Ryan Gaydos of Fox News Digital.