by Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher

Coming into Friday night, TJ Michael was having a trying year. A best finish of ninth, and sitting ninth in both Attica Raceway Park and AFCS points was not what the Plano, Texas native was aiming for as the season gets into the long summer months. But all it takes is one night. One night of things going right can turn a season around and make all the struggles worth it. Friday night was that night for TJ Michael.

TJ put himself in good position from the get-go, going fastest in his group of hotlaps/qualifying which set him up for a redraw position after his heat race. The redraw went in his favor, because he and Sean Rayhall made up the front row as the field took the green flag for 30 laps and $4,000. 

The initial start was waved off as Michael and Rayhall got a warning. The second attempt was all good, and Michael jumped out to the early lead over Trey Jacobs as the yellow came out one lap later for a spinning Thomas Schinderle. The ensuing restart saw Jacobs close on Michael’s tail, but the Texas Traveler was able to hold on to the top spot as Tyler Street started to bother Rayhall for third. Michael had a .707 second lead over Jacobs on lap four, but on lap five, Jacobs was closing. The yellow came out just as Jacobs was on Michael’s bumper down the backstretch. 

Michael held serve on the restart as Chris Andrews threw his hat into the ring for a spot in the top three, going by both Rayhall and Street on the backstretch, but Andrews wasn’t able to hold his spot and fell back. Meanwhile, by lap eight, Michael had a 1.174 second lead over Jacobs as Street solidified his spot in third over Andrews. Michael had a 1.679 second lead erased on lap 11 as Cole Macedo went off the high side of turns three and four. 

This restart saw no change for the top position, but Street was able to get by Jacobs for second, and then the chase was on. Two drivers who were looking for their first Attica 410 win would have to go against each other while former champions lurked in third and fourth. 

Michael’s lead went from .690 seconds on lap 13 to non-existent at the halfway point. Lap 15 saw Street slide Michael in turns three and four and then power out of turns one and two as the new leader. Street would maintain around a half second lead for the next five laps, until a caution came out on lap 20 for Tyler Gunn. 

“The only downfall of starting up front is you don’t really know where to run at,” Michael said. “I was kind of hanging, not pushing the issue and then Tyler blasted around me and showed me that I needed to pick up the pace a bit.”

“I didn’t feel like I was that good, but I also didn’t feel like I was pushing that hard. I didn’t hear anybody, and then made a mistake in one and two. He [Tyler] got around me after I couldn’t get off the corner very well. After that, I realized I was running on the wrong part of the race track and I was going to win the race, I needed to move around a little bit,” Michael said.

On the penultimate restart, Michael was able to show Street his nose in turns one and two, but Street was able to carry the momentum from the top and pull away from Michael’s challenge down the backstretch. Street then built a 1.230 second lead quickly by lap 22 but had it erased just as quickly as Thomas Schinderle spun and caused a caution. 

Michael knew what he needed to do on this restart. Michael threw a slider in turns one and two, but Street was able to hold his ground and maintain the lead. One lap later on lap 24, Michael tried again in turns one and two and was able to slide up in front of Street, taking away any potential run Street would have had down the backstretch. 

“With five to go, I was sitting there thinking, ‘Man, there haven’t been many races, actually none, all year long that I’ve had a chance to win…’ Michael continued: “The first restart, I tired to use the curb in three and four to keep my momentum up to get a run. I threw a slider and it didn’t clear. The second one [restart], I needed to change something up. Tyler turned down and didn’t get the whole stretch of moisture like I did. I got underneath him and I could either roll the bottom, or slide him and take it away. I did the old ‘slide and block down the back stretch.

That was all she wrote for Michael and Street, as Michael would go on to win comfortably over Street and Jacobs. It was Michael’s first career Attica 410 win, and his first 410 win since March 27, 2021 at Waynesfield. 

“It feels incredible, honestly. I was back home in Texas this week with my dad. We talked about what was next because me and him are competitive. We aren’t going to keep showing up if we aren’t making shows. We didn’t make a single Speedweek show, it was pretty pathetic actually. We have equipment good enough to compete, I just needed to do my job and do a better job at relaying information to Glen and Jacob. This feels great, I hope we can keep it rolling,” Michael concluded. 

It seems as if this win couldn’t have come at a better time for the 8M group. As stated earlier, it only takes one night to turn a season around.