Frankie Muniz is ready to start his engine and pursue his dream of a professional stock-car racing championship and will get to do that officially starting in February at Daytona International Speedway.
Muniz, the former child actor who starred in “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Big Fat Liar” and “Agent Cody Banks,” announced in January he would be racing in the ARCA Menards Series full-time starting this year, beginning with the Daytona race on Feb. 18. He will be competing in the No. 30 Ford Mustang for Rette Jones Racing.
The 37-year-old Muniz will be a newcomer in the ARCA Series but isn’t a novice when it comes to auto racing. He got his start in open-wheel racing in the mid-2000s before he joined the stock-car scene.
He raced in Formula BMW USA and Champ Car Atlantic Series. He said his journey was unlike most racers.
“To be honest, I don’t have a typical story of people who become race car drivers,” Muniz explained to Fox News Digital. “I was just a race fan. I think it’s one of those things that people say, like ‘Oh, I want to be a race car driver’ but how do you actually become a race car driver if your family is never involved in it and all that.
“So, I started when I was 19. I did the pro/celebrity race in Long Beach (California) and I won that. And then a pro team asked me to come just for fun to do a test. I was scared out of my mind showing up that day, like getting in a proper race car. But I immediately had speed, so we knew the natural ability was there. And then once I got to the car I go like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do.’ But it’s one of those things, even then, you still have to, you know, to reach that next level. It’s a lot harder than just getting into the car and going fast. There are so many aspects that have to be put together and I just worked hard at it.”
Muniz said he never thought he would be racing but believes it’s what he was meant to do.
“It’s not something that I thought I would ever do but it happened,” he said. “And now that I’m doing it, even when I got out of the car this past weekend, I called my wife and I said, ‘This is exactly what I was supposed to do.’ I feel the most comfortable in the car, even though I have, on the ovals and stuff, so little experience. It just feels like where I’m supposed to be and that’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Muniz said he initially planned to join the ARCA Menards Series last year but had trouble corralling sponsorships.
“This has been kind of a year and a half in the making. I decided I wanted to go back racing and the plan was actually for me to do ARCA last year,” Muniz told Fox News Digital. “So, I did some late model stuff at the end of 2021 and did a bunch of testing with the intention that I was going to go ARCA Racing. Granted, sponsorship fell through, trying to put all the pieces together with the team and everything like that – it just didn’t happen.”
Muniz said he was happy, in a way, he didn’t race in 2022 because he realized he still had so much to learn about stock car racing.
“I know that there’s going to be tracks I’m going to struggle at this year and there will be ones I’m gonna excel at. I just got to take advantage of those and learn as quickly as possible at the other ones,” he explained.
For Muniz, competing in professional stock-car racing is more than just achieving his own dreams. He has bigger goals than that.
The New Jersey native, who achieved two Golden Globe Award nominations and an Emmy Award nomination, as a child, explained to Fox News Digital that being a father rejuvenated him. He said he wanted to show his son that he, too, could turn his own wild dreams into reality.
“You know, it’s funny because I’m actually a very high-stress person. I like to be busy but I almost make myself so busy that I can’t even accomplish things that I want,” Muniz said. “It’s just my personality. That said, when I had my son I was sitting in the hospital and looking at him and I was trying to think of like the type of father I was going to be or what he was going to grow up thinking of his dad. And me, I’ve accomplished so much in my life, right? I was an actor. Emmy, Golden Globe nominated. Like, I wouldn’t believe it but I was. I raced cars in the past, I was in band, I toured all over the world. I owned a bunch of businesses. So, I’ve done a lot, in the past. But in that moment, I was like, I’m nothing.
“I don’t want to just be home. I wanted him to see me reaching for a goal or working hard toward something and finding success in it or not, right, because there’s obviously a lesson to learn that everything’s not going to happen the way you hope, right? But I wanted him to grow up in that environment of seeing me try to succeed at something.
“And when I look back at all of the things that I’ve done, racing is the one thing that I felt like I had unfinished business. Obviously, I’d love to continue acting and I’m still doing things here or there but it’s not something that’s up to me. It takes producers, the writers, everything has to come together to offer me a role or whatever it may be. And I can work so hard as an actor, really get into the character and give what I think and I believe is my best performance ever and you go, ‘It was weak.’”
Muniz admitted that living in the Caribbean or moving to Costa Rica and just surfing all day sounds “really appealing” but it wasn’t his and his wife’s personality to just sit back and do nothing. He said when he commits to something he gives it “100%.”
Muniz understood he really only has one season to really prove himself as a driver.
“I want to do it for my family. I want to do it for myself,” Muniz said. “I want to do it because the joy I get… I mean, racing has such highs and such lows. But those highs, like there’s nothing I could compare it to.”
He added that during one of his tests he finished as one of the top 10 quickest on the track.
Muniz has had a brief career in racing. He raced in the 2004 and 2005 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in California. He participated in more than a dozen races in the 2006 Formula BMW USA season and in 2007 he participated in the Champ Car Atlantic Series.
In 2022, Muniz did a test at Daytona in the ARCA Menards Series.
Nick Sanchez is the defending ARCA Menards Series champion.