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Saturday, April 8, 2006
Updated: April 9, 6:35 PM ET
'Malcom in the Middle' of change to race driver

Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Frankie Muniz is going to take a break from acting to be a professional race car driver.

Muniz, the star of TV's "Malcom in the Middle" for the past seven years, recently wrapped up the final episode of the hit show and turned his attention to driving race cars for at least the next two years.

The 20-year-old Muniz got fired up about racing in 2004 when he was invited to take part in the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race that has been a part of the Grand Prix of Long Beach for 30 years.

He came back last year and won the race and is making his third appearance this year in the event on the streets of downtown Long Beach.

Muniz said Saturday he will race this season for Jensen Motorsport in Formula BMW and hopes to move up to the Atlantic Series, the steppingstone to Champ Car, in 2007.

"I'm going to make it my full-time deal right now because you kind of have to," Muniz said. "You can't really juggle both [acting and racing] because, if you do, you just don't get enough time in the car. And I really love racing and this is what I want to do right now and for the next two years, and potentially more."

Muniz said he began acting at 8 years old and hasn't stopped since.

"I've had Malcom since I was 12," he noted. "In the beginning, everyone was asking how I was going to make that transition from child actor to adult actor, respected actor, movie actor, whatever that might be. I thought, 'Well, I'll just continue what I'm doing and, when I turn 18, I'll be an adult. So I'll be an adult actor, right?'

"But the things we were looking at me doing were all completely different roles, completely different genres of film, to just break me out of that [child actor] thing. When it came down to it, about six months ago when I really made my decision, all I really wanted to do was go racing."

Muniz, who is also engaged to be married, said he doubts he is through with acting.

"I want to want to act and, right now, I want to race," he said. "I'll try it out, have some fun and, truthfully, I think it will be easier for me to leave for a while and come back [to acting] when I'm 23, 24 and be an adult and start fresh."

Muniz has done so well in the last two years that he was moved up to the pro group in Saturday's race, meaning he had to start with the real racers, 25 seconds behind the celebrities.

X Games medalist Bucky Lasek started from the pole and won the nine-lap race, beating former NFL star John Elway and longtime tennis star Martina Navratilova, with NASCAR's Todd Bodine, the top professional, fourth. Muniz wound up 11th in the 21-car field.