'Malcom in the Middle' of change to race driver

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

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

"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.