SPARTA, Ky. (May 2004) Automobile Racing Club of America veteran Frank Kimmel gets around and not just in his No. 46 Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford. The 41-year-old Jeffersonville, Ind., native has made 261 career starts in ARCA and has driven in all of NASCAR's top-three sanctioned series. He returned this year to ARCA to defend a four-year championship winning streak.
A seasoned driver, Kimmel may have had the advantage of experience over his younger rivals. Still, there have been rookies who even the five-time ARCA champ himself has had to admit weren't easily dismissed. Among them last season were Shelby Howard and Kyle Busch.
Photo by Don Ward
Frank Kimmel (second from right)
chats with Brent Sherman and other
ARCA drivers prior to last
year's race in Sparta.
Howard, a Greenwood, Ind., native, last year finished third in ARCA RE/MAX Series point standings and at 17 became the youngest winner in the series' history with an April win at Salem Speedway. Kimmel's fellow Hoosier also won at Kansas Speedway and placed second at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Winchester Speedway.
Busch, the 19-year-old brother of Nextel Cup Series superstar Kurt Busch, proved twice last season to be a thorn in Kimmel's side. In just his second career ARCA Series start on April 11 at Nashville Superspeedway, the rookie outran Kimmel to take the checkered flag. The Las Vegas native foiled Kimmel again for a victory on May 10 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
During the remaining 2003 season, Busch competed in four additional ARCA races. He also made his Busch Series debut on May 24 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, where just 16 days after his 18th birthday made him NASCAR eligible he finished second, one of the best debuts in the Busch Series history.
Fortunately for Kimmel, Howard and Busch won't threaten his shot for another ARCA championship this year.
Backed by Bill Davis Racing, Howard is instead driving the No. 23 Toyota in this season's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
And Busch, who competed in the first ARCA race of the season in Daytona, narrowly defeating Kimmel by just .128 seconds, is concentrating the remainder of the year on NASCAR's Busch Series, according to Chris Haid of Hendrick Motorsports. That's the iconic race team that last February signed a multi-year agreement with Busch. Hendrick, an organization whose impressive roster includes four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24), NASCAR legend Terry Labonte (No. 5), Brian Vickers (No. 25) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48), is fronting the rookie for the entire Busch Series and six Nextel Cup races.
Although he won't be back to defend his ARCA win, Busch will visit Kentucky Speedway for "The Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" Busch Series event on June 19. He will also compete this year in six Nextel Cup races, which have included so far a Las Vegas debut where he finished 41st after completing only 11 laps.
Even without Howard and Busch to worry about, Kimmel will have to be on his toes to keep his ARCA competition at bay. He will face again this year the likes of Jason Jarrett, last season's second runner-up in points with eight top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. Jarrett, 28, will put the pressure on Kimmel driving the No. 67 for ML Motorsports.
And more than just a dot in Kimmel's rearview mirror is rookie Ryan Hemphill, who finished fifth in his ARCA debut on Feb. 7 at Daytona International Speedway. Hemphill, 22, has competed previously in American Speed Association and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition.
Kimmel will make two trips to Kentucky Speedway this season. First, on Saturday, May 8, for "The Channel 5-205" ARCA RE/MAX Series race and again on Friday, July 9, for "The Kentucky 150." Both races will be broadcast by SPEED Channel.
Kentucky Speedway season and single-event tickets can be reserved online at www.kentuckyspeedway.com or by phone at (859) 578-2300 or 1-888-652-RACE. Tickets also are available through Tickets.com outlets including Meijer stores and the speedway ticket offices located at 2216 Dixie Hwy., Ste. 200, Ft. Mitchell, Ky., and in Sparta, Ky., in the Turn 3 Fan Center.