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"Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150"
Kimmel chases eighth ARCA title
Southern Indiana driver's success results in IROC bid
By Don Ward
(May 2006) They say change is good. But how much better can it get for a seven-time series champion who enters each new racing season as the driver to beat?
Frank Kimmels success
in ARCA led to his
invitation to compete
in the IROC Series.
ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel says winning is great, but staying at the top is an ongoing challenge. And he isnt taking any chances as he and his brother and crew chief, Bill Kimmel Jr., gear up for the 2006 season. Kimmel has a new primary sponsor in the National Pork Board, which replaced Advanced Auto Parts after 10 years of sponsorship, and he has changed the colors of his car and uniform to blue. No longer will ARCA fans be watching for the red No. 46 Ford Taurus. This season, theyll be on the lookout for the blue No. 46 Pork The Other White Meat car.
But thats not all. The Kimmels have added a new racing partner to their team and for the first time will field two drivers with an expanded team of 10 members. Ryan Foster, 18, of Arkansas has joined the team as a driver. He is getting his first ARCA racing experience this year after moving up from late models.
The team itself has many new faces, and they have hired a Charlotte, N.C., company called Five On, Five Off to man both drivers pits on race days. The team shows up, works the pits, then returns home to North Carolina until the next race. They will send 10 pit crew members to each race this season to man the pits for Kimmel and Foster, assigning five pit crew members per car.
Frank Kimmel says the decision will hopefully give him an edge on reaching the winners circle. Any time you can find a way to move up a couple of spots in the pits, thats cars you dont have to pass on the race track. So I think this will help give us an edge, Kimmel said in late April by telephone from his teams New Albany, Ind., shop.
Kimmel has already raced three times this season Daytona, Nashville, Tenn., and Salem, Ind. before arriving at Sparta, Ky, to compete in the Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150. He considers Salem his short track home course and the Kentucky Speedway as his superspeedway home track.
Kentucky Speedway is home for us, and we always have a lot of family there to cheer us on, Kimmel said. So its great that we have done so well there.
Kimmel has won four ARCA races at Sparta and returns each season as the perennial driver to beat.
Despite all the changes with his team this year, Kimmel enters Sparta still searching for his first victory of the season. He placed 10th at Daytona in February, third in Nashville on April 15, and 25th at Salem on April 23.
ARCA RE/MAX Series
at the Kentucky Speedway
Length: 1.5-mile paved tri-oval
First ARCA RE/MAX Series race: 2000
Total ARCA RE/MAX Series races run: 11
Qualifying record: 30.811 seconds, 175.262 mph, David Keith, 2000
Race record: 121.348 mph, Chad Blount, 2002
May 15, 2005: 1. Frank Kimmel, Borden, Ind..; 2. Chad Blount, Walkerton, Ind.; 3. Joey Miller, Farmington, Minn. Pole: Chad Blount, 31.235 (172.883 mph).
July 8, 2005: 1. Chad Blount, Walkerton, Ind.; 2. Erin Crocker, Wilbraham, Mass.; 3. Joey Miller, Farmington, Minn.
Pole: Erin Crocker, 31.084 (173.723 mph)
Past Winners at Kentucky:
July 8, 2005: Chad Blount, Walkerton, Ind.
May 15 2005: Frank Kimmel, Borden, Ind.
July 10, 2004: Ryan Hemphill, Apollo, Pa.
May 8, 2004: Ryan Hemphill, Apollo, Pa.
May 10, 2003: Kyle Busch, Las Vegas
July 12, 2002: Chad Blount, Walkerton, Ind.
May 11, 2002: Frank Kimmel, Borden, Ind.
July 13, 2001: Frank Kimmel, Borden, Ind.
May 12, 2001: Frank Kimmel, Borden, Ind.
Aug. 26, 2000: Ryan Newman, South Bend, Ind.
July 2, 2000: Tim Steele, Coopersville, Mich.
Kimmel doesnt rest in the offseason. He spends the entire year in the shop keeping his fleet of 10 race cars running at top speeds and tinkering with the constant flow of new technology coming out each year. And race day arrives, there always seems to be a new well-financed and well-equipped young gun waiting in the wings and trying ready to steal the winners trophy away from the 44-year-old, gray-haired veteran. These young guns, such as Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch in the past, and now Steve Wallace, son of recently retired NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace, come into the ARCA Series to get quick experience but are on the fast track up to NASCAR Trucks or the NASCAR Busch Series or even straight to the preeminent NASCAR Nextel Cup league. Kimmel says such competition helps keep him sharp.
We learn a lot from those guys and were always snooping around their garage trying to see what theyre doing to make their cars go faster, said Kimmel, who resides in Borden, Ind., and is the son of retired race driver Bill Kimmel Sr., a three-time ARCA Series champion.
We dont have the time to do a lot of wind tunnel testing, and these guys come in here with new aerodynamic packages and other new stuff. So we talk to them and try to see what theyre doing and then try to learn from that.
He said racing against such competition definitely makes you get better. If you race against the same competition every week, you could easily rest on your laurels and get complacent. We try hard not to do that.
Kimmels team, which includes a staff of 10, used to build its own cars but last year bought two used Nextel Cup cars from Roush Racing in North Carolina. One car had been driven by Matt Kenseth and the other by Mark Martin. The investment paid off. Kimmel won four ARCA races last year with those cars two races each.
We found that we couldnt build cars faster than those used Nextel Cup cars, so we have been really happy with them, Kimmel said.
He said todays race cars are set up much differently than in past years. One difference is soft springs in front and stiff springs in the back. Years ago, you wouldnt have dreamed of racing a car set up like that, Kimmel said. Sometimes you feel like it would go faster if you turned it around and raced backwards.
Bill Kimmel, 48, added, Frank has been very comfortable in the new cars. Of course, when you win with a car, the driver likes that car. But these Roush cars are well built. They have definitely improved our competitive edge.
The Kimmels plan to bring the same Roush Racing-built car to Kentucky in May that they won in last year in May. Kimmel finished fourth to winner Chad Blount in July last year during ARCAs second appearance in Sparta. In September, Kimmels record four victories at the Kentucky Speedway were eclipsed by Cincinnatis Jeff Fultz, who earned his fifth trip to Victory Lane in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series race.
But Kimmel no longer has to worry about getting his name in the record books. He already has joined Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers in auto racing history to win seven championships on a national stock car tour that competes on both short tracks and superspeedways. Six of those titles came consecutively, a record in itself.
Frank Kimmel first starting racing cars at age 16. He graduated to ARCA in 1990, driving for Seymour-based car owner Terry Shirley. He later drove for owner Dan Falldorf before joining forces with Larry Clement of Iowa in 1999.
Kimmel, the series winningest driver and career earnings leader, has competed on occasion in several other race leagues, including the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
He said he has no plans to race any NASCAR circuits this year. But he received a special honor by becoming the first ARCA driver to be invited to compete in the prestigious International Race of Champions (IROC) series, sponsored by Crown Royal.
Earlier this year, he competed in two of an eventual four IROC races, placing third at Daytona Beach in February and eighth in Texas in April. His next IROC event is June 29 at Daytonas road course and Oct. 28 in Atlanta.
This was a real honor for me to be invited to drive the IROC series, Kimmel said. It has been a great experience to go up against some of the best drivers in the world.
This years IROC series features NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman; NASCAR Busch Series Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Ted Musgrave, Indy Racing Leagues Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish Jr.; Wayne Taylor, Max Angeletti and Max Papis of Grand American Road Racing; and Steve Kinser of World of Outlaws.
Kimmel has earned 64 victories and many honors in his career, but he cherishes the opportunity to drive against these IROC stars. I really have a lot of respect for these guys, and its a real honor for me to race against them.
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