By Konnie McCollum
(May 2009) In a bold move last year, ARCA RE/MAX Series driver Frank Kimmel decided to form his own racing team, Kimmel Racing, with his brother, Bill. Despite a tough start that included worries about sponsorships, Kimmel finished second in 2008 drivers points and owners points.
Distance: 100 laps, 150 miles (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Race: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 9. Gates open at 3 p.m.
Also at the Speedway:
Country music singer Chuck Wicks performs at
6 p.m. Saturday
ARCA RE/MAX Drivers to Watch
Frank Kimmel, 47, Borden, Ind. The nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion is a three-time defending champ of this event.
Patrick Sheltra, 22, Indiantown, Fla. Leads points race after three events, winning his first race at Salem Speedway in April.
Parker Kligerman, 18, Westport, Conn., Third in points standings; second place at Salem.
This season, with two new sponsors and a season of ownership experience behind him, Kimmel says he hopes to add another series championship to his already record nine championships.
Kimmel, 47, will return to Kentucky Speedway May 9 for the ARCA RE/MAX Series Drive Smart, Buckle Up! Kentucky 150, a 150-mile, 100-laps race. He has won the race three times in its nine-year history.
Frank Kimmel is the benchmark for the ARCA series, said Don Radebaugh, who works in public relations and communications for ARCA Racing. Everyone compares what they do to Kimmel. He has set the bar extremely high.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series is more diverse than other racing series because of its variety of tracks and courses, said Radebaugh. Drivers have to be skilled on short tracks, dirt tracks, road courses and superspeedways. To be good in this series you have to be good in all aspects of racing, he said. Kimmel has had an unprecedented career with ARCA.
He said the series has become highly competitive and winning has become harder, but Kimmel can certainly reach the all-time wins record and a 10th championship. I doubt we will ever see another driver surpass what he has done for this series. Not only is he a role model on the track for veteran and rookie drivers, but he is a great example and representative of racing off the track.
Jeff Caudill, a part-time ARCA RE/MAX Series driver, echoed that sentiment. Frank Kimmel garners a lot of respect, he said. We all admire him. He is a local guy who has made it big in racing, but he still remembers his roots.
Caudill, from Seymour, Ind., started racing in the ARCA series in 2000 and has had 35 starts. He has decided to forego racing in the ARCA series this year because of a lack of funding.
Instead, Caudill is racing in Frank Kimmels Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals Series. The new series, which will have five to seven races this season, has run two of those races already. At Bristol Motor Speedway, in Tennessee, Caudill finished seventh. At Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina, his car was involved in an accident so he couldnt finish.
ARCA Racing photo
Kimmels No. 44 Ford Fusion has
two new sponsors this year, Ansell
Gloves and Menards Home Improvement.
Kimmel has been a great asset for racing all the way around, said Caudill.
After three ARCA RE/MAX Series races this season, Kimmel stood fourth in point standings and notched a top-10 performance at Salem Speedway, where he finished seventh. He also has two 11th-place finishes at Daytona International Speedway and at Rockingham Speedway. The ARCA RE/MAX Series will run 21 races in 2009.
During an April telephone interview from his shop in Jeffersonville, Ind., Kimmel said he is excited about his new sponsors, Ansell Gloves and Menards Home Improvement. Menards Home Improvement operates 245 stores in 12 states, while Ansell is the worlds largest manufacturer of protective gloves and clothing.
We were within days of canceling our season opener at Daytona International when the two companies came on board, he said. This definitely makes things look better.
The downturn in the economy has affected automobile racing just like everything else, said Kimmel. Even major teams have it tough right now with trying to secure sponsors. Procuring sponsorships is imperative to getting top notch equipment, including cars and engines.
Because of the new sponsors, Kimmels team will be able to run a test at Kentucky Speedway before the ARCA RE/MAX race there. Last year, a tight budget prevented the team from testing.
We certainly want to be back in the win column this year, said Kimmel. Racing has always been enjoyable at Kentucky, and we usually run well.
His team is also looking forward to the new changes at Kentucky Speedway this season. Bruton Smith of Speedway Motorsports Inc., based near Charlotte, N.C., purchased the track in December for $78 million, including the a $63.3 million debt assumption. The track cost $152 million to build. Smiths company owns seven other race tracks that annually play host to 11 NASCAR Spring Cup events.
With new owners and some remodeling, Kimmel said it will be really interesting to see what happens. Any time the Charlotte people get involved, you can be assured they will present a first-class operation.
Kimmel won the ARCA RE/MAX Series driving championship in 1998, and 2000-2007. He has led 9,958 laps in 184 races, more than any other active driver. He is the all-time superspeedway lap-leader with 2,625 laps-led in 79 races. He is also the all-time superspeedway pole winner, with 19. He has 74 career victories, just shy of the all-time winningest driver in the series history. He is the all-time ARCA RE/MAX Series money winner with more than $4 million in career earnings.
Bill Kimmel, co-owner of Kimmel Racing, is an eight-time Crew Chief of the Year, while their father, Bill Kimmel Sr., is a three-time ARCA RE/MAX series champion.