Thursday, August 2, 2012
Victorious Kimmel Back on Track; Aiming for Record 8th Victory at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Mile Dirt
TOLEDO, Ohio -- The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will soon head back to its dirt track roots, and that's just fine and dandy with Frank Kimmel. Although, the 13-time ARCA dirt winner didn't always see it that way.
"When I first started racing on dirt, I didn't like it all," Kimmel said. "I could never tell what the car needed. I didn't know how it was supposed to feel. Honestly, it took me a while to get the hang of it."
If Kimmel didn't have the hang of it then, he's sure got it now. In fact, Kimmel is, not only the all-time ARCA dirt winner in the modern era, he's also the all-time winner on the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile-dirt in Springfield. And that's not just in ARCA; that's in any championship touring series that ever marched its show through the gates of the historic fairgrounds track.
With the 160th annual Illinois State Fair on the way again, it's time for ARCA to again reach back to its roots. The 50th running of the Allen Crowe 100 at Springfield will soon be here; but not soon enough for Kimmel.
"Running the mile dirts, Springfield and DuQuoin, is one of the neatest things this series does.
"It's the whole atmosphere; there's so much going on with the state fairs and the racing. All the history, all the great drivers who have won there - Foyt, Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Tony Stewart, Jack Bowsher, (Ken) Schrader. Springfield used to be the road to Indy, so there's so much meaningful history to that place.
"It's just so dang neat that ARCA still races on the dirt. I tip my hat to them every day for keeping their traditions and dirt-track roots alive. I consider my wins at Springfield and DuQuoin every bit as big and important as my wins at Charlotte, Michigan, Pocono or any of the other great tracks we race at."
Kimmel also understands fully that not everyone agrees with him in regards to his love for ARCA's dirt track races.
"I know a few people who turn their nose up at it, but I think they are looking at it all wrong. I consider it a privilege to race there. I really don't think some of these young kids coming up realize or understand the importance of being able to race there, and what it means to put your name alongside all those great names that have raced there over the years."
Kimmel could arguably be considered the 'King' of the clay, although he's not too crazy about that particular reference. Nonetheless, 13 of Kimmel's 75 career wins have come on dirt. Considering the ARCA Racing Series only averages two dirt races a season, Kimmel's dirt track stats are impressive to say the least. His seven wins at Springfield alone include four consecutive (also a record) in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. He also won in 2005, 2007 and 2008. He's also the all-time championship lap leader at Springfield with 614 laps-led in 13 races.
He's also won five times on the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile-dirt, and once at West Virginia Motor Speedway.
Kimmel will also head to Springfield with some much-needed momentum, having earned his 75th career ARCA victory recently at Lucas Oil Raceway, his first victory on tour since September of 2008.
"It was really starting to wear on me hard. You start questioning yourself. I started hearing I was getting too old. I was getting really worried. You can't help but wonder. The win at Indy was pretty big. It wasn't given to me. We beat everyone who was still on the track at the end of the day. But, of course, when you don't win for more than three years, you begin to doubt yourself."
One may not think that Kimmel would ever need a boost in confidence, but not so according to ARCA's nine-time national champion.
"It (the win at Lucas Oil Raceway) absolutely builds up my confidence. Victories breed victories. Now we know we can win as a team, and we're ready to do it again."
There is also extra incentive for Kimmel to get back to victory lane. Currently, the second-generation ARCA driver is just four wins shy of tying Iggy Katona's all-time win mark of 79.
And best of all for Kimmel, the last third of the ARCA season has always been Kimmel's specialty, his time to shine. With just seven races left in 2012, Kimmel finds himself just 65 points from the lead.
"I can't wait for this particular stretch; it's always been my strong side of the season."
Kimmel is no doubt referring to the Springfield and DuQuoin mile dirts, but also upcoming races at Berlin, where he's won three times, and his beloved home track Salem Speedway where he's gone to Victory Lane nine times, finishing second there earlier this year.
"You know, we've been really good all year, close in a lot of places. I feel really good where this team is, and where I believe it's going. This championship is still within our reach. There's no reason we can't go out and win more races this year. These kids running this series are so good, and in such good equipment, so I don't think the dirt tracks, or any of the rest are going to cause them any trouble. It's going to be a battle to the end; but I feel really good about our program.
"That win in Indy did wonders. I heard from so many people. Paul Menard called me. John Menard called me; I thought that was so cool. That means a lot."
And it will most assuredly mean a lot when Kimmel struts back through the gates at the Illinois State Fairgrounds where he'll be chomping at the bit for a record eighth victory there.
"The fair races mean a lot to me, and my family. We'd go to the fair every year, especially when the kids were young, rides all the rides, take it all in. I think those fair races are pretty important to ARCA, and they should be; it's what separates the series apart from the rest. I guarantee you they're important to me. It's the way racing was many, many years ago, and it's the way it ought to be today. I'm not sure some of these young kids understand it. They all want to get to Cup, which I understand. And I know they don't race dirt in Cup, but if you look at all the great racers there (in Cup), most of them have a lot of dirt track racing in their backgrounds. The racers at the top over there are all good dirt track racers."
The past winners list of the Allen Crowe 100 includes some of the greatest names in motorsports. Curtis Turner won the inaugural Allen Crowe 100 in 1963. Just some of the winners who would follow also include Don White, Jack Bowsher, Al Unser, Roger McCluskey, Ramo Stott, AJ Foyt, Dean Roper, Bob Keselowski, Tim Steele, Ken Schrader, Springfield native Justin Allgaier, Bill Baird, and most recently, Chad McCumbee in 2011.
Practice for the August 19th Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is scheduled from 9:00-10:00 a.m. with Menards Pole Award Qualifying presented by Ansell following at 11. The 50th annual Allen Crowe 100 starts at 1 p.m. All times are local.
ARCA Celebrating 60th Anniversary Season
2012 is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards' 60th Anniversary Season, featuring 20 races at 18 tracks. The complete 2012 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season. This year, the series visited Alabama's Mobile International Speedway and Minnesota's Elko Speedway for the first time.
Founded by John and Mildred Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in three professional touring series and local weekly events.