2002 year in review

Kimmel crowned ARCA Re/Max King again. TOLEDO OH, - Marked by triumph and tragedy, the ARCA RE/MAX Series completed its 50th season of competition in 2002 crowning Frank Kimmel as its driving champion for the fourth time in five seasons while...

Kimmel crowned ARCA Re/Max King again.

TOLEDO OH, - Marked by triumph and tragedy, the ARCA RE/MAX Series completed its 50th season of competition in 2002 crowning Frank Kimmel as its driving champion for the fourth time in five seasons while runner-up driver Chad Blount earned ARCA Rookie of the Year honors. Tragically, the season ended on a sad note when RE/MAX Series regular Eric Martin was killed in a practice crash at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October. Through it all, Kimmel dominated winning 10 of 22 events; yet there were nine different winners, six of who were first-time winners.

Kimmel, in Larry Clement's familiar #46 Advance Auto Parts-Pork sponsored Fords, also led the way with six Old Milwaukee Pole Awards en route to the RE/MAX Series championship while Clement won his fourth car owner title.

"What can you say; it was another dream season for the Tri-State Motorsports team," said Kimmel. "Having great equipment under you makes all the difference. But even beyond that, this Advance Auto Parts-Pork crew just flat out-worked everyone and it showed each and every week. My brother and crew chief Bill (Kimmel) gave up a driving career to head this thing up, and he's done a great job. Special thanks to ET Sharp, the third partner in Tri-State; we couldn't be nearly as successful without his help. And I've got 100% support from my family in this deal, which means the world to me; I wouldn't even attempt to do this without it. I understand how fortunate I am to be in this situation, and I'm honored to carry the ARCA RE/MAX championship banner again."

Among ARCA's typical mix of short-tracks, superspeedways and dirt-tracks, Kimmel was rarely far from the front posting 18 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. In addition, the popular Jeffersonville, Indiana driver led a whopping 1,237 laps in 20 races and became the first driver in series history to surpass the $2 million mark in career earnings. In all, Kimmel's 10 wins came in a variety of combinations at Nashville Superspeedway twice, Salem Speedway twice, Kentucky Speedway, Toledo Speedway, both Springfield and DuQuoin mile-dirts, Winchester Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Kimmel's victory at DuQuoin was his fourth consecutive triumph on dirt while his victory at Salem represented his fifth consecutive win at the renowned high-banked paved oval.

Blount, who prior to the 2002 season had just five RE/MAX Series starts, adapted well to the diverse tour with 11 top-fives and 14 top-10s including victories at Michigan Int'l Speedway, Kentucky, Chicagoland Speedway and the season finale at Lowe's. In addition, the 23-year-old Walkerton, Indiana driver won five Old Milwaukee poles at Atlanta, Michigan, Toledo, Berlin and Chicagoland setting new track records along the way at Atlanta and Chicagoland.

First-time winners included Blount and Damon Lusk who held off Blount for the win at Atlanta by a margin of .001 seconds, the closest finish in RE/MAX Series history. Lusk also triumphed at Pocono while Jeff Fultz, after staging a memorable late-race dual with Kimmel, won a thriller at Lowe's. Late model standout Fred Campbell, in only his second RE/MAX Series start, held off Blount by less than a length to win at Berlin Raceway before Casey Atwood, in a Ray Evernham Dodge, prevailed as winner over Jason Jarrett at Pocono. Jacksonville, Florida veteran Keith Segars, in a Morgan-McClure Chevrolet, held off the ever-present Blount at Talladega to secure his career-first RE/MAX Series triumph.

The remaining winners in '02 included veteran driver Bobby Gerhart who won the Daytona ARCA 200 for the second time as well as Winston Cup veteran Ken Schrader who won from the pole at South Boston Speedway, his career ninth RE/MAX Series triumph.

Jason Jarrett, with eight top-fives and 14 top-10s, finished third in driver points ahead of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee youngster Chase Montgomery who finished a respectable fourth in points and finished second to Blount in the Rookie of the Year honors. Montgomery, who posted a career-best finish of third at Nashville, made news at Daytona when, at 18, he became the youngest polesitter in Daytona/ARCA history. Young Shelby Howard, who turned 17 in July of '02, churned out a career-best second place finish at Winchester on the heels of Kimmel en route to his fifth place finish in driver points. Howard was also the focus of a segment featured on the ABC news/magazine show 20/20 on November 29th.

Other '02 pole winners included RE/MAX Int'l driver John Metcalf at Kentucky, veteran Vern Slagh also at Kentucky, Atwood at Pocono, Gerhart at Talladega and Tony Stewart with a new track record on the DuQuoin dirt-mile. Stewart, who finished second to Kimmel in the race in an Andy Petree Chevy, was fresh from the Winston Cup race at Darlington the day prior when he won the pole there for the second consecutive season.

Second-generation driver Billy Venturini, with nine top-10 runs, finished a career-high sixth in points in the Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet with Andy Belmont trailing in seventh. It was Belmont's fifth consecutive top-10 points finish. Longtime RE/MAX Series veteran Mark Gibson finished eighth in points after posting eight top-10s in front of Ron Cox who earned 8 top-10 runs en route to finishing ninth in year-end points. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania veteran Norm Benning finished 10th in points representing the sixth consecutive season he has finished in the top-10 points.

The ARCA RE/MAX Series is poised to enter its 51st season of competition in 2003 with the 40th annual Daytona ARCA 200 on February 8 at Daytona Int'l Speedway.

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Series ARCA
Drivers Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Casey Atwood , Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Chad Blount , Chase Montgomery , Bobby Gerhart , Jason Jarrett , Shelby Howard , Billy Venturini , Damon Lusk , Ron Cox , Norm Benning , Ray Evernham , John Metcalf , Vern Slagh