COVINGTON KY (12-13-03) -- Flanked by big-screen video presentations and a record 620 attendees, Frank Kimmel took center stage Saturday night at the luxurious Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky during the 51st annual ARCA RE/MAX Series national championship awards banquet ceremony and celebration.
And while Kimmel, who was honored for his fifth series crown, walked off with the lion's share, a record $750,000 was doled out among the top-20 teams, all of which were recognized on stage during the most elaborate and eloquent banquet production to date.
With series title sponsor RE/MAX International adding its corporate touch and expertise in production, RE/MAX Int'l Vice President Randy Morse, near the onset, dedicated the evening to the memory of six-time series champion Iggy Katona and three-time champ Bob Dotter both of whom passed on in 2003. This was preceded by a Year in Review video, which captured the many highlights that made up the '03 season.
As a grand finale, Kimmel and car owner Larry Clement were officially crowned 2003 champions soon after Chelsea, Michigan driver Bill Eversole was recognized as the ARCA Rookie of the Year. Eversole joined Jason Jarrett, Kimmel, Jeremy Mayfield, Davey Allison and Benny Parsons as past recipients of the award.
In celebration of another banner year, the ceremony was packed with additional flavor throughout to include the 1983 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion and the event's Guest of Honor Bobby Allison who received ARCA's highest honor -- the Marcum Award presented by ARCA President Ron Drager.
"This award is meant to signify an individual who has made a major contribution to the series -- to help it grow and move it to a higher level in motorsports," said Drager whose grandfather John Marcum founded the company in 1953. "At a very critical time, right after our founder John Marcum died in 1981, Bobby brought his son Davey to the series. What a vote of confidence this was at a bleak time in our history." Allison was introduced to the stage as Guest of Honor through a video presentation that depicted his sons' Davey and Clifford as they both rose through the ARCA ranks on their way to NASCAR. "Keep on doing what you're doing; treat the fans right, and they'll continue to love you," said Allison.
In all, Kimmel walked off with $170,000 in team earnings bringing his total for the year to $550,000 while his career total rose to a record $2.7 million. A video production representing Kimmel's hard-fought rise through the ranks set up his entrance to the stage to accept his newest championship.
"These championships mean more and more to me every year," said Kimmel. "When I look back at when I first raced here back in the early nineties, and to see where the series is now, it boggles my mind. The amount of young talent coming in is incredible, and with such good equipment. They're getting downright tough to beat, but we didn't lay over for 'em this year, and we don't intend to lay down next year either. We're coming back full throttle and gunna win ourselves another championship. I'm just really proud to be the ARCA RE/MAX Series champion again. Big thanks to our sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Pork, team owners Larry Clement and ET Sharp, and my crew chief and brother Bill; they're all so critical to our success."
Kimmel's banquet earnings, which included the most substantial portion from series title sponsor RE/MAX, also included $23,500 from Hoosier Racing Tires for winning the Superspeedway Challenge championship combined with the most wins (7) in 2003. Among Kimmel's other cash prizes were the $6,000 76 Performance Products honors, the $5,000 Old Milwaukee Pole Award for most poles (6), the $5,000 National Pork Board Pole-Win Bonus and $5,000 from Ford. In addition, 1995 series champion Andy Hillenburg presented Kimmel with the Fast Track High Performance award. Kimmel also received cash and product from a variety of other award presenters including Lincoln Welders, Damon Motorcoach, Thermo Tec, Rhyne Racing Engines, Harris Torches & Regulators, Racing Electronics, Midwest Motive Gear and CV Products.
While Kimmel and car owner Clement took top honors in the driver/owner category, Kimmel's crew chief and brother Bill Kimmel was awarded the Holley Performance Crew Chief of the Year Award worth $5,000 as well as an additional $2,000 for the Clevite/Victor Reinz Engine Mechanic of the Year Award.
Jason Jarrett, along with car owner Mary Louise Miller, were honored for their runner-up points finish during which Jarrett also received the prestigious $3,000 Bill France Triple Crown honors for having the highest average finish at three very diverse venues: the Talladega Superspeedway, the Springfield, Illinois mile-dirt and the Salem Speedway short-track. Jarrett was also presented with the HG Adcox Sportsman of the Year Award from Herb Adcox, father of the late Grant Adcox.
During the Special Awards segment, Phil Huber, producer of ARCA Racing This Week, received the ARCA Motorsports Media Award for his many contributions to the series over the course of four years in which the aforementioned all-ARCA magazine/highlights show aired weekly on The Outdoor Channel. Mike Buckley picked up ARCA's Spirit Award while John Szymanski of the Ford Motor Company accepted the Manufacturer championship. 76 Racing Gas was also honored for their longtime commitment to the series first established in 1964 at Daytona Int'l Speedway. Car owner Jack Bowsher won the QuicShine 99 Best Appearing Car Award for their GFS Marketplace paint scheme. Mark Gibson picked up the Hoosier Racing Tires Hard Charger honors as well as the Gladiator GarageWorks Gladiator of the Year Award. Brent Sherman won the Reed Cams Most Improved Driver Award.
In recognizing ARCA's commitment to higher education, Bob Loga Memorial Scholarship recipients included Jerry Losee and Brandon Knupp. Other scholarship recipients, compliments of the University of Northwestern Ohio, included Aaron Askins, Jeff Smith and Vanessa Van Dyke.
Shelby Howard, gearing up for a full season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next year, was honored for his third place podium points finish soon after Sherman, in his first full season on tour, was recognized for finishing fourth. Fifth place driver honors went to Billy Venturini with sixth place honors going to Gibson. ARCA's top Rookie Eversole was recognized as the seventh highest points finisher ahead of Christi Passmore in eighth. In doing so, Passmore became only the second female driver in series history to finish in the top-ten points. Car owner Wayne Hixson accepted the ninth place honors on behalf of his driver Ron Cox who was stuck in a winter storm in Lexington, Kentucky while en route from Tennessee. Todd Bowsher completed the top-ten drivers who were honored on stage.
In addition, the banquet was taped for a December 29 (9 pm eastern) airing on SPEED Channel, which will also include a recap of the 2003 season. The show is scheduled to re-air on December 30 at 3 and 9 am and again on January 4 at noon.