Record Banquet attendees witness crowning of ARCA king Kimmel.
COVINGTON KY (12-14-02) -- With the brilliantly lit Cincinnati skyline as a backdrop, a record 600 people turned up Saturday night at the luxurious Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky for the 50th annual ARCA RE/MAX Series national championship awards banquet ceremony and celebration.
And while RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel walked off with the lion's share, a record $720,000 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 as well as its production resources and expertise, Kimmel and car owner Larry Clement were official crowned 2002 champions by television broadcaster and emcee Rick Benjamin while runner-up points finisher Chad Blount was recognized as the ARCA Rookie of the Year.
In celebration of ARCA's 50th anniversary season, the ceremony was packed with additional flavor to include 1968 and '69 ARCA national champion/NBC television analyst Benny Parsons who was present as Guest of Honor as well as renowned Editor and Publisher Emeritus of National Speed Sport News Chris Economaki. In recognition of more than 50 years at the helm of NSSN, Economaki received the ARCA Motorsports Media Award while Parsons received the prestigious Marcum Award named after club founder John Marcum. In addition, the lively audience was treated to big-screen video presentations throughout the night including a historical segment representing 50 years of ARCA racing. Following the historical piece, ARCA co-founder Mildred Marcum, 88, before a standing ovation, was presented a dozen roses on stage by her grandson and current ARCA President Ron Drager.
In all, Kimmel walked off with $180,000 in team earnings bringing his total for the year to near $600,000 while his career total rose to a record $2.25 million.
"It was a dream season for Tri-State Motorsports," said Kimmel on stage. "When you've got the best sponsors, the best owners, the best equipment combined with the best crew, great things are going to happen; and it certainly showed week in and week out. We love the ARCA RE/MAX Series; we love the diversity in the schedule; we're proud to be here; and certainly proud to be the 2002 champions. With Advance Auto Parts and Pork The Other White Meat coming back for next year, we have every intention of defending our title. Look forward to seeing all of you in Daytona."
In addition to Kimmel's championship check and championship rings presented by RE/MAX Int'l VP Randy Morse, team earnings included a healthy sum from Hoosier Racing Tire for most wins (10) in 2002. Among Kimmel's other cash prizes were the $10,000 Loctite Halfway Leader Award, the $6,000 76 Performance Products honors, the $5,000 Old Milwaukee Pole Award for most poles (6), the $5,000 National Pork Board prize for winning from the pole more than any other and $5,000 from Ford. Kimmel also won the prestigious Bill France Triple Crown Award for having the highest average finish at three very diverse venues: the Talladega Superspeedway, the Springfield, Illinois dirt-mile and the Salem Speedway short-track. Also, 1995 RE/MAX Series champion Andy Hillenburg presented Kimmel with the Fast Track High Performance award. Plus, Kimmel received cash, product and awards from Lincoln Welders, Damon RV, Thermo Tec, Rhyne Racing Engines, Harris Torches & Regulators, Racing Electronics, Berryman Products, Motive Gear, Lowe Lug Nuts 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 Builder of the Year Award.
Blount, walked off with more than $90,000 in team earnings including his ARCA Rookie of the Year prize as well as RE/MAX point fund money for finishing second. Blount's car owner Todd Braun pocketed an additional $12,000 from Hoosier Racing Tire for winning the 2002 Superspeedway Challenge championship. Blount joins Jason Jarrett, Kimmel, Jeremy Mayfield, Davey Allison and Benny Parsons as past recipients of the ARCA Rookie of the Year.
In other special awards, Herb Adcox, father of the late Grant Adcox, presented fifth place points finisher Shelby Howard with the ARCA Sportsmanship Award while RE/MAX Series veteran Darrell Basham was presented with the ARCA Spirit Award. The Ford Motor Company won the RE/MAX Series manufacturers championship.
Jarrett, who recently announced he would be returning to the RE/MAX Series fulltime as driver for the Mary Louise Miller-owned team in 2003, was honored for finishing third overall in points with 19-year-old rookie Chase Montgomery recognized for finishing fourth in his father Ray Montgomery's machines. Beyond Howard in fifth, sixth place point honors went to second-generation driver Billy Venturini with veteran Andy Belmont recognized as seventh marking his fifth consecutive top-10 points finish. Winder, Georgia veteran Mark Gibson was honored as the eighth place driver soon after Ron Cox received ninth place honors. Cox also received the QuicShine 99 Best Appearing Car Award and the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger honors. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania second-generation driver Norm Benning, in 10th, was recognized for the sixth consecutive season as a top-10 points finisher joining only Kimmel who can claim as many or more. Kevin Belmont, who finished 11th in points, received the Reed Cams Most Improved Driver Award.
In addition, the banquet was taped for a January 6 (9 pm eastern) airing on SPEED Channel, which will also include a recap of the 2002 season.