1990-1999: ARCA Driver Development
TOLEDO, Ohio (November 18, 2009)-Building off a superspeedway racing trend that started in the 1980s, ARCA grew in its roll as a developmental series for up-and-coming NASCAR drivers and teams in the 1990s as speedway races became even more prominent on the national tour's schedule. At the same time, second-generation ARCA racers such as Bobby Bowsher and Frank Kimmel became regular competitors in the series along with Michigan's Tim Steele, who dominated the 1990s by setting several records that still stand today. The stars of the 1990s, along with champions from each of ARCA's 56 years, will be honored at the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet in Covington, Kentucky, on Saturday evening, December 5.
From the Series' inaugural race at Dayton Speedway in Ohio on May 10, 1953, to the 2009 Championship race at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina on October 11, 2009, it's the stars of ARCA that have formed the most memorable racing moments in ARCA's history. In the 1990s, those stars included Bob Brevak, Bill Venturini, Bobby Bowsher, Tim Steele, Andy Hillenburg, Bill Baird, and Frank Kimmel, who would go on to become ARCA's all-time franchise player in the next decade.
A group of ARCA's expert insiders will provide their opinion and analysis for each of ARCA's six decades, beginning with the inaugural 1953 season and ending with 2009. ARCA Insiders include history buffs Ron Drager, the current president of ARCA, Bill Kimmel, Jr., crew chief of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Fusion driven by Frank Kimmel, and SPEED commentator Phil Parsons, who will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for this year's Championship Awards Banquet.
ARCA Insiders Reflect on 1990-1999: ARCA Driver Development
Bob Brevak, Bill Venturini, Bobby Bowsher, Tim Steele, Andy Hillenburg, Frank Kimmel and Bill Baird Crowned Champss
Ron Drager: President of ARCA:
Ron Drager "The ARCA Series schedule became much more consistent in the 1990s, as venues like Springfield, DuQuoin, Atlanta, Michigan, Pocono and Kil Kare joined Daytona, Talladega and Toledo to become annual stops for the tour throughout the decade.
Superspeedway racing became even more prevalent, fostering the growth of the influence and flavor of NASCAR Winston Cup team participation in the ARCA Series. New Jersey modified champion Jimmy Horton drove in both series and established an all-time ARCA record with 5 consecutive superspeedway wins in 1990 at Daytona, Atlanta, Talladega and Pocono twice. Charlie Glotzbach and Ron Hornaday drove Richard Childress Chevrolets to victories, Dick Trickle won in Junior Johnson equipment, Greg Trammel and Ron Barfield drove Bill Elliott Fords to victory lane, Robby Gordon won a pole and Mike Wallace a number of races for Junie Donlavey, Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader fielded their own winning rides, Jeff Purvis scored multiple victories for James Finch, Kenny Irwin won for Robert Yates and Adam Petty won at Charlotte in a Petty Enterprises car, matching his father Kyle's feat of winning in his very first career ARCA start.
Michigan driver Tim Steele won championships in 1993-1996-1997 and moved to the top of the all-time leader charts in superspeedway wins, poles and laps led. Steele matched Harold Smith, Jack Bowsher and Bruce Gould's feat of 5 consecutive wins in '97 to become only the 4th driver in ARCA history to accomplish the feat and piled up 11 wins in '96 then added 12 more in '97. Bobby Bowsher drove Fords fielded by his father Jack Bowsher to win driving championships in 1992 and 1994, as he became the only 2nd generation driver in series history to join his dad as driving champion. Wisconsin's Bob Brevak, Indiana native Andy Hillenburg and Kentuckian Bill Baird each won single driving titles in the '90s. Bill Venturini scored his 2nd crown and Frank Kimmel's 1998 championship was a precursor of his impending unprecedented dominance in the 2000s.
Rookies of the Year included Glenn Brewer whose brother Tim Brewer was Junior Johnson's Cup crew chief, Kimmel in '92, Jeremy Mayfield in '93, Blaise Alexander in '96 and Ron Cox in '99.
Counted among Superspeedway Challenge champions were Brevak whose wife Shelly was car owner and Venturini with car owner and wife Cathy, Bob Keselowski and his brother and car owner Ron Keselowski, car owner Harold Steele and son Tim, Kerry Scherer and driver Mark Gibson, Kimmel and car owner Larry Clement and Baird and car owner Ken Schrader.
The decade produced an impressive lineup of Crew Chiefs of the Year with Gary Bowsher, Ron Keselowski, Ron Crooks, Bob Dotter, Tom Sokoloski, Chad Cummings, Jeff Lemons and Keith Strunk all honored.
Dean Roper became the oldest driver to win a short track race at age 55 in 1994 at DuQuoin, Shawna Robinson established the highest finish for a female in a superspeedway race of 2nd at Daytona in '99, Nebraska and Colorado became the 24th and 25th different states to host an ARCA Series race in the '90s and Tim Steele became the first ARCA driver to post over $1 million in career earnings.
In 1994, ARCA founder John Marcum was inducted posthumously into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega along with '68-69 Series champ, '73 Winston Cup champ and '75 Daytona 500 winner Benny Parsons. 1996 saw an auto accident on the grounds of Talladega Superspeedway claim the life of ARCA President Bob Loga. Permatex entered the decade as the series title sponsor and Bondo/Mar-Hyde closed the decade out in that role. As the decade closed in '99, Toledo Speedway came under ownership and management of ARCA after a 20-year absence."
Bill Kimmel, Jr: Crew Chief of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Fusion:
Bill Kimmel "As far as the Kimmel family's racing goes the 1990s was a pretty busy decade. Racing for us had really picked up. Our family business-a parts store in Clarkesville-was doing really well at the time and our kids were born at that point so life was really good for everyone.
Frank won the championship at Louisville in 1990 and finished second in the NASCAR Winston Racing Series as well. Around this same time he started to talk to Jack Wallace about running some ARCA races and Jack put Frank in about four or five races in 1991. Then Frank came back and won rookie of the year in 1992. Frank's racing career was really picking up. I personally was happy just staying home and racing at Louisville every weekend. Everybody was going to Louisville at the time and I wanted to do well there so that's what I set out to do. It worked out well for both of us but Frank had a tough go of it at first because Jack Wallace did not have the funding to get where Frank needed to be, even though just putting him in an ARCA car was a huge step and a great gesture. Terry Shirley had owned Frank's late models and he stepped up into ARCA with Frank. Then our Uncle Paul bought a car and the three of them put forth a big effort in helping Frank advance his ARCA career. ARCA was really growing at this time, with enhanced television, so it was really an exciting time for me and everyone at home to watch Frank progress.
I started to gain success at Louisville Speedway from 1993 on and with the help of some car owners that owned the car that I drove we won championships in the mid-90s and also finished second in NASCAR Winston Racing Series points. We started to run a series that toured the area at tracks like Louisville and Whitesville and won a Late Model race at Salem, which may have seemed minor, but it was a big deal in our family because it was the first time anyone in the Kimmel family had been able to win at Salem Speedway. So at this time Kimmel Racing was doing well both locally and nationally with Frank and I both racing.
During the 1990s Frank's big nemesis in ARCA was Tim Steele and every week Frank would come back from the ARCA races and I would get to hear about this Tim Steele guy. For me, my favorite thing about Tim Steele was his cars. They were immaculate and they were usually red, which was always one of my favorite colors.
I also remember how meticulous Jack Bowsher was and how beautiful his cars were. During the 1960s you couldn't talk to Jack Bowsher at the racetrack because he was so hard to be around. His goal was to win at whatever cost and he could be difficult to be around sometimes but you had to respect him for what he did on the racetrack. I remember in the 1990s when Frank started ARCA racing and I started coming around to more races how good it was to be able to have him in the garage area. Some of the stories he could tell you would make the hair on the back of your hand stand up. He had such good stories. Out of all of the people who have come and gone through ARCA, he might have been the best I have ever seen, both as a driver and car owner. While my hero growing up was Jack Bowsher, Frank's hero was Benny Parsons. When we were little kids mom would score for dad at Salem Speedway and the officials would always give Frank a fake scoring card so that he could pretend he was scoring for Benny.
In 1998 I won my last championship at Louisville and Frank won his first ARCA Championship. Frank's crew chief decided to go work for Jack Bowsher and Frank's ARCA team was moved from Dayton, Ohio to here. I was planning on running some NASCAR all-pro races but then they asked me to be Frank's crew chief and for some reason I said yes. It was just a good fit. I was 41 years old at the time and everyone thought it was weird that I would win a late model championship then quit but I was ready. Bob Teters had just put my son Will in a Mini Car and you could see the excitement on that kid's face. I knew my days were numbered as a driver anyways so I quit racing and started helping Will and Frank and I have been doing it ever since.
1999 was my first year as Frank's crew chief in ARCA. My very first race as an ARCA crew chief was at Daytona in 1999 and we went to the race with a new car that we purchased from the Petty family. It was really fast but the cars then were a lot different than they are today-very bumpy and they had a lot of vibrations when you raced them. I asked Frank if we could shut off the shock rebound adjuster just for one lap to try and make the car faster and he said he could handle it but he lied to me because he woke up at Halifax Medical Center. Knocked him right out. That was the start to me and Frank running ARCA together. We ended up running second to Bill Baird that year. It was a real learning curve for both me and ARCA."
Phil Parsons: SPEED Commentator and Master of Ceremonies for the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet:
Phil Parsons "The 1990s continued the momentum that the 1980s had in terms of ARCA becoming a comparable series to NASCAR as far as superspeedways were concerned. More and more people were noticing the high profile nature of the ARCA Series and the fact that so many races were held in conjunction with the Cup Series. Many drivers that wanted to get indoctrinated into NASCAR tried to use ARCA as a stepping stone.
The thing I especially liked about ARCA racing during the 1990s was that during the middle part of the decade we saw a familiar name make a return to ARCA and dominate. Bobby Bowsher, son of Jack Bowsher, won the 1992 and 1994 ARCA Championships with his brother Gary serving as crew chief. Gary, of course, had success in the series a few years earlier. Personally, it was great to see Jack back in the garage on a regular basis because he was one of my heroes growing up.
Much like the previous decade, we talk about the guys who wanted to come into ARCA and get noticed on their way to NASCAR but at the same time there were other drivers who made long term investments in the Series, such as Mark Gibson, Andy Belmont, Joe Cooksey, Bob Schacht, Bob Brevak and others, who are still involved with ARCA today. Tim Steele made a lasting impression in the 1990s with his superspeedway dominance. Many of the records he set still stand today and others have just recently been broken.
By the end of the decade a second generation racer earned his first championship and it provided a glimpse as to what the next decade would hold. Who would have guessed then that Frank Kimmel would go on to dominate the 2000s."
The Stars of ARCA, 1953-2009, will be honored at the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet in Covington, Kentucky on Saturday night, December 5. The banquet is open to the public and tickets are available by contacting Shalene Williams at the ARCA Office (734) 847-6726.