Kimmel; ARCA's Dirt-Track Master at Springfield SPRINGFIELD IL (8-10-09) - Back when Frank Kimmel was averaging seven to eight wins per season, the chorus of boos coming from the grandstand arguably equaled the chorus of...
Kimmel; ARCA's Dirt-Track Master at Springfield
SPRINGFIELD IL (8-10-09) - Back when Frank Kimmel was averaging seven to eight wins per season, the chorus of boos coming from the grandstand arguably equaled the chorus of hurrahs.
A certain percentage of the paying customer seemed to be tired of Kimmel winning too much, which is common in racing. But now that the victories aren't as abundant as they once were, the crowd seems to be shifting more in his favor. Kind of like rooting for the ole warrior to get back on his horse, or, in this application, back to victory lane.
As he inches closer to Iggy Katona's all-time win mark of 79 series wins, Kimmel's next opportunity to get back to the coveted winner's circle comes Sunday, August 23rd when the ARCA RE/MAX Series steers for the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile-dirt in Springfield for the 47th running of the annual Allen Crowe 100.
"Racing on the dirt is what really defines the ARCA RE/MAX Series," said Kimmel. "It makes us different than any other series in the world - to race in all the different types of tracks we go to." Kimmel is of course referring to the diversity of the ARCA schedule - the fact that the series competes on short-tracks, superspeedways, road courses and dirt-tracks.
The Springfield mile-dirt is one of two dirt tracks on ARCA's annual schedule - the other being the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. But Springfield is not 'just another track' for Kimmel; it's where the Clarksville Indiana stock car legend reigns superior.
In his last 11 starts on the historic central Illinois mile-dirt horse track, his average finish is an astonishing 1.36. To dissect it a different way, he's seven for 11 in the win column. In the other four starts, he finished second.
"That's really amazing," said Kimmel. "I mean there are so many things that can go wrong on the dirt. You have to worry about overheating and any number of things that play into these events on the mile-dirts. That said, I think our record at Springfield is every bit as amazing to me as it would be anyone else."
There's also a few other elements that could stand in his way - mainly the plethora of talented rookies making headlines on the tour right now, including point leader Parker Kligerman, who has never raced on dirt.
"The fact that Parker hasn't raced on dirt may play into the outcome a little, but they've been fast everywhere; I expect him to be fast. He's driving for Mark Gibson, who's been around this thing as long as I have, probably longer. He (Gibson) understands the dirt set-ups.
"I also expect (Justin) Lofton to be a lot faster this year. He raced in both dirt races last year, so he'll know what to expect. However it turns out, it's going to be a great race; you can count on that."
Kligerman leads Lofton in the championship chase by 20 points headed to Springfield, with Kimmel trailing in third. While Kligerman has never raced anything on dirt, Lofton made two ARCA RE/MAX Series starts on dirt last year at Springfield and DuQuoin. However, Lofton, who comes to Springfield on the strength of back-to-back wins at Berlin and Pocono, finished 24th three laps down at Springfield last year and 12th at DuQuoin.
"There has to be something in experience running on the mile dirts," added Kimmel. "Understanding how those races unfold, how to pass in traffic, that sort of thing. I suppose if there's one track we have an advantage, it would probably be Springfield."
Kimmel's coming back in the car he calls "The Don", the same car he won with at Springfield and DuQuoin last year.
"It's as fast of a car we've ever had there (Springfield), and we've had some really fast ones."
Kimmel is also keenly tuned-in to the historical significance of winning at Springfield, in its 75th season of staging championship auto racing. The first-ever championship stock car race at Springfield was held in 1950, won by Jay Frank in an Oldsmobile Rocket. However, the first-ever Allen Crowe 100, named after Crowe, a Springfield resident who died in a sprint car crash in 1963, was staged during the annual Illinois State Fair later in the summer of '63. Curtis Turner won the inaugural Allen Crowe 100.
Since then, the list of Allen Crowe 100 winners reads from a who's who list of champions and racing legends from all walks of motorsports. Allen Crowe 100 winners include Ken Schrader, AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Ramo Stott, Don White, Roger McCluskey, Bob Keselowski, Jack Bowsher, Bobby Isaac, Bob Keselowski, Tim Steele and Dean Roper to name a few.
"Some of these kids just don't understand what it means to win there. I think that's something that's missing in these kids coming up today - the understanding of the significance in even racing on these mile dirt fairgrounds tracks. "I consider my wins at Springfield and DuQuoin some of the biggest of my career."
Both Kimmel and Dean Roper have won at Springfield seven times; however, Kimmel is the all-time Allen Crowe 100 winner with seven triumphs to Roper's five Crowe 100 wins.
"I had so much respect for Dean and Tony (his son). I mean, they were a racing family; you don't see a lot of that anymore. Dean always helped me so much, always talked to me about how to get around this place."
Kimmel is the all-time ARCA RE/MAX Series dirt winner in the modern era with 13 wins over between Springfield, DuQuoin and the West Virginia Motor Speedway. Overall, he's second on the all-time win list with 74 series victories. In addition to his dirt wins, he's won in some high-profile places, like Talladega, Atlanta, Lowe's, Michigan, Pocono, Kansas and Chicagoland to name a few.
"I rank my wins at Springfield and DuQuoin right up there with any other win I have in this series - absolutely, they're (Springfield and DuQuoin) some of my biggest wins period. To beat Tony (Stewart/DuQuoin) two years in a row was definitely one of the highlights of my career. Anytime you beat him anywhere is cool, but especially on the dirt. I've raced against some really, really good racers on the dirt. My success there has been big for me."
There's another milestone looming for Kimmel coming to Springfield. At this moment in time, he is just six laps shy of leading 10,000 laps in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition.
"I really haven't put a lot of pressure on myself to do that (reach 10,000 laps led). But it's something we should be able to get done. When I realized we were just six laps away after Berlin, I thought to myself, if I could have just stayed out front for six more laps, we'd already be there. At the time, I had forgotten all about it, but I'm thinking more about it now. It's a phenomenal milestone, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to get there. And to do it on the dirt, would only be fitting."
Practice for the Sunday, August 23rd Allen Crowe 100 is scheduled from 9:00-10:00 AM local time with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 11:00. The race is scheduled to get underway just after 1:00 PM.