Frank Kimmel's Countdown to 400: The Family Perspective (TOLEDO, Ohio) - To his fans, he's the driver of the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford Fusion; a winner, a champion, and a hero. To his competitors he's a role model, a mentor, a leader, and a ...
Frank Kimmel's Countdown to 400: The Family Perspective
(TOLEDO, Ohio) - To his fans, he's the driver of the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford Fusion; a winner, a champion, and a hero. To his competitors he's a role model, a mentor, a leader, and a fierce competitor. But to his family, he's a loving husband, hard-working father, and a devoted family man.
To understand Frank Kimmel, it is vital to realize how important his family is to him. You do not go a day without hearing a story involving his family - a funny moment, a favorite memory, or a proud father boasting about his children. You can see how much his family loves him. In the way his daughter Holly lights up when she talks about him; son, Frankie, looks to him for his advice and praise after a race; and the way he and his wife, Donna, exchange a loving glance or share a laugh together.
With just days remaining before the nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion's 400th career start - Saturday, July 10 at Iowa Speedway - Kimmel Racing representative Tracy Olszewski met with Frank Kimmel's family and found out what they had to say about the man known to many as a champion, but to them as a family man.
From the words of the people that know him the best, "Who is Frank Kimmel?"
Holly Kimmel, daughter
"In the ARCA Racing Series, my dad has accumulated a record nine championships, 74 wins and 41 poles. One thing that people do not know, which is the most important to him, is being the greatest dad. I never raced cars, so most people would think that he and I would not be close, but boy, are they wrong. One thing that can always be said about my dad is that he gives great advice. Most people only know about his racing advice, but when I need life advice, my dad is the first person I call. And most of the time, he is completely right (which I know he will love having that sentence in writing).
"My dad always pushed me to do things that I love. Throughout high school I played volleyball, and I couldn't tell you the times where my dad would stay to watch a game and then drive through the night to a racetrack or hurry back so that he would not miss a tournament on Sunday. My freshman year of college, I played on the volleyball team and he surprised me one night at a home game. He was in Charlotte to pick up a car, but drove down early to see a game. It meant so much to me because he went through all that to see me play a game.
"Growing up and watching him race for my whole life has been a truly rewarding experience. Not many people can say that they truly get to do something they love for their work, but racing is my dad's passion. His passion has rubbed off on my mom, my little brother and me. I have him to thank for the love that I have for racing. I think about all titles, awards, and even the 400th start in Iowa, but I know that under all that, he is still my dad who watched 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Beauty and the Beast' with me every night when I was little. Congratulations Dad, you are an amazing race car driver, but you are an even better Dad! I love you!"
Frank Kimmel II, son
"People have always asked me, 'Are you a better driver then your dad?' Every time I respond with the same answer: 'If I ever become half the racecar driver he is, I will be able to race in any series I want for the rest of my life.' But, when I was asked to write this letter for my dad's 400th start, I realized that my response to people goes much farther than just in a racecar. If I ever become half of the person my dad is in all aspects of life, I will be able to do anything I want in life, and I will be happy.
"He has always told me, at least since I could remember, that no matter what you achieve in life, even if you don't win nine championships, 74 race wins and the numerous other achievements he has achieved, the way people see you as a person throughout your life is what matters.
My dad doesn't have much of a life outside of things with four wheels and a motor. One of the funniest things we witnessed was when he participated in Dancing with the Stars for the American Cancer Society. Seven or eight celebrities around the Southern Indiana area were chosen to dance with professional ballroom dancers to support patients with cancer. For two months he practiced early in the morning and late into the night to get ready for the performance, working around the busy months of racing. His dancing instructor didn't have a car and used public transportation as her way to get around. When practice ran late at night dad was uncomfortable with her standing on the corner catching the bus, so he always insisted on driving her home. Many of those nights he didn't get home until midnight or later and would have to get up early to go to work or to go racing.
"It takes a lot for my dad to lose his cool. Back when I was driving mini cups my dad took me to a race in Michigan that had a $25,000 purse. My dad, Lee Riddle, a Kimmel Racing crew member, his dad and I loaded up in the motor home and took off on a 10-hour drive, dragging the trailer behind us. Twenty-four cars showed up for the race, and Lee and I were the fastest two cars by more than a half-second after practice. During the drivers meeting they decided to change the payout from $5000 to win to $1000 per car for showing up. Though it seemed we had the two cars to beat, Dad voted for an even pay out across the board. After running the first 75 laps the race was red-flagged, and we were informed that there was no money to pay the purse. Needless to say, almost everyone was furious and yelling at the promoter. While others were threatening to sue, Dad simply offered advice to him on how to make the situation better. After talking to the promoter for a short time, Dad walked away, loaded up and headed home. He explained on the way home that the one thing I need to learn about life is- people don't want to hear what you are doing in life, they want to see what you are doing with your life.
"If my dad has taught me anything at all, it would be not to over-engineer life. The little things do matter, but the most important is your family and friends because everything else you can't take with you.
"So, if anyone asks after Iowa about being as good as a driver as my dad, maybe I'll reply, 'I have another 200 starts, family and many friends to influence to get to be half the person he is.'"
Donna Kimmel, wife
"Wow, when Tracy first asked me to write a few paragraphs about the 'untold' side of Frank, I was sick to my stomach. I am not a writer. I think of myself as a very private person. Since I don't share my thoughts or feelings with a lot of people, I wasn't really crazy about doing this. Frank's 400th start, however, is an accomplishment worth noting; I guess I can come out of my comfort zone for him.
"A lot has been written about his early struggles from the Terry Shirley days all the way through to his successes with Larry Clement. He worked his tail off during those years - late nights, early mornings, crappy motels, no money, little money, no sleep, sleeping on couches and in cramped motel rooms. He has seen the lows of lows and the highs of highs in racing. From the very beginning, he has always had one person stand behind him and help him: Uncle Paul. When Frank started out in ARCA, we had two young children, Holly and Frankie. We couldn't afford to pay for Frank to go racing (since he didn't make much money back then), so Uncle Paul took care of him. He made sure he got him to the races, had a place to stay and food to eat. Frank would not be where he is in ARCA if it weren't for him. Uncle Paul was his biggest supporter.
"As much as Frank loves racing, it doesn't compare to how he feels about Holly and Frankie. I heard him tell someone the other day that it really doesn't matter how many championships he wins in ARCA because, at the end of the day, the only thing that will decide if he is successful is what kind of people his children grow up to be. I was so shocked when I heard him make that comment, and I later asked him to explain. He said the championships are great. He wants to be remembered for them, of course; but your children define you. Have you raised them to be good people? Do they have good morals? Have you taught them to stand on their own? Can they think for themselves? Will they do what is right when faced with adversity?
"Frank has had very few responsibilities around the house over the years because he was gone so much. But when Holly was born, he decided to make my life a little easier by doing morning duty. That meant getting her up, feeding her, and taking her to the sitter or school. Then when Frankie came along, he had two children to take care of in the morning. The only time I had to be on morning duty was when he was out of town. This practice continued until they graduated from high school. He felt like this was his way of letting them know he cared about their well-being. I honestly think he misses not fixing breakfast for his little girl and boy anymore. They have finally left the nest, and he is waiting to see how successful he has been."
The ARCA Racing Series Presented by RE/MAX and Menards features 20 events at 17 tracks on its 2010 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 racetracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as left- and right-turn street and road courses.
Founded by John Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in two professional touring series and local weekly events.