Springfield report

SPRINGFIELD IL, 8-19-01 - ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Frank Kimmel padded his commanding lead in the championship standings with a victory here Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds dirt mile in Springfield, a race marred by the death of ...

SPRINGFIELD IL, 8-19-01 - ARCA RE/MAX Series point leader Frank Kimmel padded his commanding lead in the championship standings with a victory here Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds dirt mile in Springfield, a race marred by the death of stock car veteran Dean Roper.

Roper, who qualified tenth for the race, slowed on the frontstretch and impacted the inside retaining wall on lap 17 of the PAR-A-DICE 100. There were no visible injuries and Roper was unconscious when safety teams arrived. The Fair Grove, Missouri driver was then transported to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, where he was pronounced dead.

Mokena, Illinois favorite Bob Strait finished second two lengths back with outside polesitter Jason Jarrett, making his career-first start on dirt, trailing at the finish in third. St. Joseph, Missouri driver Doug Keller recorded his career-best finish in fourth, as did Owensboro, Kentucky driver John Hayden, who finished fifth in his career-first start, the last car on the lead lap.

Old Milwaukee polesitter Kimmel, in Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford, dominated the event leading all but eight laps in the 100-lap race earning his seventh victory of the season and 30th career RE/MAX Series win overall. Only Jarrett, who led the first lap, and Hayden, who led for seven circuits, managed to lead throughout the race.

"Just a great car," said Kimmel. "It drove so well through the corners; we just couldn't ask for a better handling car. The track was in great shape today and that helped a lot too. We're just hoping for the best for Dean (Roper). Our hearts and prayers are with him and his family."

There were five cautions that slowed the event for 26 laps as well as a red flag to attend to Roper whose car came to a stop near the pit road exit.

Roper, 62, was the USAC Stock national driving champion 1981-82-83 and recorded 10 career USAC Stock victories. He was the winningest active ARCA RE/MAX driver on dirt with 9 career victories, including 3 at the Springfield mile. He became the 2nd oldest driver to record an ARCA RE/MAX Series victory when he won at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in 1994 at age 55. The majority of Roper's success came at the wheel of stock cars fielded by the Mueller Brothers Racing Team of Random Lake Wisconsin, for whom he was driving Sunday. Roper drove his first race in 1960 and was a 5-time St. Louis-area short track champion from 1967-73 prior to his national championship racing success.

Penndel, Pennsylvania driver Andy Belmont finished sixth ahead of Illinois favorites Eric Smith and Joe Cooksey in seventh and eighth respectively. Largo, Florida driver Donny Morelock finished ninth in James Hylton's Ford with Hesston, Pennsylvania driver Tom Eriksen completing the top-10.

POINTS: 1) Frank Kimmel 4730; 2) Jason Jarrett 3710; 3) Andy Belmont 3670; 4) Ron Cox 3340; 4) Tim Steele 3340; 6) Norm Benning 3120; 7) Chuck Weber 3105; 8) Donny Morelock 3085; 9) Todd Bowsher 3055; 10) Kevin Belmont 1965.

-ARCA

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Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Chuck Weber , Kevin Belmont , Jason Jarrett , Donny Morelock , Tim Steele , Ron Cox , Todd Bowsher , James Hylton , Norm Benning , John Hayden