TOLEDO OH - Marked by triumph and tragedy, the ARCA RE/MAX Series completed its 49th season of competition in 2001 crowning Frank Kimmel as its driving champion for the third time in four seasons while third-generation driver Jason Jarrett earned...
TOLEDO OH - Marked by triumph and tragedy, the ARCA RE/MAX Series completed its 49th season of competition in 2001 crowning Frank Kimmel as its driving champion for the third time in four seasons while third-generation driver Jason Jarrett earned ARCA Rookie of the Year honors. Tragically, veteran RE/MAX Series driver Blaise Alexander was killed in a racing accident at Lowe’s Motor Speedway while veteran Dean Roper suffered a fatal heart attack during the race on the Springfield dirt-mile. Through it all, there were 11 different winners during the 25-race season as well as four first-time winners including Jarrett, Billy Bigley, John Finger and Ed Berrier.
Utilizing a combination of Fords and Chevrolets, Kimmel, in Larry Clement-owned Advance Auto Parts-Pork sponsored cars, posted ten victories en route to the RE/MAX Series driving championship while Kimmel’s car owner Larry Clement won his third car owner title.
“What can you say; it was a dream season for the Tri-State Motorsports team,” said Kimmel. “Having great equipment under you makes all the difference, and we were never without that thanks to our car owner Larry Clement. But even beyond the great equipment, this Advance Auto Parts-Pork crew just flat out-worked everyone and it showed each and every week. My brother and crew chief Bill (Kimmel) gave up a driving career to head this thing up, and he’s done a great job. Special thanks to ET Sharp, the third partner in Tri-State; we couldn’t be nearly as successful without his contributions. And I’ve got 100% support from my family in this deal, which means the world to me; I wouldn’t even attempt to do this without it. I understand how fortunate I am to be in this situation, and I’m honored to carry the ARCA RE/MAX championship banner again.”
Among ARCA’s typical versatile mix of short-tracks, superspeedways, dirt-tracks and a road course, Kimmel was rarely far from the front posting 21 top-five and 22 top-ten finishes. In addition, the popular Jeffersonville, Indiana driver led a whopping 1,474 laps in 20 races and won 11 Old Milwaukee Pole Awards, three of which were new track records at Nashville Superspeedway, Toledo Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. In all, Kimmel’s ten wins came in a variety of combinations at Salem Speedway, Gateway, Kentucky Speedway, Nashville, Lowe’s, the dirt-tracks of Springfield and DuQuoin and Toledo.
Jarrett, who finished second in points, adapted well to the diverse RE/MAX Series with eight top-fives and 15 top-tens which included his career-first superspeedway victory at Kansas Speedway in June. In addition, the son of ’99 Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett established a new one-lap track record at Michigan International Speedway and finished an impressive third in his first dirt-track start at Springfield.
Three-time RE/MAX Series champion Tim Steele ran a limited schedule in ’01; still yet the Coopersville, Michigan driver was second best in the win column with four victories at Winchester Speedway, Berlin Raceway and both events at Pocono Raceway. In addition, the all-time superspeedway winner and pole winner won Old Milwaukee Pole Awards at Gateway, Chicagoland Speedway and at Lowe’s in the Spring and Fall.
Kerry Earnhardt, the eldest son of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, made big marks in the series by winning three races in only five starts at Michigan, Atlanta and Lowe’s. Additional winners in ’01 included Ryan Newman at Daytona Int’l Speedway, Alexander at Michigan and veteran Bobby Gerhart at Talladega Superspeedway while Winston Cup veteran Ken Schrader won his career-eighth RE/MAX Series victory at Nashville. In addition to Alexander’s victory at MIS, the Montoursville, Pennsylvania driver won two pole awards, one at MIS and the other at Watkins Glen Int’l. Alexander was battling for the lead at Lowe’s when the fatal accident occurred. Aforementioned first-time winners, other than Jarrett, include Bigley at Memphis Motor Sports Park, Finger at Watkins Glen Int’l and Berrier at Chicagoland.
Additional highlights include two pole awards by rookie sensation Stuart Kirby at Pocono, one of which was a new track record. In all, Kirby posted an impressive 5 top-five finishes in only eight starts, including a runner-up finish to Kimmel at Lowe’s. Winston Cup veteran Tony Stewart, in a Kimmel team car, set a new one-lap track record on the DuQuoin dirt-mile and finished second to Kimmel in the race missing out at the final stripe by less than a length. Justin Labonte also made news when the son of two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte entered the first-ever Dodge Intrepid in RE/MAX Series competition at Nashville.
Andy Belmont was consistent all season with 13 top-ten finishes, good enough to post his career-best point finish of 3rd in his own AOL-Racecakes sponsored Fords. Veterans’ Ron Cox and Norm Benning put up career-best point finishes of fourth and fifth respectively while second-generation driver Todd Bowsher, driving for his father and three-time RE/MAX Series driving champion Jack Bowsher, finished up strong in sixth. In addition, Bowsher finished second in ARCA Rookie of the Year points just 20 points away from Jarrett. Mesquite, Texas driver Chuck Weber traveled long and hard to finish a career-best seventh in points over Largo, Florida driver Donny Morelock who drove James Hylton-owned Fords to eighth in points. Steele was ninth over Ann Arbor, Michigan driver Mike Buckley who completed the top-ten point finishers in his own Midwest Mall Fronts Chevy.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series is poised to fire-up its 50th season of competition in ’02 with the 39th annual Daytona ARCA 200 on February 10 at Daytona International Speedway.