by Rich Romer There were only two scenarios that could have kept ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Frank Kimmel from victory lane Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- a rookie and a wreck. Kimmel, in Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford,...
by Rich Romer
There were only two scenarios that could have kept ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Frank Kimmel from victory lane Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- a rookie and a wreck. Kimmel, in Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford, managed to avoid both on his way to winning the EasyCare 100, his fourth consecutive RE/MAX Series victory in seven events. The rookie was Bowling Green, Kentucky sensation Stuart Kirby, who finished second in Bob Schacht's Athens Mobil Speed Park Ford, and the only driver to get within striking distance of Kimmel. The wrecks, any of four to choose from in the 100-mile race, happened behind Kimmel who kept his car in the lead for most of the race, and as a result, out of harms way. With an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 flooding into LMS, the EasyCare 100 served as a show-opener for NASCAR's all-star event The Winston Open and The Winston. In addition, the race was carried live on the FX cable network. Tim Steele, one of the few front-runners who pitted during the race, charged from the tail-end to finish third in the HS Die-Softech Ford while Stanton Barrett, who had to start at the tail-end as a result of an engine change, finished fourth in Mark Thompson's Riverside Environmental Disposal Ford. David Keith, in the CLR Ford, finished fifth.
Old Milwaukee polesitter Steele led at the onset until the first caution of the race came out on the second lap for Kerry Earnhardt who, with some help, broke loose in turn three collecting Jerry Glanville as he spun. Josh Richeson dove down onto the apron attempting to pass under Earnhardt and came back up the track and into him forcing him into Glanville. Earnhardt spon up the track with the left rear quarter of his car impacting the left front corner of Andy Belmont's AOL Ford Taurus. Belmont continued in the race but a very fast car had become a real handful. Earnhardt would return to the race several laps down to finish 20th while Glanville was done for the day. The second and longest caution would soon appear for a multi-car accident in turn four triggered when Philip Kranefuss and Robby Benton got together causing as many as ten cars to wreck including Justin Labonte, Billy Venturini, Todd Bowsher and rookie Richard Mitchell to name a few.
The long caution for cleanup gave Andy Belmont a chance to make two pit stops for the pit crew to straighten out the damage and tape up a large hole in the front valance. When the green flag waved again, Kimmel out-dueled Kirby for second and soon overhauled Steele for the lead. Steele, saddled with a way-too-tight car, eventually lost the second spot to Kirby. Then the third yellow flag appeared when Ed Berrier got spun and hit the wall in turn four allowing Steele the opportunity to make badly-needed adjustments on pit road under caution. On the restart, Kimmel was now firmly in control and put 20 lengths between himself and Kirby while Steele, in no time, charged back into the top-five. Steele soon raced his way into third but not before Kimmel and Kirby had a built a sizeable lead. Then the final caution came when rookie Josh Richeson, in his first start, lost control between turns three and four and hit the wall taking ARCA veteran Mark Gibson with him on his way up the track. On the final restart, and with the field tightly bunched, Kirby got a run on Kimmel and pulled even with the eventual winner in turns one and two. However, Kimmel had more momentum on the high-side and charged back into the lead as they entered turn three. From there it was all Kimmel who then stretched his advantage to more than two seconds at the final stripe while earning his 27th career RE/MAX Series triumph.
Although there were plenty of wrecked racecars in the end, there were no injuries reported. In all, Kimmel led 45 of the 67 laps and won the Loctite Halfway Leader award bringing his earnings for the night to $23,550.
Andy Belmont brought the AOL Ford home in 9th Place. "I could have made a run on Mike Swain and come in 8th but the front end got to chattering so hard that I was concerned about blowing out the right front tire. We had a great race car! We were fifth fastest in Happy Hour on used tires. Frank Kimmell came up to me to say that I clearly had a better car than he did and that if I came up to pass him, he would get out of the way. The wreck wasn't Kerry Earnhardt's fault but it was Richeson's for trying to use the apron of the track to pass.
The ARCA schedule takes Memorial Day Weekend off before resuming with a race on the 1.5 mile paved oval in Kansas City. Asked if the team was taking a break, Andy laughed and said, "We have a brand new car for Talladega which we are working on, and we are hanging a new body on our short track car. No, there just isn't time for a break, just a weekend off to get caught up on our other work."
Andy comes home from Lowes Motor Speedway fourth in the ARCA RE/MAX series points behind defending champion Frank Kimmell, Tim Steele, and Jason Jarrett.