MOVE TO FORD WAS KEY TO CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR FRANK KIMMEL * Frank Kimmel, driver of the No. 46 Ford Fusion in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, is an eight-time champion in the sport. Kimmel credits Ford vehicles as the last piece of the puzzle he needed to...
MOVE TO FORD WAS KEY TO CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR FRANK KIMMEL
* Frank Kimmel, driver of the No. 46 Ford Fusion in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, is an eight-time champion in the sport. Kimmel credits Ford vehicles as the last piece of the puzzle he needed to get to a championship level.
DEARBORN, Mich., May 3 -- Frank Kimmel is one of the most, if not the most, successful ARCA RE/MAX drivers in the series' history. He's set a series record by capturing eight championships -- all of them behind the wheel of a Ford.
The Clarksville, Indiana native's first championship came in 1998, the first year he switched over and began racing a Ford. "It made us competitive on intermediate tracks," said Kimmel. "We had struggled on the mile-and-a-half tracks. We just couldn't compete with Ford, so we went and got one and that turned us around. We won races immediately after that."
He named that first Ford he raced after his mother Mabel. Just as basketball players keep pieces of the net after milestone victories, Kimmel in the same way kept that first Ford. "It's at home in the barn," he said. "We'll never get rid of it. It's a special race car and did really well for us."
So, was the switch to a Ford car the last piece of the puzzle needed to win a championship? "Absolutely," said Kimmel. "That was a big deal."
While winning multiple championships isn't all that uncommon, winning more than five in any form of racing certainly is. Kimmel's eight in ARCA have been compared to Richard Petty's and Dale Earnhardt's seven championships in NASCAR's top series.
"Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Petty and Earnhardt to me is remarkable," said Kimmel. "But, I know what my place is. We've won the most ARCA championships and just because the number is a little bit more than the two greatest NASCAR drivers have done, it's not really a fair comparison."
While never fully competing in the NASCAR ranks, Kimmel does admit it would have been nice to race for an owner like Jack Roush in NASCAR.
"I think that by the time I got noticed as a racer I was already in my late 30s, just too old," said Kimmel. "I can understand it. I think I would have loved to have the opportunity to go and race and really get my feet wet and stay in there. It was tough for me to do the one-off deals. It would have been nice to have been able to do that, but that's just not the card I was dealt. I enjoy doing what I do."
ARCA is Kimmel's home, and he's definitely made the most of it. He still looks forward to every race, and to him, the best thing about being in racing is when the green flag drops. "It's just a time when you can go out and do your thing and relax. I know that people might think it's crazy that you relax when the race starts."
Kimmel's won eight championships, the most money, the most poles and has led the most laps. So what's up next for the driver? "Nine and 10, I think," he says chuckling.
One thing he does look forward to is keeping the racing bug going in his family. While his father Bill Sr. was a three-time winner in the series, Frank's son Frankie is continuing on the family tradition along with nephew Will Kimmel.
With any racing family, comparisons to previous generations are always present. Knowing that, Kimmel is confident that his family's name is in good hands with Frankie and Will making their way through the racing ranks.
"I think they have just kind of learned by example. We try to do the right thing on the track and off the track," said Kimmel. "They know what's expected of them when they go to a race track. It's an unfair pressure on them both, but it's something that's going to happen. It'd be like being Dale Earnhardt Jr. He's handled being Dale Jr. better than I think anybody ever expected. You just can't compare them to their fathers. It's tough"
A great champion in the sport of racing is how Frank Kimmel will always be remembered. When he finally does decide to take his helmet off for the last time, he would like to be remembered as a driver who was, "fair and honest and raced the way it should be raced."
-credit: ford racing