Frank Kimmel Banking on Experience and Success at Springfield (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) - In the years when Frank Kimmel was averaging seven to eight wins per season in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards, the chorus of cheers from...
Frank Kimmel Banking on Experience and Success at Springfield
(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) - In the years when Frank Kimmel was averaging seven to eight wins per season in the ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards, the chorus of cheers from the grandstand was equaled, arguably, by a resonant stream of boos. A certain percentage of paying customers seemed to be tired of Kimmel's frequent wins, a common theme in any realm of competition. Now that victories aren't as abundant for Kimmel and the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford, the crowd seems to be shifting in his favor - as if rooting for an old warrior to get back on his horse, or in this application, back into Victory Lane.
As the nine-time series champion inches closer to Iggy Katona's all-time mark of 79 series wins, Kimmel's next opportunity to return to the coveted winner's circle comes Sunday, August 22, when the ARCA Racing Series steers for the one-mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield for the 48th running of the Allen Crowe 100.
"Racing on the dirt is what really defines the ARCA Racing Series. It makes us different than any other series in the world - to race in all the different types of tracks we go to," said Kimmel, referring to the diversity of the ARCA schedule and the fact that the series competes on short tracks, superspeedways, road courses, and dirt tracks.
The Springfield mile dirt is one of two dirt tracks on ARCA's annual schedule, with the other being the Du Quoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds. But Springfield is not 'just another track' for Kimmel; it's where the Clarksville, Ind. stock car legend reigns superior.
In his last 13 starts on the historic track, Kimmel's average finish is an astonishing 2.1. To dissect it a different way, Kimmel is seven-for-13 in the win column. In the other six starts, he finished second on four occasions, fourth, and ninth.
"That's really amazing," said Kimmel. "There are so many things that can go wrong on the dirt. You have to worry about overheating and any number of things that play into these events on the mile dirts. With that said, I think our record at Springfield is every bit as amazing to me as it may be anyone else.
"There has to be something in experience running on the mile dirts. Understanding how those races unfold, how to pass in traffic, that sort of thing. I suppose if there's one track we have an advantage, it would probably be Springfield."
Kimmel leads Craig Goess (No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota) by just 10 points, and only 105 points separate the top seven in a tight championship battle. Seven races remain on the series schedule.
Kimmel will return to Springfield in the car he calls "The Don," the same car he drove to victory at Springfield and Du Quoin in 2008, and the same car that carried him to his last victory, at Salem (Ind.) Speedway on September 13, 2008.
"It's as fast a car as we've ever had (at Springfield), and we've had some really fast ones."
Kimmel is also keenly tuned in to the historical significance of winning at Springfield in its 76th season of staging championship auto racing. The first championship stock car race at Springfield was held in 1950 and won by Jay Frank in an Oldsmobile Rocket. However, the first Allen Crowe 100, named after Crowe, a Springfield resident who died in a sprint car crash in 1963, was staged during the annual Illinois State Fair later in the summer of 1963. Curtis Turner won the inaugural Allen Crowe 100. ARCA's sanction of the Allen Crowe 100 began in 1983, and Sunday's race will mark the 28th race for the series at the Fairgrounds.
Since then, the list of Allen Crowe 100 winners reads from a who's who list of champions and racing legends from all walks of motorsports. Allen Crowe 100 winners include A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Ken Schrader, Ramo Stott, Don White, Roger McCluskey, Bob Keselowski, Jack Bowsher, Bobby Isaac, Bob Keselowski, Tim Steele, and Dean Roper, to name a few.
Kimmel and Roper have each won at Springfield seven times; however, Kimmel is the all-time leading Allen Crowe 100 winner, with seven triumphs to Roper's five.
"I had so much respect for Dean and (son) Tony," Kimmel said. "I mean, they were a racing family; you don't see a lot of that anymore. Dean always helped me so much, always talked to me about how to get around this place."
Kimmel is the all-time leading ARCA Racing Series dirt winner in the modern era, with 13 wins between Springfield, Du Quoin, and West Virginia Motor Speedway. Overall, he's second on the all-time win list with 74 series victories. In addition to his dirt wins, he's won in some high-profile places, like Talladega, Atlanta, Charlotte, Michigan, Pocono, Kansas, and Chicagoland. Still, Kimmel insists the wins on dirt are just as meaningful as those secured on superspeedways.
"I rank my wins at Springfield and Du Quoin right up there with any other win I have in this series. Absolutely, they're some of my biggest wins period. To beat Tony (Stewart at Du Quoin) two years in a row was definitely one of the highlights of my career. Anytime you beat him anywhere is cool, but especially on the dirt. I've raced against some really, really good racers on the dirt. My success there has been big for me."
Will Kimmel Driving Second Kimmel Car with Messina Sponsorship
For all of Frank Kimmel's success at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in recent years, Will Kimmel, the champion's nephew, finished eighth last season, a result that edged Frank by one spot in the race results.
Will Kimmel will make his fourth ARCA start of the season Sunday in a second Kimmel Racing car, the No. 68 Ford. Will Kimmel's car will be sponsored by series partners Messina Wildlife Management and Menards and colored red, black, and yellow. Kimmel has steadily improved in three starts this season, from 30th at Palm Beach in February to 18th at Iowa and 15th at Pocono in July.
Messina Wildlife Management has twice appeared on the hood of a car in ARCA Racing Series competition. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran Matt Crafton drove the No. 88 Kimmel Racing Ford to fifth-place finishes at Toledo and Iowa earlier this year.
The 100-lap, 100-mile Allen Crowe 100 is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Central (2 Eastern) on Sunday, August 22, with live timing and scoring and live audio coverage presented by ARCA Nation at ARCARacing.com.
The lone practice is scheduled for 9 a.m. Central, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell - which has produced 11 different pole winners in 12 qualifying sessions this season - taking place at 11 a.m. Live audio coverage and live timing and scoring of all events will be available on ARCARacing.com.
The Allen Crowe 100 is the 14th race of 20 this season and the third of four in pursuit of the Bill France Four Crown, the season-within-a-season contest which rewards ARCA Racing Series drivers for success on a diverse slate of tracks. The Four Crown schedule is comprised completely of the ARCA Racing Series races scheduled for August, with the final race to be held at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway on August 27. Joey Coulter (No. 16 Rip It Energy Fuel/Darrell Gwynn Foundation Chevrolet) leads Tom Hessert and Frank Kimmel by 30 points in the Four Crown standings on the strength of his August 7 win at the 0.4-mile Berlin (Mich.) Raceway and a second-place finish on August 15 at the Thunderbolt Raceway road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park.