Domination. That would be the word to best describe Frank Kimmel's performance in Sunday's 40th Allen Crowe Memorial 100 ARCA RE/MAX Series event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. From the beginning of practice, it was apparent that Kimmel had ...
Domination. That would be the word to best describe Frank Kimmel's performance in Sunday's 40th Allen Crowe Memorial 100 ARCA RE/MAX Series event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. From the beginning of practice, it was apparent that Kimmel had something on the field, the motor sounded much stronger than any other and Kimmel's car looked like a rocket down the chutes.
Last year Kimmel led 92 of the 100 miles, this year he led only 84 of the 100 miles and became just the second driver to claim three consecutive Crowe Memorial trophies. Bob Keselowski, the winner in 1987, '88 and '89 was the first. The late Dean Roper won three straight stock car events at Springfield, but only one of them was the Crowe Memorial. Should Frank repeat next year, he would join Roper and Keselowski as the only four-time winners of the prestigious event.
Kimmel's take was a record $18,575 from a record purse of $125,614, both record totals for any automobile race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The crowd was huge Sunday, with attendance an estimated 11,000. That figure is slightly up from last year, and quite a surprise considering the threat of rain and the condition of the infield.
Kimmel's third win wasn't the most popular, as there were a number of unhappy fans in the stands afterwards. It could have been carry over from the Blount incident at Nashville, but most likely it was the tremendous advantage Frank had on the last two restarts. A lot of folks though Kimmel jumped the starts on second place Bob Strait, but in actuality Strait (admitting such after the race) had only FOURTH GEAR and could not accelerate, forcing Bob to lag behind.
For the second day in a row Mother Nature took center stage, dumping a 6:30 a.m. thunderstorm on the facility. Considering that an inch and one half of rain fell Friday, and that calcium had been applied to the surface Saturday night, the oval was extremely muddy. Another Herculean effort by promoter Bob Sargent and the Illinois State Fair track crew had the gumbo surface ready for practice after ten o'clock,, however, the rain washed out ARCA Old Milwaukee Pole qualifying and the field was aligned according to points. The lack of qualifying ws only the fourth time in 40 years that rain washed out qualifications for the stock cars at Springfield.
Kimmel's victory gave car 46 it's 4th Crowe win, and moved Frank to 5th on the all-time lap leader list at Springfield with 252 circuits up front. His win from the pole was the 11th in Springfield stock car history.
How about the boys from Illinois Sunday? What a great run many of them had, considering a lot of them were stuck at the back of the pack to start. Mokena's Bob Strait (driving for Normal's Bill Hendren) had a tremendous run from 28th to third, and would have ended second if he had not had the gear trouble late in the race, while Centralia's Joe Cooksey came from 31st to fourth at the end. East Peoria's Todd Coon started 37th and was moving up on the second place car when it appeared the motor or brakes went out on the number 20 Chevrolet. Still, Todd finished 12th. Sixteen year old Justin Allgaier of Springfield, making his debut for owner Ken Schrader, ran strong all day until he spun and hit the turn four wall, but the determined youngster finished the event in 17th, one lap down. Bloomington's Eric Smith started 35th and finished 13th despite some right front damage and a one lap penalty when his gas man refueled the car without a helmet. Carlyle's Charlie Schaefer recovered from an early race spin to come from 38th to 21st. While no central Illinois driver has pulled into the Crowe Memorial's victory lane, most of the cars went home in good enough shape to make it to DuQuoin in 2 weeks. The local drivers certainly would have made the race's namesake very proud on Sunday.
In fact, there was a lot of cause for concern Sunday about the number of veterans starting at the back. A number of slower and less experienced drivers were ahead, cause for apprehension among the drivers as well as the fans. In a great gesture of sportsmanship, many of those cars elected to move aside and let the faster cars go by. Those drivers are to be applauded for that act.
Allgaier set a record Sunday that isn't likely to be broken, at 16 years and 73 days he becomes the youngest starter ever in the 40 year history of the Allen Crowe Memorial 100, and by three days the youngest starter in ARCA history.
Eric Smith moved up on the all time start list at Springfield, he now has 13 in a row and 18 total at Springfield. He has a long way to go to catch popular El Paso, Illinois driver Ken Rowley who retired with 28 starts on the Springfield Mile!
Coon had an incident in the race trying to pass Bob Hill going into turn one. Apparently Coon couldn't get stopped, punted Hill in the left rear and the two-time Crowe winner spun and lightly hit the turn one wall, Hill kept going with minor damage and should have gotten an award for the save.
Hill's surprise appearance with the Roulo Brothers Chevrolet was a nice one for all of the fans. Bob hold the one lap track record and is very good on dirt, the team has good equipment and it appeared for a while Hill might have something for Kimmel.
Kimmel's win in a Ford Taurus was the first for a Ford product at Springfield since Tim Steele in 1997.
1995 Crowe winner Billy Thomas had a great day until late in the race-he and Ron Cox got together in turn four, sending Cox into the wall and leaving the front of Thomas' Chevy caved in and smoking. Thomas ran around on the yellow, but headed in on the lap 96 restart. Billy came from 36th to the lead and was pretty strong all day, the car is questionable for DuQuoin.
Missouri's Doug Keller should have a larger fan following than what he had Sunday, due to the tremendous drive he put on from mid pack. Keller, who sat on the front row at last year's DuQuoin race, started 16th and ran to the top 5 before pitting, then rode the rim from the back to second at the end!
Ron Cox of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee really wants to win one of the 100-mile dirt track races, and had an exceptionally strong car on Sunday. The car, painted in the ARCA 50th anniversary colors, sported the number 50 instead of Cox's usual 23. Running as high as second, Cox probably would have finished there, but the incident with Thomas left the car considerably shorter in the rear end, yet running at the end. Tempers flared between drivers in the pit area after the race, security was called to calm things down.
An extremely nice gesture was made by ARCA and the race promoter prior to the event, naming the pole award in honor of the late Dean Roper. Roper passed away during last year's race at age 62, the victim of a heart attack while running tenth on lap 17. Dean's brother Dale was on hand to present the award to Frank Kimmel in what turned out to be an emotional moment. Dale is himself a racer, still competing in modifieds in Missouri and winning, at age 66!
In reference to last year's incident involving the Roper car on the main stretch, a couple of concrete barriers were installed at the pit exit, along with several water barrels. Security was tight and kept people back several feet from the inside concrete retaining wall.
Rookies were in abundance Sunday, Chad Blount, Chase Montgomery and the aforementioned Allgaier are all still teenagers who have a very steep learning curve. Montgomery suffered a blown tire early on, causing damage to the left rear of the car and putting him behind. Blount, who didn't show any intent of revenge on Kimmel after the Nashville incident, had a strong run going in his Dodge until it appeared rear-end problems sent him back in the pack, where he later spun.
Red Farmer made his "rookie" appearance at Springfield Sunday, and did fairly well for a while. Using Bob Schact's number of 75, the points for that car allowed Farmer to start in the top ten. Red ran eighth for quite some time, but the car suffered what was termed a "vapor lock" and quit running under caution, never to return.
ARCA regular Andy Belmont had a tough day Sunday, after running very strong early on. Belmont's Ford ended up contacting the turn four wall, but he kept going and no caution was thrown. The car sustained quite a bit of rear end damage but Andy finished the race.14th, a lap down.
Springfield has a nice facility, and the track is one of the best dirt tracks in the country, but it would be nice if the state of Illinois would invest for the future. The catch fence in some areas needs to be raised, and a new scoreboard placed on the backstretch would eliminate a problem with sight lines. And, a new pit road, starting further toward turn 4 and exiting in turn two would make the dirt oval as modern as any paved race track in the country. Lights would be nice, too.
The Hendren team has purchased a former Vern Slagh Ford, and will have it ready for Chicagoland after the DuQuoin event. Their schedule ends with that race, but look for them to perhaps run the full ARCA slate, or a partial Busch/ARCA slate next season if funding permits.
Perhaps track owners should pay the Hendren team appearance money, because they would get it back in pit pass and ticket sales. The Dauphin team had a LARGE following at Springfield and two cheering sections, one at each end of the grandstand.
Rumors abounded in the pits as to who might show up at DuQuoin in two weeks. Ken Schrader and Andy Petree are definite entries, while speculation centers around Petree's entered car with no listed driver. Michael Waltrip denied at Chicagoland that he would be a participant on the "Magic Mile", but it's highly probable that another Winston Cup star will be at DuQuoin on Labor Day.
Another speculation making the rounds was that the father of Jason Jarrett might venture to Southern Illinois to watch his son in the Federated-Southern Illinois 100. Of course his father is 1999 NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett. Jason has learned very well from his father how to relate to the fans, during the delay in the morning while the track was being run in, Jason ventured into the muddy infield to sign autographs for anyone who wanted one.
The companion Wynn's Sportsman event continues to grow and be one of the more entertaining races on the mile. Five time winner Wes O'Dell of Springfield put together a car for this event only, transferred through the semi and was headed for the front in the main event when the engine apparently let go. Jeff Leka won for the second straight year.