Despite Struggles, Kimmel Coming on Strong Headed to Kentucky; Not Giving up on Championship SPARTA KY (7-14-08) -- Nine-time and defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel has often referred to Salem Speedway as his hometown track;...
Despite Struggles, Kimmel Coming on Strong Headed to Kentucky; Not Giving up on Championship
SPARTA KY (7-14-08) -- Nine-time and defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel has often referred to Salem Speedway as his hometown track; but Kentucky Speedway feels every bit like home to Kimmel, whose shop is about an hour from the 1.5-mile Sparta, Kentucky speedplant.
"Kentucky's been really good to me," said Kimmel, who's won four times there. "The entire management team at Kentucky has been so good to work with and have been so gracious to me and my family over the years. We've not only had great success in the RE/MAX Series there, but Kentucky was also the site of my first street stock race, and now that thing seems to be taking off. We always have a lot of friends and family up from Louisville and southern Indiana that come to watch. It's close to home; it's a live TV race, so it's always important for us to go there and do well."
And well he has done over the years. In 16 races at Kentucky (Kimmel hasn't missed any since the series debuted there in 2000) he's won four times, won four SIM Factory Pole Awards and has led 536 laps in 10 races, more than any other times nearly three.
However, Kimmel's last victory at Kentucky was in the spring of 2005, and if you're keeping track in 2008, it's already been well documented that Kimmel, after starting his own team this year, is in the struggle/survival mode.
"We're not getting any big sponsors right now, but we're getting help here and there from some very good friends. Jim Coyle (Riverside Auto Parts) has been a great friend of the family over the years, and he's helped a bunch. Arne (Henriksen) with ECC; I can't believe how much he's stepped up for us. Overall, we've been very fortunate. We're racing smart and not tearing anything up; and that helps too.
"Our biggest problem is help. We don't have any paid employees. We've got one boy that works for Bill (Frank's brother/crew chief), but he's strictly volunteer, and comes to work when he's able. On the up side, our equipment's getting better and better. We just got another Roush car in and we've got a used hauler to work with now so we don't have to wear out Bill's single car hauler. I went out and licensed it (the hauler) yesterday, which was a new experience -- I had never done anything like that before."
In fact, Kimmel finds himself doing a lot of extra things he hasn't had to do before.
"We're in the struggle mode, but we also believe we're in a situation that could turn around quickly. Bill and I are out looking for sponsors during the day and working on cars at night -- whatever it takes to get the job done. But the ownership role and the marketing end of things is certainly all new to me. It's been very challenging."
Challenging could be considered an understatement. In the big time world of motorsports where semi haulers move equipment around, the new Kimmel Racing team has been moving its stuff around in a single-car hauler. That means that the ARCA icon has been without a back-up machine everywhere he's gone. At most tracks, his team of eight or nine volunteers cram inside his camper for the night. Not exactly a lifestyle representative of a nine-time national champion, but that's been Kimmel's reality in 2008.
"We're just so dang excited to be working out of a hauler now. We're not even ready to take a back-up car to the track yet, but we're getting closer. Once we get our back-up cars up to speed, we should be ready to take two cars everywhere, but at the moment, we're taking just one."
Despite Kimmel's newly-found struggles, he's still fourth in points, and still very much within reach of point leader Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
"We're halfway through the season. We're still in contact with Ricky and the guys running up front. We're not conceding that's for sure. And, we're going to Kentucky next, which is a good thing. In fact, if you look at the races we've got coming up on the schedule, we have traditionally done very well at these tracks. This has always been the part of the season where we seem to come on strong."
Kimmel's lack of funding has also prevented him from testing anywhere, unlike series powerhouses' Eddie Sharp Racing, Cunningham Motorsports, Clement Racing, RAB Racing and Roush Fenway Racing. However, Kimmel did just make his first scheduled test at Kentucky last week.
"We actually did a test at Salem earlier this year, but outside of that, Kentucky is the first big-track test we've done this year. We were pretty happy overall with it. We didn't do any qualifying runs. The car was pretty consistent, pretty fast; I think we'll be good.
"We're taking the same Roush car that we raced there last time. Same car we ran third in at MIS. So we know we have a car that's capable of winning. Whether we can put ourselves in a position to win, you know, we'll see. Last time we ran Kentucky, we were as fast as the leaders but the car was too loose, and we kept getting behind. Being able to test I think may be the difference. We were able to make our car more consistent for the entire run. We're continuing to accumulate some more really nice equipment; but right now, it's (the equipment) a little better than we are."
In addition to Kimmel's current situation, he also knows the competition level in the ARCA RE/MAX Series is continually on the rise.
"The 01 car (Sean Caisse) was really fast last time out at Kentucky. I think he'll be very fast -- he seems like a really good racer. Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.) runs good everywhere, Matt (Carter) will be good and Justin (Allgaier). If you look back this year, Justin's had the fastest car at several of the tracks this year. I think Tom Hessert's been very impressive too in the 1 car. He's been very competitive. He seems like a nice young man. It's just nice to see this series with so much depth to it."
Although the 71-time series winner has not been to victory lane yet in 2008, he's certainly headed in the right direction. The Clarksville, Indiana second-generation racer, in his last two outings, finished third at Michigan and second on the Cayuga short-track.
"I really like the direction our team is headed. Right now it's going to Kentucky Speedway; and we can't wait to get there. It's not over yet."