Springfield, IL August 18, 2003-Well, it took quite an effort, but Frank Kimmel finally made stock car history at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Sunday during the running of the 41st Allen Crowe Memorial 100 for the ARCA RE/MAX Stock Car Series.
Springfield, IL August 18, 2003-Well, it took quite an effort, but Frank Kimmel finally made stock car history at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Sunday during the running of the 41st Allen Crowe Memorial 100 for the ARCA RE/MAX Stock Car Series. Kimmel became the first stock car driver ever to win four straight stock car events at Springfield, and the first to win four straight Crowe Memorials. In fact, a check of the records for every recorded race dating back to 1910, the only other driver to take four straight auto races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds was IMCA/CSRA star Jimmy Wilburn, who won four straight sprint car races during the 1940's!
By taking his fourth Crowe Memorial win, Kimmel joined former ARCA champ Bob Keselowski and the late, great Dean Roper as the only four-time winners of the long standing stock car event in Springfield.
Kimmel did not dominate this year's event like he has the last two in the state capitol. While he won the pole position with a superb 34.441 lap (104.527 mph), his fourth Crowe win wasn't that easy.
First, he spun coming to the green and nearly stuffed the front end of the Advance Auto/Pork Ford Taurus into the turn four concrete. Then, St. Joseph, Missouri driver Doug Keller took the lead from Kimmel on a lap 11 restart and continued in the lead as Kimmel pitted under caution a few laps later.
Kimmel worked his way back to the front before halfway, but by that time popular veteran Bob Strait had the lead, and would not be easy to pass. Several times Kimmel tried high and low, but wasn't able to wrestle the lead from the Mokena driver. Kimmel tried a high pass on lap 60 and was able to make it to the line first, but Strait nosed ahead going into the first corner and kept the lead! Meanwhile, Keller got around Kimmel, and when Strait's car broke and axle on a lap 73 restart, sailed into the lead. It took Kimmel five laps to track down Keller, and once he did he sailed into the lead on lap 78 and pulled away. Not even a late race caution provided much in the way of drama, and the Jeffersonville, Indiana native had his fourth in a row.
By leading 34 laps Sunday, Kimmel moves to the top of the lap leader board for ARCA sanctioned races at Springfield with 286. Those 286 laps are good for second on the Allen Crowe Memorial lap leader board, just nine behind stock car racing legend Don White. And, Kimmel sits third on the all-time stock car lap leader board at Springfield, forty-seven circuits behind the late Dean Roper.
Other accomplishments by Kimmel Sunday were: tied for the most pole positions won at Springfield, with 3, tied for the most ARCA race pole positions at Springfield with 3, and tied for the most Allen Crowe Memorial race pole positions with 3. Kimmel gave a car numbered 46 it's fifth win, which ties that number with Dean Roper's 99 for the most Springfield wins at 5. Kimmel gave owner Larry Clement his sixth Allen Crowe Memorial win as a car owner, and Advance Auto Part's their fourth win as a sponsor. In addition, Kimmel gave Ford Motor Company their tenth Springfield win, and their seventh pole position at the Illinois State Fair.
Missouri native Doug Keller backed up his strong runs on the dirt last year with a strong showing at Springfield. Dabbling in the NASCAR truck series has helped the St. Joseph driver, and his improvement really shows up on the dirt tracks.
The local flavor brought by the Illinois and area drivers really adds to the spectacle of the Allen Crowe Memorial, and adds to the grandstand attendance as well. That was quite obvious twhen looking at the Bill Hendren team out of Normal, Illinois. Hendren has fielded stock cars for well over 25 years, running in the USAC days with popular Ken Rowley, who retired just a few seasons ago. Hendren kept the team intact, upgraded the equipment with some financial help, and this team has had some great runs in the ARCA series the last few years. Bob Strait proved to be a good and popular replacement for Rowley as well.
Speaking of Rowley, he has 25 starts on the Springfield Mile, and was in attendance again Sunday with lovely wife Gail as a part of the Hendren crew. Kenny was in good spirits, and in good health.
While Strait ran exceptionally well until his axle broke and looked like a potential winner, the best finish of the Hendren team was brought home by a 22 year old rookie out of El Paso, Ryan Unzicker. Unzicker had very little experience on the "World's Fastest One Mile Dirt Track" prior to Sunday, he had competed in the Wynn's Sportsman Nationals event last year, and had virtually no experience in one of the heavy ARCA cars other than a recent test at Chicagoland Speedway. He was assigned to the team's older Chevy Monte Carlo, qualified in the top twenty, and ran all day to post and impressive sixth place finish, on the lead lap. After the race, a happy Ryan said that he looked forward to DuQuoin and the opportunity to do more of the ARCA dirt events.
Two ARCA regulars who really look forward to the dirt are Tennessee's Ron Cox and Georgia's Mark Gibson. Cox ran strong all day and ended fourth, while Gibson, making a return full time to the RE/MAX series, got around Cox toward the end for third.
Defending UMP National Late Model Driving champion Terry English had a pretty good day in the Murtco Chevrolet, and probably got an education in the process. In his first ever ARCA start, English qualified third and ran with the leaders for a time. He did, however, get "rubbed" on the racetrack, resulting in minor damage to the right rear of the car. A lengthy pit stop put him a lap down, exiting the pits just in front of the leaders. While Terry was able to run with the lead group, he never did gain the lap back, placing tenth. With the car in tact the Murtco crew heads for DuQuoin on Labor Day, and a huge crowd from Kentucky is expected in support of Terry's DuQuoin attempt.
Wall contact claimed a few machines on Sunday, including that of Pennsylvania's Tom Eriksen, whose cars are among the brightest colored on the track. Eriksen's Chevy blew an engine going into the first turn on lap 69, sending the car into the wall and causing quite a bit of damage. A regular on the ARCA dirt trail, the car is questionable for DuQuoin. Jamie Passmore had a couple of spins in turn four, and finally collected the turn four wall.
Shelby Howard's title hopes took a big hit Sunday, when on lap 5 his Dodge grenaded an engine and left a stream of oil a half mile long.
Hometown favorite, seventeen year old Justin Allgaier got one of the biggest hands from the crowd in pre-race introductions, and ran strong early on in the Law-Hoosier Pontiac. However, a failing alternator caused an ignition problem, and the car dropped out just past lap 60.
The third woman to ever qualify for a stock car race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds suffered through a long day. Christi has sprint car experience on dirt, but had never run on a mile dirt track before, and had not run one of the big ARCA cars on dirt. She timed in 29th, and ended her day 20th after several pit stops.
East Peoria's Todd Coon had another strong dirt run going, challenging in the top ten when Dan Shaver spun in turn one, collecting Coon and breaking what appeared to be the radiator on Coon's Chevrolet.
The companion Wynn's Sportsman event was extremely entertaining, with close racing and a repeat winner. Two and three wide racing was the order of the day for the short track sportsman cars, who consider this race their version of the Daytona 500. There was only one caution in the 20-mile main event, which featured three lead changes. Jeff Leka won for the third consecutive year, and needs two more to tie five-time champ Wes O'Dell.
Track Enterprises chief and Illinois State Fair Motorsports Director Bob Sargent hit the jackpot as far as racetrack preparation goes all weekend. Saturday's track was lighting fast, and when it came to Sunday, at least three guys were over a tenth under the existing track record. The track was so good that the sportsman races featured a low, middle and high groove, while a second groove opened up for the ARCA guys as well.
Sunday's crowd was estimated at 8,000, which seems a little on the light side considering the grandstand can accommodate 13,000, and was easily three-quarters full. A large crowd also camped on the infield as well, making the weekend very successful attendance wise considering the temperature was into the 90's, and the humidity fairly high.
As the ARCA series looks toward the dirt at the improved DuQuoin State Fairgrounds, the Illinois State Fair is talking about improvements as well to the mile racetrack, which could include lights. A report in the local paper Monday indicated that the drawing power of auto racing and horse racing far exceeded some of the grandstand acts as well. Lights would definitely allow the schedule of auto racing at the Fairgrounds to be expanded beyond it's present three events per year.