Kimmel Seeks History at Springfield in ARCA Crowe 100 Macon, IL August 17, 2004-Frank Kimmel has a unique opportunity to make motor sports history at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, August 22 in the 42nd running of the Allen Crowe 100...
Kimmel Seeks History at Springfield in ARCA Crowe 100
Macon, IL August 17, 2004-Frank Kimmel has a unique opportunity to make motor sports history at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, August 22 in the 42nd running of the Allen Crowe 100 for the Automobile Club of America RE/MAX stock car series. Should Kimmel, a five time ARCA RE/MAX national driving champion, post a win in the unique 100-mile dirt track grind he would become the first ever five-time winner of the Crowe 100.
Kimmel's task is complicated by the fact that an entry list of hungry drivers, which numbers at present thirty-six cars, is planning to be a significant obstacle to Kimmel's quest to become not only the first five time winner of the Crowe 100, but the first man to win five consecutive Crowe 100 races at the "World's Fastest One Mile Dirt Track". When the ARCA RE/MAX Series invades the Illinois State Fairgrounds on August 22, the field of stock car drivers is expected to include most, if not all of the top ten in the current ARCA RE/MAX title hunt, some talented rookies, three former winners and one popular veteran coming out of retirement to play in the dirt on a Sunday afternoon. The entry list includes several Illinois drivers looking to post their first win in the Crowe Memorial.
Kimmel leads the current ARCA point standings with 4 wins in 16 starts and has a 590 point lead over second place. Kimmel, who now calls Clarksville, Indiana home, is the driver of Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts-Pork Ford Taurus and has moved near the top of many statistical categories at Springfield. His performance last year moved him to third on the all-time lap leader list at Springfield with 286, just nine behind Don White and 34 behind the legendary Dean Roper. By capturing the pole last year, Kimmel is tied for the most stock car pole positions at Springfield with three, and gave Clement his fifth Springfield victory as a car owner. Kimmel seems to have found a home in the ARCA stock cars, though he has been able to dabble in both the NASCAR truck series and has a few starts in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series as well. He stated in an interview last year that he "wasn't that good on dirt" but you would never know it from his performances, between the Crowe 100 at Springfield and the Federated-Southern Illinois 100 at DuQuoin, Kimmel has won six of the last eight ARCA dirt track events held in Illinois, dating back to 2000.
Seeking to end Kimmel's dirt track domination is the driver currently second in the ARCA RE/MAX standings and one of several drivers from Illinois looking for a win in the home state, Brent Sherman of North Barrington, Illinois. Sherman has ten top ten finishes in the series this year and is still looking for his first win in his Serta Mattress Chevrolet. Third in points is another Illinois driver, second-generation competitor Billy Venturini. Billy, who hails from Chicago, also has ten top ten finishes and is looking for his first ARCA win in his father's stable of General Motors products.
Fourth in the points is top rookie T.J. Bell of Sparks, Nevada. The twenty-four year old Bell is a road-racing veteran who has experience in the NASCAR Truck Series and plans to expand his horizons with a few USAC Ford Focus Midget Series starts this year. Sitting behind Bell is third generation driver, Jason Jarrett of Hickory, North Carolina. Driving the ML Motorsports fleet of Chevrolets and Pontiacs, Jarrett has been a regular on the ARCA tour since 2001, when he shocked everyone with a front row start and a third place finish in the Crowe 100 in his first time ever on the dirt. Jarrett, with one career ARCA win to his credit, has finished second twice in the ARCA title chase, both times to Frank Kimmel. Jarrett is the son of 1999 NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett, and the grandson of two-time NASCAR champ Ned Jarrett.
Sixth in the standings is a Georgia driver who has found a second home on the Illinois dirt, Winder's Mark Gibson. Gibson drives Chevrolets and Pontiacs sponsored by Williams Lumber and annually looks forward to the two dirt races on the ARCA schedule. A four time winner in the ARCA series, the forty-seven year old Gibson has eight top ten finishes this season. Seventh in the current standings is one of three women drivers to contest the Crowe 100 in its 42-year history, dirt track veteran Christi Passmore of Pryor of Pryor, Oklahoma. Ninth is the improving Todd Bowsher, son of former ARCA champ and two-time Crowe 100 winner Jack Bowsher. Jack owns the Fords driven by son Todd, who has four top ten finishes this season. Tenth is veteran Darrell Basham of Henry, Indiana.
Other ARCA regulars expected to join the Crowe 100 field are Norm Benning of Pennsylvania, Tim Mitchell of Tennessee, Brad Smith of Michigan, and Andy Belmont of Pennsylvania. Benning is a veteran of the ARCA tour while Belmont ran a few NASCAR Nextel Cup races earlier in the year and is an apparent replacement for his regular driver, rookie Brandon Knupp.
Two popular veterans, including one former Crowe 100 winner, have come out of semi-retirement for another crack at victory lane at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. 1999 Allen Crowe 100 winner and former ARCA national champ Bill Baird of Sturgis, Kentucky announced several weeks ago that he would field a car for the ARCA dirt track events. However, the fifty-five year old Baird is a youngster compared to the legendary Red Farmer who is rumored to turn seventy-two in October! Farmer, who competed at Springfield and DuQuoin in 2002, is a member of the famous "Alabama Gang" that included NASCR greats Donnie and Bobby Allison and the late Neil Bonnett.
The third former winner of the Crowe 100 to join the field is two-time winner Bobby Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio. A former ARCA national champion, Bowsher left the series a few years ago and just recently returned. He is one of former winner Jack Bowsher's sons and an older brother of Jack's current driver, Todd Bowsher.
Including Sherman and Venturini, several Illinois drivers that generate a significant amount of fan interest for the Allen Crowe 100 have a legitimate shot at victory on Sunday. No downstate Illinois driver has ever posted a win in the Allen Crowe 100, however at least three will be on the entry list including a rookie who is eighth in the ARCA RE/MAX points and an eighteen year old from the city of Springfield who will be pulling double duty this weekend.
Twenty-three year old A.J. Fike of Galesburg is in his first year of ARCA competition and has parlayed seven top ten finishes, including a second at Berlin, Michigan to 8th in the standings. Fike ran in the USAC Silver Crown Series last year and was in the top ten in the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield before being eliminated in an accident. Fike could have pulled double duty this year but has given the family USAC ride to brother Aaron. Fike's car owner is former USAC Silver Crown driver and 1995 ARCA RE/MAX champ Andy Hillenburg.
Young Justin Allgaier of Springfield may have received the loudest ovation from the crowd prior to last year's Allen Crowe 100. The son of Mike Allgaier, owner of Hoosier Tire Midwest, Justin is a veteran of local late model competition and has raced at the prestigious Chili Bowl midget event. He has two ARCA starts at Springfield, qualifying ninth before mechanical problems sidelined him last season. This year brings a new twist for Allgaier, he has secured a USAC Silver Crown ride and will attempt to make the Bettenhausen 100 at Springfield and the Horn 100 at DuQuoin. Should Justin make the USAC race on Saturday, he would become the first driver to race in the champ car and stock car race at Springfield on the same weekend since Tom Bigelow ran in both 100-milers in 1989. If by chance he could win both races, Justin would add his name with legends A.J. Foyt, Roger McCluskey and Al Unser as the only drivers ever to win both the Bettenhausen and Crowe 100. Unser is the only driver ever to win both in the same weekend in, that feat coming in 1972.
Centralia's Joe Cooksey was planning on a limited schedule in the ARCA series this year, but the sudden retirement of Ron Cox gave him the seat in the SERVPRO Pontiac. Cooksey, a veteran of ARCA competition became the first Southern Illinois resident to capture an ARCA pole position at DuQuoin when he won the top slot there in 2000. Another Southern Illinois resident, Carlyle's Charlie Schaefer has been a regular on the ARCA dirt tracks for the past several seasons and is a veteran of the short track late model stock cars.
The ARCA RE/MAX drivers continue a 42-year-old Illinois State Fair stock car auto racing tradition that remains a memorial to a Springfield race driver whose burgeoning career was cut short by an accident.
Stock car racing was added to the motor sport lineup at the fairgrounds in 1950, with Jay Frank taking a September 100-mile race. Stock cars returned again under the American Automobile Association banner in 1953, but were absent until coming back under USAC sanction in 1961, a race sponsored by Springfield's Seratoma Club and won by champ car veteran Len Sutton. Stock cars returned (once again after the fair) in 1962, with Michigan's Paul Goldsmith taking the checkered flag. The next stock car event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds would take on even more importance.
Springfield's Allen Crowe was an up and coming USAC race driver, running in the midgets, sprint cars and getting his second championship start in 1961, delighting the home town fans by making the first Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 at Springfield. Crowe got much of his early training in stock cars and midgets on the tracks in Central Illinois, including the late Joe Shaheen's Springfield Speedway. Crowe's dream was to follow fellow Springfield residents Rex Easton and Chuck Weyant into championship cars with an eye on the Indianapolis 500.
Crowe's dream became reality in May of 1962, when he qualified the S-R Racing roadster in 22nd and finishing 31st when he was caught in an accident involving Jack Turner, Chuck Rodee and Bob Christie. He survived a nasty spill in the Central Excavating dirt car at the 1962 Hoosier 100 to return to the Indy 500 in 1963, and qualified a respectable 13th. He finished the race in 27th, the victim of an accident in the first turn, and his career seemed on the verge of taking flight.
Unfortunately, a sprint car accident at New Bremen, Ohio cut his career and his life short. Springfield promoter Jim Kidd, along with many members of the Springfield racing community looked for a way to pay homage to Allen. They found a way with the fledgling stock car race at the fairgrounds, renaming the event the "Allen Crowe Memorial". NASCAR's Curtis Turner won the first Allen Crowe Memorial 100, held after the close of the Illinois State Fair. The first Crowe Memorial to be included in the Illinois State Fair entertainment lineup came in 1965 and was won by Bobby Isaac.
The last forty-two years have seen a number of famous racing drivers not only enter, but also win the Allen Crowe 100. NASCAR stars such as Benny Parsons, Dick Trickle and Davey Allison all have appeared on an Allen Crowe 100 entry list, while NASCAR stars Turner, Bobby Isaac and Ken Schrader have posted victories in the memorial event. USAC stars such as Norm Nelson, Don White, Butch Hartman and A.J. Foyt dominated the sixties and seventies. When ARCA came on board to sanction the Crowe 100 in 1983, ARCA stars such as Bob Keselowski (a four-time winner), Bobby Bowsher and Bob Hill posted wins at Springfield.
One star driver transcended both sanctioning bodies and became the master of the Springfield Mile, the late Dean Roper of Fair Grove, Missouri. Roper won seven of nine 100-mile stock car events at Springfield between 1981 and 1986, four of them Allen Crowe Memorial races. He attempted a comeback of sorts in the 1990's, and was running in the top ten in the 2001 Allen Crowe Memorial 100 when he suffered a heart attack and sadly passed away a short time later. Fittingly, the pole position award at Springfield is named in his honor.
Practice for the 42nd Allen Crowe 100 is slated to begin at approximately 9 in the morning on Sunday, August 22 with Pork-Dean Roper Pole qualifying at 11. The Wynn's Sportsman feature is slated for around 12 noon, with the Allen Crowe 100 field taking the green flag at approximately 1:00.
Good seats are still available by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200, at Ticketmaster locations or at the Illinois State Fair Box Office. Additional information can be found on the World Wide Web at www.trackenterprises.com or www.arcaracing.com.