Kimmel duels NASCAR's Schrader at DuQuoin Labor Day! DuQuoin, IL August 27, 2003-Frank Kimmel rolls into the 51st Federated Southern Illinois 100 on a roll, looking for his 7th win in the last eight ARCA dirt track events, his fifth national ...
Kimmel duels NASCAR's Schrader at DuQuoin Labor Day!
DuQuoin, IL August 27, 2003-Frank Kimmel rolls into the 51st Federated Southern Illinois 100 on a roll, looking for his 7th win in the last eight ARCA dirt track events, his fifth national driving title, and his third consecutive DuQuoin victory and his fourth sweep of the Illinois clay ovals as the Automobile Racing Club of America RE/MAX Stock Car Series visits the "Magic Mile" of the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds on Labor Day, September 1. However, fans are wondering who else might be in attendance as several stars, youngsters and veterans will be on hand in an attempt to derail the Kimmel express, including at least one NASCAR Winston Cup heavyweight. Forty ARCA cars and stars are expected for the 51st annual 100-mile grind, presented once again by Federated Auto Parts and organized for the tenth year by Track Enterprises president Bob Sargent.
No driver since the late Dean Roper has dominated the two dirt tracks on the ARCA schedule the past few years in the manner that Kimmel has, heady praise for a driver that didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first dirt track appearances. "I really didn't care for the dirt at first," said Kimmel in a recent interview. "I guess that's because I wasn't very good on those tracks, I still don't think I am, but now I really enjoy the places." "I guess winning changes your perspective, but I really look forward to the events at Springfield and DuQuoin," he continued. "Not only is the racing great, but the fans are terrific, we have big crowds, and you just can't beat the family atmosphere of a state fair."
Last year's event was a classic that barely topped the excitement of the 2001 Federated 100. NASCAR Winston Cup star Tony Stewart made the trek from Darlington to DuQuoin once again, taking time off from what would be a NASCAR Winston Cup championship season for the "Rushville Rocket". Stewart, driving this time for Andy Petree (who also drove in 2001 and 2002), had appeared at DuQuoin in 2001 as a teammate to Kimmel, breaking the track record and then finishing second to his teammate by a scant few feet.
The 50th Federated 100 looked like a replay of the 2001 event, with a near capacity crowd on hand for the Labor Day festivities. Seventy-one year old Red Farmer became the oldest Federated 100 starter in DuQuoin history, while 16 year old Justin Allgaier of Springfield, Illinois became the youngest. Stewart smashed his own track record and then led the first 22 circuits before pitting, giving the lead to Missouri's Doug Keller. Contact in the pits damaged the right front fender of Stewart's Chevrolet, and several pit stops were required to correct the problem. Meanwhile, Keller gave the lead to Kimmel on lap 34, and Stewart made his way quickly to the front. The last few laps had the fans standing and cheering, as the 2002 NASCAR Champ tried every way to get around the 2002 ARCA champ. It wasn't to be, as Kimmel collected his second consecutive DuQuoin win.
Kimmel has five wins, and fourteen top five finishes this season in ARCA competition and looks like a sure bet for a fifth national driving crown. In order to win a third consecutive Federated 100, the driver of the Larry Clement Advance Auto-Pork Ford once again faces an all-star cast of pilots and machines, sure to draw another capacity crowd to the park-like setting in DuQuoin. Leading a contingent of drivers trying to stop Kimmel is popular veteran Ken Schrader. Schrader, driver of the BAM racing Dodge in the NASCAR Winston Cup series is a native of Fenton, Missouri and cut his teeth on many of the bullrings of Illinois and Missorui,. At age 47 Schrader is considered one of the "graybeards" in the NASCAR series, but the popular Midwestern driver still finds time to compete and win in virtually any machine available. Schrader has a tremendous fan following as a result of his versatility and has posted several victories on the dirt miles at Springfield and the Indiana State Fairgrounds. However, the only dirt mile in the Midwest Kenny has failed to post a victory on is the one closest to home, the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. That fact is ironic considering Kenny made his USAC stock car debut at DuQuoin in 1979, and has competed at DuQuoin in front of family and friends several times! This year, Kenny filed the first entry for the Federated 100, and will pilot his own Federated Pontiac, barring any unforeseen circumstances at Darlington.
Other NASCAR drivers have inquired about running the Labor Day 100-mile Federated race, but as of press time no entries had been filed for any NASCAR pilots outside of Schrader. It is possible that additional entries could be filed before race time.
Whoever does show up at DuQuoin from the NASCAR ranks faces stiff competition from the ARCA RE/MAX regulars, as the top ten in the point standings (prior to the August 30 Winchester event) are entered for the Federated 100.
Second in the ARCA points, 575 behind Kimmel after a top ten run at Springfield, is North Carolina's Jason Jarrett. Jarrett is the son of 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup champ Dale Jarrett, and grandson of two-time NASCAR champ Ned Jarrett. Jason is seeking his first dirt track win, he sat on the front row two years ago at Springfield and presently drives the Gladiator Chevrolet.
Third in the points is a driver who really loves the two dirt tracks on the ARCA schedule, Mark Gibson of Georgia. Gibson had run a limited schedule in the past, but even when the money to run his car was tight, he always seemed to make the two dirt events on the ARCA schedule. Gibson has returned to running full-time with the ARCA RE/MAX series thanks to sponsorship from Williams Lumber, and a fine drive from fifteenth to third at Springfield has been one of the highlights of his season.
Fourth in points is a second generation driver from Illinois whose last name is familiar to long-time DuQuoin fans, Billy Venturini of Chicago. Billy has five top five finishes in the RE/MAX competition this season, and drives Chevrolets for his father, long time ARCA and USAC Stock Car driver Bill Venturini.
Fifth in points is one of the youngest drivers on tour, eighteen year old Shelby Howard of Greenwood, Indiana. Howard, the driver of the only Dodge entered to date for the 51st Federated 100, has two wins and eight top five finishes, the most recent win coming at the Kansas Speedway in June.
Sixth in the standings is an Illinois driver who is one of the surprises in the 2003 ARCA season, Brent Sherman of North Barrington. Sherman has opened quite a few eyes in the series, posting five top five finishes in 2003.
Seventh is Tennessee driver Ron Cox, a driver who desperately wants to win one of the dirt races, while eighth is second generation driver Todd Bowsher of Springfield, Ohio. Todd's dad Jack is the car owner, and a former ARCA champion and USAC stock car competitor who posted a win in the only caution free Southern Illinois 100 in history, that coming in 1972.
Christi Passmore of Oklahoma is the only female on the ARCA series full time in 2003, and sits ninth in the points. Passmore is seeking to become just the third woman in history to qualify for a stock car race at DuQuoin, and has dirt experience with the winged sprint cars in Oklahoma. Passmore currently leads the 2003 ARCA rookie point chase. Rounding out the top ten is her rival in the ARCA rookie chase, Bill Everosole of Michigan. Eversole had a fine run at Springfield ending his first trip on the dirt in the ninth slot.
Also on the DuQuoin entry list are ARCA veterans Andy Belmont of Pennsylvania, Mike Buckley of Michigan, Chuck Weber of Texas and Norm Benning, who came from 33rd to 5th at Springfield.
The ARCA veterans and NASCAR 'invaders" will have to deal with a group of Illinois and local drivers that presents perhaps the best opportunity for a downstate or area driver to become the first local shoe to post a victory in the 100-mile stock car race at DuQuoin. It will be those drivers whose fans form cheering sections in the DuQuoin grandstand and help fill many of the 18,000 seats on the grounds.
Those teams are led by the multi-car Bill Hendren team of Normal, Illinois. Hendren has been in the sport over 30 years, fielding cars for over 25 of those years for popular El Paso, Illinois veteran Ken Rowley, a former stock car track record holder at DuQuoin. Hendren has experience and youth on his team, Mokena, Illinois driver Bob Strait is a tough competitor with several ARCA wins who led much of the Springfield event two weeks ago, while twenty-two year old Ryan Unzicker of El Paso ran 6th in his very first ARCA start at Springfield. What makes Unzicker's feat more amazing is that prior to the Springfield race, he had never driven a car other than a street stock on the local tracks!
Other Illinois drivers entered for Labor Day include Centralia's Joe Cooksey, who turned the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds upside down in 2000 when he became the first southern Illinois resident to take the Federated 100 pole position, East Peoria's Todd Coon, Bloomington's Eric Smith, Carlyle's Charlie Schaefer, and seventeen year old Justin Allgaier of Springfield.
Drivers from the tri-state region also have a large fan following, with none larger than the fan following of 2002 United Midwestern Promoters late model national champion Terry English of Benton, Kentucky. English, a regular at the nearby Paducah and Calvert City tracks, drove his first ever ARCA race at Springfield in the Allen Crowe Memorial 100. After five laps of practice he was one of the fastest on the track, and showed his talents by qualifying third. A problem on a pit stop cost English a top five slot at the end, but he was able to salvage a top ten finish in the Keith Murt Chevrolet.
Dennis English is also a resident of Benton, Kentucky and on the entry list as well. St Joseph, Missouri driver Doug Keller has become a real threat on the dirt tracks in the last two seasons. A part-time driver with the NASCAR truck series, Keller's Pontiac led last year at DuQuoin, and led a part of the Springfield race this year as well, before finishing second. Another Missouri driver on the entry list is Perry Tripp of Fredericktown, while Dexter's Jim Eubanks is slated to appear in a Chevrolet.
ARCA's finest will continue a tradition of auto racing that began at DuQuoin in 1923 with the first DuQuoin State Fair, a product of DuQuoin resident and visionary W. R. Hayes. It was Hayes goal that the residents of southern Illinois have a fair of their own, since the trip to Springfield for the Illinois State Fair was so far. He purchased several acres on the south side of DuQuoin, and made it a quest to ensure that the citizens of southern Illinois had the finest available entertainment, including auto racing.
The fairgrounds expanded during the forties, and the one-mile track and grandstand were completed just in time for the 1946 fair. Hayes knew the attraction of auto racing and the money it brought in, so he petitioned for and received two AAA national championship races for 1948, and both played to sellout crowds.
Stock car racing was a growing phenomenon after World War II, along with midget car racing. NASCAR was formed by Bill France in 1947, and AAA, then the sanctioning body for the Indianapolis 500, could see the value of the fendered machines. BY 1950, they had added their own stock car division, and their first season included a Labor Day weekend 100-mile race at DuQuoin, won by Jay Frank in an Olds Rocket 88.
Stock cars disappeared from DuQuoin until 1954, and they have remained a part of the auto racing lineup ever since. Racing legends from all disciplines made DuQuoin an annual stop on their schedules, championship drivers Jimmy Bryan and A.J. Foyt became the only two drivers in racing history to win both a championship and stock car event at DuQuoin.
USAC legends Don White, Norm Nelson, Paul Feldner and Butch Hartman all thrilled southern Illinois fans by taking a checkered flag at DuQuoin. When ARCA took over sanction of the southern Illinois stock car event, drivers such as Lee Ryamond, Bob Brevak, Billy Thomas and Bob Keselowski added victories at DuQuoin to their list of accomplishments. Current NASCAR star Rusty Wallace beat A.J. Foyt to the checkered flag in a thrilling 1979 duel, while NASCAR star Fred Lorenzen won two stock car races on the "Magic Mile". NASCAR drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, Jeremy Mayfield, Mike Wallace and Joe Ruttman have all appeared at DuQuoin as well.
However, the grand champion of stock car racing at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds was a kind, folksy man from southern Missouri who practically owned the real estate known as the "Magic Mile". Springfield, Missouri's Dean Roper was a frequent competitor during the USAC years, and a three-time USAC Stock Car champ. Once he began driving for the Mueller Brothers of Wisconsin in 1980, they were practically unbeatable on the dirt, winning 5 events at DuQuoin from 1981 to 1987. Roper, coming out of semi-retirement, teamed once again with the Mueller Brothers in 1994 to take the DuQuoin trophy, becoming the oldest DuQuoin Stock car winner at age 55. Sadly, Dean passed away in 2002, and in tribute the pole award at Springfield is named in his honor.
The Automobile Racing Club of America RE/MAX series, born in 1953, celebrates it's 20th year of sanctioning stock car racing on the DuQuoin dirt when it comes to southern Illinois on Labor Day. Practice for the 51st Federated 100 bgins at 9 a.m., with Old Milwaukee Pole Qualifying at 11. Drivers will be trying to break Tony Stewart's one-lap track record of 33.822, 106.440 miles an hour. Forty of the best stock car drivers in ARCA history are slated to fire the engines and begin the 100-mile quest for the Federated trophy at approximately 1 p.m., shooting for Dean Roper's twenty year old track record of 1:06.35, 90.101 miles an hour. Over $120,000 is posted for the 51st Federated 100 in prize and contingency award, with the winner taking home possibly $15,000.
Running with the ARCA cars will be the UMP Modified series, conducting their semi-feature events and the 20 mile Bill Oldani Memorial prior to the running of the Federated 100. Robinson, Illinois driver Brian Shaw is the defending Oldani Memorial champion.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children and can be purchased at Ticketmaster, the DuQuoin State Fair Box Office or by calling 217-764-3200.
Additional information can be obtained by calling Track Enterprises at 217-764-3200, or on the world wide web at www.trackenterprises.com, or at www.arcaracing.com.