Lake Erie: Race notes

Kimmel leads the charge at Lake Erie; passes Venturini on last lap. NORTH EAST PA (7-12-03) -- By Don Radebaugh -- After getting spun twice, Frank Kimmel, in danger of going a lap down, gathered up his thoughts, rolled up his sleeves and went to...

Kimmel leads the charge at Lake Erie; passes Venturini on last lap.

NORTH EAST PA (7-12-03) -- By Don Radebaugh -- After getting spun twice, Frank Kimmel, in danger of going a lap down, gathered up his thoughts, rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

The four-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion and current point leader came from the back three times and worked his way up front just in time to pass Billy Venturini on the last corner of the last lap to win the thrilling inaugural ARCA RE/MAX 200 presented by Hamot & Siemens Saturday night at Lake Erie Speedway.

"Wow; what a race," said Kimmel in victory lane. "We got behind a couple times, but what a great team. What a great car. Thanks to our great sponsors Advance Auto Parts and Pork. We just kept digging and we finally got there -- just in time. Congratulations to Billy Venturini; he's turned himself into one fine race car driver."

However, Kimmel's euphoria was Venturini's pain. Venturini, who dominated the 200-lap race with 118 laps-led, was battling Kimmel for the lead in turn four on the final lap when his Hawk Saw Blades-Mahle Pistons Pontiac broke loose as the pair raced side-by-side headed towards the checkered flag. Venturini spun down across the start-finish line backwards while Kimmel forged ahead to pick up his 47th career series victory. Venturini, albeit backwards, still finished a career-best second. With one headed east, and the other west, the margin of victory was .377 seconds.

"I can't believe it," said Venturini. "We were so close. Outside of our rear brakes locking up all night, the car worked beautiful, but this one's hard to take. I'm so disappointed; I don't know what to say. I just don't feel very good right now."

In addition to his disappointment, Venturini, in the hospital the night before with a 102 temperature, battled the flu for three days beforehand. Still yet, Venturini's career-best finish was coupled with his career-first Old Milwaukee Pole earlier when the third-generation driver established a new one-lap track record for the .4-mile speedway.

Andy Belmont, in his own Verizon Ford, hustled from the 13th starting position to finish third in front of Tom Eriksen, who steered the CamAir-Aermotor Pumps Chevrolet to the finish in fourth, a career-best for the Hesston, Pennsylvania driver. Shelby Howard, in the Mack Trucks-Beck Dodge, battled back from a couple of fender-benders and spins to finish fifth.

At the onset, Kimmel, who started third, got a nose inside of Venturini headed into turn one and led the way over 17-year-old David Ragan, Venturini, Howard and Randy VanZant. That's the way they stayed until Ragan, making his career-first RE/MAX Series start from the outside pole, put the move on Kimmel for the lead on lap 49. However, Ragan's lead was short-lived compliments of Kimmel who took it back the very next lap.

Then Venturini served up notice that he too wanted to lead and raced by both for the top-spot on lap 82. Ragan also got by Kimmel just before Howard began pressing Kimmel for third. Then Howard pressed a little too hard in turn one and nudged Kimmel causing him to spin. Then on the next restart, one of several during the slam-bang, caution-filled affair, Kimmel, now much deeper in the field, got a nudge from veteran Joe Cooksey and spun again in turn one. Kimmel, under a quickie caution, came down pit road and changed left-side tires and rejoined the field towards the tail-end. When racing resumed, and with the field spread out all the way around the track, Kimmel almost went a lap down as Venturini and the troops began bearing down on him. However, another caution, one of 16 to choose from, soon appeared allowing Kimmel to come back down pit road to change right-side tires.

Back under way, Kimmel put on a show all his own coming through the pack while Venturini, with 14 lead-lap machines tight behind, fought off continual challenges from Ragan as both worked lapped traffic. While Venturini, who never pitted, continued to thread short-track needles, Kimmel, on fresher tires, mounted his charge. By lap 170, Kimmel was running third and looking for the leaders. With less than ten laps remaining, Kimmel passed Ragan for second and tracked down Venturini. Kimmel finally got within striking distance of the leader as the white flag was unfurled. With the crowd standing, some jumping, Kimmel drove to the outside of Venturini off turn two. Then as they approached turn three, Kimmel changed his line and swung down inside of Venturini. With Kimmel inside headed through turn four, Venturini, on the same set of tires he started the race with, mashed the gas sending his car into a long, slow slide behind Kimmel who, triumphantly, raced underneath the checkered flag.

Jarrett battled back from being spun earlier in the race to finish sixth in the Biomet-Damon Motor Coach Pontiac with Bobby Gerhart, who also battled back from a spin, trailing in seventh in the Core Mechanical-Shetler Molding Chevrolet. Eversole, in the Think Pink Energy Drink Chevrolet, finished eighth in front of Todd Bowsher, who raced his GFS Marketplace Ford from 18th to ninth in the finishing order. Christi Passmore, in the GAP Roofing-Royal Trading Ford, finished tenth earning the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions after starting 23rd. VanZant and Ragan faded to 11th and 12th respectively.

Kimmel's crew won the Gladiator of the Race honors for their impressive service on pit road while Venturini was awarded the Landrum Spring Hard Luck honors.

The next action for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be a double-header at Pocono Raceway with the ARCA Giant 200 on Friday, July 25 followed tight behind by the Pennsylvania 200 on Saturday, July 26. Both events will be televised on SPEED Channel.


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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Frank Kimmel , Andy Belmont , Bobby Gerhart , Shelby Howard , Billy Venturini , Todd Bowsher , David Ragan