Salem Loaded with Quality, Talent for 83rd Running of ARCA RE/MAX Series SALEM IN (3-28-08) -- A nine-time national champion, a Formula 1 veteran, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star, former Salem winners, a wave of new talent and much more are ...
Salem Loaded with Quality, Talent for 83rd Running of ARCA RE/MAX Series
SALEM IN (3-28-08) -- A nine-time national champion, a Formula 1 veteran, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star, former Salem winners, a wave of new talent and much more are preparing for the much-anticipated Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 by Federated Auto Parts Sunday afternoon, April 13th at Salem Speedway.
This year's version represents the 83rd running of the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Salem since 1955.
"The talent and the quality of cars we are expecting for Salem is unprecedented," said ARCA PR/Media director Don Radebaugh. "Needless to say, we are very excited for this race. The ARCA/Salem connection dates back to the mid-50s, and the tradition and excitement that goes with it continues to grow beyond our expectations."
Leading the parade of entrants is nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series national champion Frank Kimmel, whose 71 career victories include eight from Salem.
"It's been way too long since we've won a race at Salem," said Kimmel, who hails from nearby Clarksville, Indiana.
After winning eight races at Salem, including a string of five consecutive, Kimmel has not been to victory lane at Salem since the spring of 2004, exactly four years ago.
"It's our hometown track. We've got great fan support there and winning at Salem is high on our list. Trouble is, it's very hard to win at Salem. There are so many variables that can get in your way. If you don't get caught up in a wreck, and you've got four fenders left at the end of the race, you can go for the win; but that's getting harder and harder all the time. The competition coming for this race is going to be greater than it's ever been. But, we'll take a run at it.
"Salem will always be challenging," said Kimmel. "It's rough; that's all there is to it. And the amount of concentration it takes to stay with it all day long is what, I think, makes it so challenging."
Formula 1 veteran Scott Speed, who drives the Red Bull Toyota for Eddie Sharp Racing, will be making his career-first Salem appearance.
"I've heard a lot about that little Salem short-track," said Speed. "I've heard it's very demanding, radical, different and bumpy -- that it's a difficult track to master. I'll just do what I always do -- keep an open mind. I look forward to the challenge."
Speed's career-best Formula 1 finishes are 9th in the Monaco Grand Prix '07, 9th in the Australian Grand Prix '06, 10th in the Canadian Grand Prix '06 and 10th in the French Grand Prix '06.
Speed's ESR teammate Ken Butler III is also entered in the Aaron's Rent Toyota. The addition of Toyota Camry's to the entry list marks the first time the Toyota nameplate will appear in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition at Salem. ESR has also entered newcomer Justin Lofton of Westmorland, California.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran Ken Schrader will be making his 47th career series attempt at Salem.
Although the Fenton, Missouri native has 15 career ARCA RE/MAX Series victories over the years, only one of his wins came at Salem, and that was nearly 10 years ago in the fall of 1999.
"Anyone who thinks they can just drop in on an ARCA race and clean up, had better re-think that one," said Schrader. "It's flat tough to win over there, especially at Salem. We're going to have to miss qualifying on Saturday, so that won't help either."
Schrader will be competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 from Phoenix Int'l Raceway the day before. As a result, he'll miss SIM Factory Pole Award Qualifying Saturday at Salem, and start from the tail-end for the start of the race on Sunday.
"We had to do the same thing there last year. It took us all day to gain track position. We busted our tails all day and ended up fifth. There was a time when you could pick your way through an ARCA field, but not anymore. It's hard enough to stay on the lead lap at Salem, let alone win there.
"But we'll give it our best. We love the track, and we love the series. The competition is more intense than many people realize."
Salem's most recent winner Justin Allgaier is among the very few former Salem winners entered.
"We're off to a great start this year," said Allgaier, who finished second in the Daytona opener.
"We just need to keep things going at Salem. Easier said than done. We'd love to win back-to-back but we know that's going to be a huge challenge, obviously. I think Shelby Howard was the last guy to win back-to-back at Salem, but that's what we're shooting for. If we can dodge the wrecks and stay on the lead lap, I think we have as good of a shot as anyone to win."
There have been no repeat winners at Salem since Shelby Howard's consecutive triumphs in 2003.
Newcomer Matt Carter, son of longtime NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner/crew chief Travis Carter, is also entered.
"I had never seen the place (Salem) until last year when we went there with our Hooters Pro Cup team," said Carter. "We sat on the pole with a new track record and finished second in the race, so we felt pretty good about that.
"But I'm really looking forward to going back to Salem. It's one of the few tracks on the ARCA circuit that I have experience on; so I feel like we've got that advantage headed to Salem."
Carter will be driving the no. 46 Ford, occupied previously by Kimmel who won nine championships in the well-known Larry Clement-owned machine.
In addition to Carter, a wave of talented newcomers are expected including Roush Fenway Racing's development driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Stenhouse is a veteran of USAC Silver Crown, National Sprint Car and National Midget Series competition. In a car fielded by Tony Stewart Racing, Stenhouse won the USAC Silver Crown Series race on the Springfield Illinois mile-dirt in 2007 and finished second at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds a couple months later. In 26 USAC National Midget Series starts in 2007, he has earned five main event victories among 10 top-5s and 14 top-10s.
Dodge development-Cunningham Motorsports rookie Tayler Malsam is also entered. Malsam, from the state of Washington, is a veteran of winged outlaw sprint car racing on the west coast. Cunningham Motorsports will also be introducing newcomer Michael Phelps from Suwanee, Georgia.
Also entered is five-time Daytona winner Bobby Gerhart, Andy Belmont Racing's Tom Hessert III, former Salem polesitter Dexter Bean, rookie John Wes Townley, Phoenix, Arizona's Gabi DiCarlo, local Henryville, Indiana favorite Darrell Basham, Hixson Motorsports' Brandon Kelley and veterans' Patrick Sheltra, Dominick Casola, Mike Harmon, Norm Benning, Tim Mitchell, Brad Smith, James Hylton and many more.
Winners at Salem are in elite company. Past RE/MAX Series winners on the storied, historic oval include NASCAR Cup champion Bobby Allison, six-time ARCA national champ Iggy Katona, three-time series champs Jack Bowsher and Tim Steele, '52 Indy 500 winner Troy Ruttman and USAC stock car veteran/champion Don White. 27 RE/MAX Series races have been won from the pole at Salem.
This year's Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 by Federated Auto Parts is spread out over two days. Practice is scheduled from 12:30 to 2:00 PM local central time Saturday afternoon followed by SIM Factory Pole Award Qualifying at 3:30. The Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 by Federated Auto Parts starts at 2:15 Sunday afternoon, April 13th.