Despite Struggles, Kimmel Coming on Strong Headed to Berlin; Not Giving up on Championship MARNE MI (7-10-08) -- Nine-time and defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel is the series' all-time superspeedway lap-leader. But that...
Despite Struggles, Kimmel Coming on Strong Headed to Berlin; Not Giving up on Championship
MARNE MI (7-10-08) -- Nine-time and defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel is the series' all-time superspeedway lap-leader. But that doesn't mean that Kimmel doesn't feel right at home on short-tracks, especially at Berlin Raceway, the shortest track on the series schedule where, in 9 starts, he's won three times and only finished out of the top-five once.
"Berlin's been really good to me," said Kimmel. "We've had a lot of success there. It's such a fun little racetrack. It reminds me a lot of Louisville where Bill (Frank's brother/crew chief) and I used to race so much. It's got a goofy little shape. But it's these little short-tracks on our schedule that are so much fun. Like when we raced at Cayuga -- it was really rough without a lot of grip -- but that's the sort of thing that makes it so much fun.
"Berlin's just a blast. The car's gotta be good, but you still have to get behind the wheel and drive the thing. You have to work hard every lap. Berlin's very challenging, but it's so much fun too."
It's no wonder that Kimmel thinks Berlin's 'a blast'. The only time he's failed to finish out of the top-five at the renowned Michigan short-track was in 2007, when he still finished seventh.
However, Kimmel's last victory at Berlin was in 2004. And if you're keeping track in 2008, it's already been well documented that Kimmel, after starting his own team this year, is in the struggle/survival mode.
"We're not getting any big sponsors right now, but we're getting help here and there from some very good friends. Jim Coyle (Riverside Auto Parts) has been a great friend of the family over the years, and he's helped a bunch. Arne (Henriksen) with ECC; I can't believe how much he's stepped up for us. Overall, we've been very fortunate. We're racing smart and not tearing anything up; and that helps too.
"Our biggest problem is help. We don't have any paid employees. We've got one boy that works for Bill (Frank's brother/crew chief), but he's strictly volunteer, and comes to work when he's able. On the up side, our equipment's getting better and better. We just got another Roush car in and we've got a used hauler to work with now so we don't have to wear out Bill's single car hauler. I went out and licensed it (the hauler) yesterday, which was a new experience -- I had never done anything like that before."
In fact, Kimmel finds himself doing a lot of extra things he hasn't had to do before.
"We're in the struggle mode, but we also believe we're in a situation that could turn around quickly. Bill and I are out looking for sponsors during the day and working on cars at night -- whatever it takes to get the job done. But the ownership role and the marketing end of things is certainly all new to me. It's been very challenging."
Challenging could be considered an understatement. In the big time world of motorsports where semi haulers move equipment around, the new Kimmel Racing team has been moving its stuff around in a single-car hauler. That means that the ARCA icon has been without a back-up machine everywhere he's gone. At most tracks, his team of eight or nine volunteers cram inside his camper for the night. Not exactly a lifestyle representative of a nine-time national champion, but that's been Kimmel's reality in 2008.
"We're just so dang excited to be working out of a hauler now. We're not even ready to take a back-up car to the track yet, but we're getting closer. Once we get our back-up cars up to speed, we should be ready to take two cars everywhere, but at the moment, we're taking just one."
Despite Kimmel's newly-found struggles, he's still fourth in points, and still very much within reach of point leader Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
"We're halfway through the season. We're still in contact with Ricky and the guys running up front. We're not conceding that's for sure. And, we're going to Kentucky next, which is a good thing. In fact, if you look at the races we've got coming up on the schedule, we have traditionally done very well at these tracks. This has always been the part of the season where we seem to come on strong."
Unlike series powerhouses' Eddie Sharp Racing, Cunningham Motorsports, Clement Racing, RAB Racing and Roush Fenway Racing, Kimmel has only participated in one open test last week at Kentucky Speedway.
"Our inability to test this year has no doubt hurt our performance. But if we keep on the same track we're on, we hope to be able to start testing a little more. We're not real concerned about Berlin. We've got a great short-track car, and we've got some really good notes on Berlin, so we expect to be very strong there, regardless of our current situation."
In addition to Kimmel's current situation, he also knows the competition level in the ARCA RE/MAX Series is continually on the rise.
"Ricky (Stenhouse, Jr.) runs good everywhere, Scott Speed, Matt (Carter) will be good and Justin (Allgaier). If you look back this year, Justin's had the fastest car at several of the tracks this year. I think Tom Hessert's been very impressive too in the 1 car. He's been very competitive. He seems like a nice young man. It's just nice to see this series with so much depth to it."
Although the 71-time series winner has not been to victory lane yet in 2008, he's certainly headed in the right direction. The Clarksville, Indiana second-generation racer, in his last two outings, finished third at Michigan and second on the Cayuga short-track.
"I really like the direction our team is headed. I really like the fact that we're going to Berlin soon. It's the kind of track where this series belongs."
Practice for the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Berlin is scheduled from 2:30 -- 4:00 PM ET Saturday, July 26th with SIM Factory Pole Qualifying following at 5:00. The Berlin ARCA 200 is scheduled to go off at 8:30 Saturday night.
Catch all the Berlin ARCA RE/MAX Series action at arcaracing.com offering LIVE Timing & Scoring of all on-track activities as well as LIVE flag-to-flag streaming audio coverage of the race through the ARCA Racing Network exclusively on arcanation.com presented by Team Glock.
Tickets for the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Berlin Raceway are available by contacting the Berlin Raceway Ticket Office at 616-677-5000, or through www.berlinraceway.com.