Champ Kimmel Going for 10 Grand at Toledo TOLEDO OH (10-9-08) -- It was May 22nd, 1994 at Toledo Speedway when and where a young, strappin' buck by the name of Frank Kimmel, in an Oldsmobile believe it or not, held off Dave Weltmeyer to earn...
Champ Kimmel Going for 10 Grand at Toledo
TOLEDO OH (10-9-08) -- It was May 22nd, 1994 at Toledo Speedway when and where a young, strappin' buck by the name of Frank Kimmel, in an Oldsmobile believe it or not, held off Dave Weltmeyer to earn his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory.
It was a thrilling green-white-checker finish that brought the packed house to its feet. In the days before transponders, the official result sheet read, and still reads: Margin of Victory -- 4 feet.
Little could anyone predict at that time that Kimmel would one day earn nine national championships and 74 career victories in the world's most versatile stock car tour.
And guess what my fellow crime fighters, nine of those 74 wins happened at that renowned little half-mile oval on Benore Road in Toledo, Ohio. No driver, after 63 events at Toledo since 1963, has more wins at Toledo than Kimmel.
And if he manages to lead 131 laps this Sunday, it will bring his career total to an incredible 10,000 laps-led in 183 races.
"Wow," said Kimmel. "Hopefully, it'll be the last 131 laps (of the race)."
Toledo Speedway's six hours away from his southern Indiana shop, but it certainly must feel like home for Kimmel.
"Toledo's like a second home to me," said Kimmel. "It's where I won my first ARCA race. It'll always be special to me for that reason alone; but the wins there just seem to get better and better."
Despite Kimmel's nine Toledo triumphs, which include four consecutive 2000 through 2003, the Clarksville, Indiana stock car legend hasn't won there in three years.
Now enter 'The Don'. The who? The Don. It's the car Kimmel named The Don, and it's already a proven winner. In fact, if you take away the race at Nashville Superspeedway where Kimmel, recovering from injuries, gave up the seat to his nephew Will Kimmel during the first caution, The Don, with the 'The Frank' aboard, is three for three in the win column. And they weren't exactly nail-biters like that first ARCA win at Toledo in '94. They were more like Kimmel making the 'boys and girls' of the ARCA RE/MAX Series look like ........ well ....... boys and girls.
It started on the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile-dirt in Springfield where Kimmel, who won the pole with a new track record, drove away from everyone leading 83 of 102 laps. Next week at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds mile-dirt -- same thing, only worse, or better, depending on your point of view -- where Kimmel and The Don led a whopping 96 of 102 laps en route to victory lane.
Next stop for Kimmel and The Don -- Salem Speedway where he snapped a four-year Salem winless streak with a victory in the Eddie Gilstrap Motors 200. In the end, Kimmel drove away from Matt Carter's 46 car, the same car that carried Kimmel to his nine national titles.
"That one (Salem) was pretty emotional. It had been more than four years since we won there, and to do it at our home track meant more than I can say. It was also my dad's birthday; he turned 80 that day. It could not have played out any better for the Kimmel Racing team."
Kimmel's most recent triumphs were also his first under the Kimmel Racing banner, the team he, along with his brother and crew chief Bill Kimmel, formed at the end of the 2007 season.
"And that was a big deal for us. The wins were my first as a car owner, and it was great to finally get that gorilla off our back.
"The Don's been really good to us. We seemed to hit on something with it, and it's working for us. It may have something to do with the softer set-ups everyone's using these days; but whatever it is, that car's working."
So on the heels of three consecutive wins, Kimmel will head to Toledo this weekend for the Hantz Group 200 presented by Belle Tire and Federated Car Care. The Don's already en route.
With 46 first-class entries signed up for season finale, the list of potential winners is tall and mighty.
But no matter who you'll be cheering for, they'll all have to contend with Kimmel, especially when you're talking Toledo where he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.
In 26 Toledo starts since 1990, Kimmel's won just over one-third of all the races he's entered there, which is unprecedented, without even saying so. And there was that time in 2006 when Kimmel dominated with 182 of 200 laps-led and didn't win.
"Yah, we gave that one away; that was our fault. We pitted late for tires, gave up the lead, and just didn't have time to come back. Still kicking myself for that one."
Through it all, 'The Champ's' led 1,112 laps in 15 races at Toledo. Among his 26 starts at Toledo are 19 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s -- pretty solid stat stuff.
"I absolutely love Toledo Speedway. The ARCA RE/MAX Series belongs on these half-mile tracks, the Salem's, the Toledo's, the Winchester's. I'm not saying we don't have a place on the superspeedways, but the short-tracks are where the series roots are, where it built much of its character and identity."
Currently 145 points away from championship leader Scott Speed, Kimmel still has a mathematical shot at an unprecedented 10th championship; but he also knows the odds are long.
"We've pretty much conceded the championship. I mean, it would take a lot of bad luck on the three guys ahead of us to get there, and we won't wish for that. We'll just go in focused on our team, run as hard as we can no matter what the points are. We'll race hard, do our best to stay up front and out of trouble.
"Toledo is really a racy little track; you can run side by side and mistakes aren't as costly as they might be at a Salem or a Winchester. You can recover from a bad corner and come back a little easier. It's definitely one of my favorite tracks.
"The race strategies at Toledo have changed quite a bit over the last half-dozen years or so. There was a time when you could pit pretty late, bolt new tires on and come back and win the thing.
"But nowadays, there are so many cars on the lead lap at the end that you have to rethink when you can pit, and how late you can pit. New tires work better, but not enough to get you from the middle of the pack to the front in time. The competition is just too strong for that anymore."
The ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series will join the festivities with the K-100 presented by Champion Credit Union 50 lap feature event Saturday, October 11th, the same day the ARCA RE/MAX Series cars practice and set the starting field in SIM Factory Pole Qualifying. The Hantz Group 200 by Belle Tire and Federated Car Care is LIVE on SPEED at 2:00 pm ET.