ARCA Wrap-Up From DuQuoin The only thing that you could say about Frank Kimmel's performance during the 52nd Federated Car Care-Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds is "WOW", or perhaps "dominating". The Clarksville, ...
ARCA Wrap-Up From DuQuoin
The only thing that you could say about Frank Kimmel's performance during the 52nd Federated Car Care-Southern Illinois 100 at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds is "WOW", or perhaps "dominating". The Clarksville, Indiana native looked as if he had a rocket in the trunk of the Advance Auto-Pork Ford Taurus on Monday, leading sixty-six laps enroute to his third Southern Illinois 100 win before a large crowd. The win is Kimmel's seventh in the last ten ARCA dirt track events dating back to 2000, and puts him just 1 shy of the late Dean Roper's record nine ARCA dirt track wins. Should the 2005 schedule hold true to form, Kimmel could tie Roper's record at Springfield next August, and possibly break that record at DuQuoin next September.
Kimmel had quite a weekend over Labor Day, he won the Toledo race on Friday night, then took the Southern Illinois 100 as well. Statistically, Frank becomes the third driver with at least three ARCA sanctioned victories at DuQuoin, and the seventh driver with three or more Southern Illinois 100 trophies to his credit. The victory was the fifth for car number 46 and the fifth for owner Larry Clement. Kimmel's victory was the ninth for a Ford product in the 54 stock car races run at the DuQuoin "Magic Mile".
Kimmel now moves to third on the ARCA lap leader list at DuQuoin with 296, and fifth overall in stock car events held at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. Billy Thomas is the all-time and ARCA lap leader at DuQuoin with 438 miles in the front slot.
Sunday marked the first time in 54 years and 54 races that a 100-mile stock car event at DuQuoin failed to go the 100-mile distance due to weather. A heavy downpour during a caution drew the red and the checkered flags from Hank Wetzel Monday at the 93-mile mark, giving Kimmel the rain shortened win. Last year's event was stopped after the 100-mile distance had been exceeded, in part due to rain but also in part due to Jerry Nemire's serious guard rail impact entering turn one.
The downpour Monday was so heavy that the track resembled a muddy river and it was amazing the cars were able to make it back to the pit area. Even more amazing is the fact that just north of DuQuoin, no rain had fallen and it was dry just a few miles south of town as well!
Kentucky's Bill Baird really has shaken off the retirement rust in a big way, winning Springfield and running second to Kimmel Monday. Baird was closing on the leader when the caution came out for Josh Allison's stall on lap 88, and then the rains came 5 laps later. Baird had his car hauled in again on the back of a flatbed, with very little in the way of equipment. Kimmel's crew assisted Baird once again in a great display of sportsmanship.
Poor Ken Schrader cannot break the DuQuoin "jinx", even though it's one of his favorite places. Kenny made his USAC Stock Car debut at DuQuoin in 1979, and while he has posted wins at Springfield and the Indiana State Fairgrounds, he has yet to win at DuQuoin. Winning the pole and the absence of defending race winner Tony Stewart seemed to enhance Schrader's chances, but he had virtually nothing for the Ford of Kimmel, and late in the race contact with another car flattened one of the tires, forcing a pit stop. He was 8th when the rains came.
A great run for rookie T.J. Bell, who fell in love with the mile dirt tracks at Springfield. Bell could hardly wait for DuQuoin, started 6th, was pressuring Schrader early and by lap 15 had the lead. Bell was third when the rain fell. A good weekend, but not so great a day for fellow rookie A.J. Fike, one of the Illinois drivers who had the attention of the partisan crowd. Fike qualified on the outside of the front row, and ran up front until plagued by what appeared to be vehicle damage and overheating. He ran several laps without the front bumper and grille, and had a flat right front toward the end. Fike was busy all weekend, becoming the first driver since Tom Bigelow in 1989 to run the USAC and ARCA races on Labor Day weekend at DuQuoin, and the first driver since Larry Cannon in 1971 to run three different events at DuQuoin Labor Day weekend. Fike finished eleventh in the USAC Silver Crown race Sunday night, ninth in the UMP Modified event Monday and then seventeenth in the ARCA RE/MAX race Monday.
Fellow Illinois driver Justin Allgaier of Springfield had a better ARCA weekend than Fike, Justin led part of the Toledo race and finished second to Kimmel, then ran a fine fourth Monday. However, his DuQuoin "double" attempt went awry Sunday night when his Silver Crown car expired while running in a transfer slot in the semi. Centralia's Joe Cooksey, the favorite son of the partisan Southern Illinois crowd was spectacular in practice, running completely sideways much of the time. However, he could only muster 15th in qualifying and ended up 9th, a lap down.
Seventy one year old Red Farmer was also a crowd favorite, but didn't have the success at DuQuoin that he had in 2002, or at Springfield for that matter. Red started 19th, and was 10th at the end. His crew obviously had lots of fun with the veteran, painting a handicapped symbol on his mud screen!
Jason Jarrett, son of NASCAR champ Dale Jarrett and grandson of NASCAR champ Ned Jarrett qualified a strong 7th, but struggled with overheating and ended the day 2 laps in arrears. Mark Gibson, despite a spin in turn two, finished a strong fifth at his favorite venue. Young Josh Allison qualified 24th, got into the top ten then smacked the wall not once, but twice coming off of turn two, both of which seemed to contribute to his exit. Brent Sherman, second in the points started 4th and fell back to 18th, one lap in arrears.
A tip of the hat to the ARCA drivers Monday, as much more emphasis seemed to be placed in running the race under the green flag. There were ten cautions, but for only 39 circuits and there was extended green flag running. Many of the cautions were for harmless, single car spins and there was really very little wall contact. Christi Passmore did tag the turn two wall after a spin during the 100-miler, and Mike Haggenbottom shortened an Andy Belmont Ford in qualifications. Belmont sported a new bright yellow paint scheme on the number one Ford, but it overheated after 22 laps.
A nice debut for Springfield, Illinois' Kelly Kovski who made his first ARCA start Monday. The modified ace qualified 25th and used a lot of common sense to end up 15th. A great display of that sense was found just past halfway, when several faster cars passed him in turns three and four. While it was three and sometimes four wide, Kovski held his line and let the faster cars go through.
Returns to the dirt were only so-so for two other drivers, former Springfield pole sitter Damon Lusk lost a rocker arm after 58 laps, while former ARCA champ Bobby Bowsher, son of former DuQuoin winner Jack Bowsher, started and finished 20th.
Norm Benning turned in another strong dirt performance, going from 13th to 7th and part-time driver Randy VanZant went from 12th to 6th.
The companion modified event was taken by Brian Shaw.
For the first time, the race teams were asked to move the big rigs to the back pit area, outside the infield. This action was met with many positive comments during and after the race by the large crowd in attendance, as many commented for the first time in several years, they could actually see the entire race track.
One improvement was in place this year, a paved pit lane for the ARCA cars. The new pavement seemed to make it much easier to get in and out of pit road, and was much safer for the crews and teams.
Next up for the ARCA RE/MAX stock cars is a race just 250 miles from DuQuoin, at the 1.5-mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway. Kimmel has virtually locked up his sixth ARCA crown with just three races remaining.