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Kimmel Comes 'Home' To Salem A Leader
Posted by: newsla on Apr 25, 2013 - 06:19 PM
NASCAR News
Kimmel Comes 'Home' To Salem A Leader


The Salem Speedway, site of Sunday's third round of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 presented by Crosley Radio, means something special to nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel -- who's won at the legendary southeastern Indiana short track a record nine times.

 

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"It's our home track, so we're feeling good that we're staying home and in our own bed every night," said Kimmel, a Clarksville, Ind., native. "But more than that we really enjoy that racetrack and feel like we really have a hometown advantage, for sure."

But to the fans that no doubt will pack the venerable .555-mile oval with its daunting 33-degree banked turns, Kimmel -- who once won five consecutive ARCA races at the track, between September 2000 and September 2002 -- knows it means something else.

"It doesn't get any tougher, or any rougher or any harder than Salem Speedway," Kimmel said, with a truly affectionate grin spreading across his face. "It's a great old racetrack with a tremendous amount of history and we've had great success there over the years. So obviously we really enjoy going back there."

Kimmel's being typically low-key when he describes his accomplishments at Salem, which is hallowed ground for both stock-car and open-wheel racers. In the 30 ARCA races at Salem since Kimmel's first win there, in spring 1998, only fellow Indianan Shelby Howard, who swept Salem in 2003 and former ARCA Series champion Justin Allgaier have won more than once.

Kimmel, who isn't renowned as a qualifier, holds the Salem ARCA record for pole positions with eight in the same 30-race stretch. Three drivers, former series champion Chris Buescher and former ARCA Rookies of the Year Brian Ross and Bill Baird, have two apiece in that time.

Race drivers -- like Kimmel's ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton praising Rockingham Speedway for its tire-grinding pavement -- historically crave a track with "character..." And even though that definition isn't easy to pin down, Kimmel says Salem, with its 60-year racing legacy, definitely has "it."

"Salem surpasses character," Kimmel said, chuckling. "There's not a lot you can say about Salem that hasn't already been said, because it's an amazing old racetrack. It's rough and it's tough and it's unique because you're running right at the very top of the racetrack.

"There are a lot of things about Salem that makes it a very special place, and the fans we have there are certainly near the top of that list."

Kimmel and crew chief Jeriod Prince had two decent qualifying performances last year at Salem, 11th and seventh. In the spring, Kimmel finished second to 2012 ARCA Rookie of the Year Alex Bowman and in September Kimmel was fourth. Kimmel finished on the lead lap, but led a lap in neither.

Kimmel already has one short track victory with Prince, in 2012 on the flat Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Nothing could be further from Salem's precipitous high-banked corners, and after one short-track race this season, on the high-banked Mobile International Speedway, Kimmel and Prince know where they need to go.

"Our car at Mobile wasn't very good and I think both Jeriod and I know that," Kimmel said. "We've already discussed it, a lot, trying to figure out what we need to do to get it back to where it was about mid-season last year, when we were really good racing on the short tracks (winning at LOR and on the Springfield dirt mile).

"So we've just got to go to work and check over our notes and try to make our car run good, longer. It's fast, but we've got to make it run (fast) longer."

Kimmel was fifth at Mobile and that result, along with his fourth-place finish in the Daytona season-opener, puts him in a tie for the series' championship lead with Tennessee youngster Mason Mingus, the Mobile pole winner.

Kimmel and Mingus lead the 30-car Salem entry list, the least number of cars Kimmel will have to deal with in the last three Salem ARCA events. Besides Kimmel, last fall's winner Tom Hessert Jr. is the only former winner entered, but there are a number of "young guns," including Kyle Benjamin, Daytona winner John Wes Townley and Mobile winner Grant Enfinger, that are on Kimmel's radar.

"I think it's going to be a real good season," Kimmel said. "I think there's a lot of good, young racers out there. I'm hearing a rumor that Grant Enfinger is working on a deal to run the whole season so he'd be tough, and Mason's done a real nice job.

"Whoever's driving the 15 (Benjamin) and the 25 (Justin Boston) for the Venturinis is gonna be fast so every week that we go to the track we're probably gonna have a slightly different list of characters but there's a few that are going to run the whole year and those kids are gonna make it tough on us.

"We're gonna have to go out and perform -- but I really feel like if we go out and do what we're supposed to do and what we're capable of they're gonna have a hard time with us."

Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon and will be online at ARCARacing.com. On Sunday an ARCA driver autograph session from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. will precede the main event. The season's third race is scheduled to get the green flag at 2:15 p.m.


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