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May 06, 2013 - 05:39 PM
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Kimmel's 2nd Talladega Win Opens ARCA Lead
Posted by: newsla on May 06, 2013 - 05:39 PM
Kimmel's 2nd Talladega Win Opens ARCA Lead

Frank Kimmel improved ThorSport Racing's overall 2013 winning percentage to a stunning 50 percent with his victory Friday in the rain-shortened International Motorsports Hall of Fame 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.


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Kimmel's win in the No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota was his second career victory at the 2.66-mile oval and his 77th career win in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. That brings him to within two wins of the mark of ARCA's all-time career victories leader, Iggy Katona, who had 79 wins in his career that spanned 1953-1977.

"That's a big deal to me," Kimmel said about the win record. "I've never been a big stat guy, but Iggy was a hero of mine. He raced with my dad (Bill Kimmel)."

With his third victory for ThorSport in his second season with the team based in Sandusky, Ohio, Kimmel scored his fourth consecutive top-10 finish this season in as many races and extended his points lead over SCOTTS Rookie Challenge leader Mason Mingus, who finished second Friday, to 40 points.

Even better yet, Kimmel became the third ThorSport driver to enjoy Victory Lane this season. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ThorSport has won three of the season's four races: two by second-place point man Johnny Sauter and the most recent race, at Kansas Speedway, by championship leader Matt Crafton.

"It's great to be back in Victory Lane," said Kimmel, who last won in August 2012 at Springfield, Ill., and who celebrated his 51st birthday three days before the race, on April 30. "The last time I won here at Talladega (in fall 2006), it was shortened by darkness.

"The car ran great (Friday). I was drafting there with John Wes Townley early and worked our way to the front. I've always said you win here with your crew more than anywhere you go."

Townley was forced to start at the rear when his pole speed was disallowed, but he and Kimmel came to the front quickly. Kimmel took over second, behind leader Grant Enfinger, at lap 20.

Kimmel's crew gave him a quick, fuel-only pit stop under the race's second caution, at lap 26 and with rain threatening planned for that to be their only stop.

"That's exactly right -- we only had to make the one stop but the guys performed like they always do," Kimmel said. "This is definitely a team sport and the way the cars are prepped is just outstanding. These guys work their butts off back at the shop, preparing our cars and Todd Bodine's trucks, and that's what makes this speedway car fast, is a lot of hard work. They did a good job."

Kimmel restarted the race third behind two cars that didn't pit and was second when the third caution immediately flew, at lap 34, for a big accident triggered by Kimmel's Salem nemesis, Milka Duno. That eliminated a number of his chief contenders -- including Enfinger and third-place point man Tom Hessert, who won at Salem.

Kimmel passed Josh Williams for the lead at lap 43, four laps before the scheduled halfway point and was able to easily hold it on three subsequent restarts.

When rain began falling, causing the race to go under its seventh and final caution at lap 72, Kimmel eventually brought the field to pit road with 21 laps remaining of the scheduled 94. A short time later, the celebration in an impromptu Victory Lane, in one of the end units in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage, was on.

Kimmel finished fourth in the same Camry to start the season at Daytona, but was never able to get himself into position to challenge for the win. At Talladega, after the big crash, Kimmel was able to handle everyone who was left.

That included a move on a restart with 31 laps left of the original distance, when the veteran Kimmel could sense a group of his competitors trying to gang up on him to draft past him and into the lead.

"Those guys were piling-up, and I knew they were going to try to do that," Kimmel said. "They had got a good run going on the outside and I saw Mason (Mingus) in the 32 go high, and I just tried to stay in front of him.

"I lost a race a few years ago when I didn't stay in front of a guy that I should've. You better learn from your mistakes, and Mason did a nice job -- just like he did at Daytona -- and he didn't run all over me. But I plugged them all up, just ruined their momentum and slowed them down, and that's the trick here, is momentum.

"If the guys can team up on you, they're gonna pass you, so it worked out good for us."

It certainly did for Kimmel, who scored his 16th top-10 finish in his last 21 superspeedway races at either Daytona or Talladega.

The fact that the team's next race is at ARCA's home track, the half-mile Toledo (Ohio) Speedway on Sunday, May 19, only makes Kimmel smile even wider -- actually akin to the grin that was on Kimmel's face when he opened his weekend on Wednesday night by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the AA Southern League's North Division leaders, the Birmingham Barons.

"Actually, every race I go to with this team, I'm excited because the cars are awesome," Kimmel said. "It was a good day for us (Friday), to come out of here -- a place where you're just never sure what's going to happen -- with a win and the car ran great, well, we'll just keep plugging."

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