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Jun 24, 2013 - 04:54 PM
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Kimmel Records Top-10 At Road America
Posted by: newsla on Jun 24, 2013 - 04:50 PM
NASCAR News
Kimmel Records Top-10 At Road America


A late caution in the inaugural SCOTT 160 for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards put Frank Kimmel in the unusual position of being trapped at the tail end of the lead lap -- and in front of the leaders -- for a restart Saturday at Road America with only three laps left.

 

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But Kimmel, who was only racing in his 11th road course event in 456 career ARCA starts, pulled away from leader Andrew Ranger at the green flag, then avoided a last-lap tangle between Ranger and Chase Elliott, to finish seventh, his ninth consecutive top-10 finish this season with his No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota, as the first car one lap down.

"We had a perfect car, it doesn't have a scratch on it and we really have something to build upon, for New Jersey," Kimmel said of the series' next road race, at the end of July. "We can take that same racecar over there and be a heckuva lot better than we were, here, and I'm really looking forward to that."

Kimmel, who took advantage of some private lessons Thursday from road-course master Max Papis -- including a one-on-one session breaking-down the course one corner at a time, a couple laps with Papis in a pace car and a short run by Papis in Kimmel's primary ThorSport Racing Toyota Camry to check its setup -- to post a steady three-day outing.

Kimmel improved seven seconds from his initial Thursday open practice session to his final practice, after he worked with Papis. Kimmel's aggressive approach resulted in a missed shift and an engine over-rev in Friday's only practice.

Kimmel's ThorSport crew put in a back-up engine and the transmission from its back-up car on Friday evening, and finished the installation Saturday morning before qualifying.

"That was the best thing we could do, to avoid any uncertainty about it," Kimmel said of the decision, which the entire crew agreed upon. "This championship battle is pretty intense and we have to eliminate any possible chance of a failure."

Kimmel, who was sixth-quickest in practice, lined-up 12th for the start, after using his fast-group qualifying session to break-in his new driveline components.

In the race, Kimmel quickly moved up into the top seven positions and executed a solid pit strategy that would have kept him on the lead lap, until a late caution flew for a collision between Elliott and visiting NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Austin Dillon, who used the ARCA race for practice for the Johnsonville 200 Nationwide race.

"At that point all the cars around us were on new tires and we were holding our own on the older tires we'd put on about eight-10 laps before," Kimmel said. "So I think there are some good things down the road on our road course stuff.

"I really enjoyed it, we improved all weekend and the guys really worked their butts off to get everything done that they did. To put a motor in, run two laps in qualifying and then to run 40 laps as hard as we do around this place -- and the car never missed a beat, with great brakes all day."

Kimmel, who would've cycled back onto the lead lap if the race hadn't been interrupted by its only caution flag, was trapped behind the pace car since ARCA doesn't do wave-arounds to get the leader back to the front of the field for a restart. Kimmel had a strategy worked out with the polesitter Ranger's team, but Kimmel made a perfect restart.

"We had already made a deal with the Ranger kid that I was going to pull over to the right if need be, and let him go," Kimmel said. "But he really didn't make a good restart. Then, he was out-driving me into (Turn) 1, so I moved over to the inside and it worked out just fine.

"I fell into about third or fourth in line with the leaders, and I stayed ahead of the people I had to stay ahead of. Unfortunately, we weren't racing for the lead right there, even though that's what it looked like."

On the final restart Kimmel's chief championship rival Mason Mingus was one spot behind Kimmel in the running order -- though they were separated by six cars -- but on the final run Mingus lost three spots and finally finished 10th.

That kept him on a par with Kimmel as the only two series competitors to have nine top-10 finishes this season, but Kimmel further opened-up the 100-point advantage he carried to Wisconsin.

The finish was the 19th consecutive top-10 Kimmel's scored in his two seasons with ThorSport, stretching back to last season's New Jersey Motorsports Park road race.

"To run as well as we can each and every week is our goal," Kimmel said. "To come to this racetrack, where our series has never run -- I'd never seen it before the open test on Thursday -- I frankly was a little bit lost.

"But Max, who's been a great friend of mine since we ran the IROC (International Race of Champions) Series in 2007, was a huge help. Having to change an engine cost us a little track time but to come out of here with a top-10 was our goal and honestly we felt like we could've had a top-five if it wasn't for that late caution. If that caution hadn't come out it would've been interesting to see how it all worked out."

Before the caution flew in the middle of the green-flag pit cycle, Kimmel had raced into the top-five.

The series now gets back onto Kimmel's familiar ground with a short-track race next Sunday at the Winchester (Ind.) Speedway, where Kimmel has five of his 78 career victories and two pole positions.

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