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Oct 07, 2013 - 07:05 AM
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Frank Kimmel Claims 10th ARCA Title With Record 80th Win
Posted by: newsla on Oct 07, 2013 - 07:03 AM
NASCAR News
Frank Kimmel Claims 10th ARCA Title With Record 80th Win


Frank Kimmel capped a legendary season for his No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota in spectacular fashion Friday night at Kansas Speedway.

 

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Kimmel won his record 80th career race in the Kansas Lottery 98.9 on a day in which he clinched his record-extending 10th ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship, the first championship in ThorSport Racing's 18-year history and the first stock car championships for sponsors Ansell and Menards.

"That's about as good as it gets, right there," Kimmel said as rain pelted down and lightning crackled outside an impromptu Victory Lane erected in two unused garage stalls. "All the circumstances fell in place, all the stars aligned and everything went the way it should go -- the way you want it to go.

"I can't thank everyone, enough. Duke and Rhonda Thorson (team owners), Ansell Gloves and Menards for sticking with me and really making this possible and Toyota and Triad (Racing Technologies, engine supplier) for all their support."

On a weekly basis, Kimmel had spoke of the threat posed by a stellar group of young challengers competing in ARCA this season. But Kimmel, who turned 51 earlier this season, posted the fastest lap of the race less than five laps from the checkered flag -- where he beat seven other former ARCA race winners that were in the field.

"That was out of necessity," Kimmel said of his repeated fastest laps, chuckling. "I think I heard the valve spring on the fourth cylinder in the left bank giving up near the end (laughing). I was hearing everything and anticipating anything that could go wrong. But this ThorSport crew had the car just perfect.

"The car ran really good at the end of the race and I know (the officials) cut it short and I think that was probably the right decision with the lightning all over the place and keeping our fans and all the competitors safe. But my car was running really good and I think we could've handled everyone at the end."

Due to ARCA's bonus programs Kimmel only had to enter the racetrack during Friday's only practice to put the 315-point lead he brought to Kansas out of reach of his pursuers. Kimmel did better than that as his ThorSport Racing Camry was the sixth-fastest car in practice.

Kimmel then posted the fourth-best lap in Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell. With the threatening weather forecast Kimmel, crew chief Jeriod Prince and car chief Rich Lushes formulated a strategy tailored to the conditions.

Prince brought Kimmel to pit road for just fuel on the race's first caution, at lap 18 of the scheduled 99 laps of the 1.5-mile speedway where Kimmel had won twice in his career, in 2002 and 2006, both championship seasons.

"To come to pit road early like that was the winning call," Kimmel said. "We had talked about pitting, if a caution fell around lap 20 and then staying out to the end because we knew Hoosier had a great tire. And in the end it worked out just perfectly."

Kimmel raced back into the top-five after his pit stop, taking the lead for the first time at lap 35, from where he held the top spot for what turned out to be the final 31 laps of the race.

He endured restarts after two of the race's four cautions in the process to win ThorSport's seventh race in the two years it's run an ARCA program for Kimmel.

When radar images showed a high probability of heavy rain and lightning with the possibility of tornadoes, for the safety of everyone at the track ARCA officials made the call to end the race at lap 65, 34 laps short of the scheduled distance.

That gave Kimmel his second victory this season in a rain-shortened race -- Kimmel won that way at Talladega in May -- but this one broke a tie at 79 career victories with ARCA legend Iggy Katona.

The victory was Kimmel's fourth this season for the ThorSport team based in Sandusky, Ohio, that's owned by the Thorsons, whose Menards-backed NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota driven by Matt Crafton also leads that series' standings.

"I'm proud of what Frank, Jeriod, Rich -- David Pepper the team manager -- and all the guys have accomplished," Duke Thorson said before leaving the track Friday night. "Winning a championship was a dream we had 18 years ago when ThorSport was created.

"A lot of people had a hand in making this happen and I know they're all going to work together to do whatever it takes to win the Truck Series championship."

As Crafton has done in the Truck Series, Kimmel's 2013 season was a model of consistency at a very high level. Kimmel's four wins this season were the most he's won since 2006, when he also went to Victory Lane four times on the way to his eighth title.

The Kansas result was Kimmel's 31st consecutive top-10 finish over his last two seasons with ThorSport. Kimmel established an ARCA modern-era record by posting a top-10 finish in all 21 races. In the process Kimmel ended up 365 points ahead of Tennessee teenager Mason Mingus.

Kimmel, who earlier this season claimed the Bill France Four Crown Award for accruing the most points at four distinctly different venues, Friday clinched the Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge Award for gaining the most points at ARCA's eight superspeedway races at Daytona, Talladega, Pocono (twice), Michigan, Chicagoland, Kentucky and Kansas.

His 2013 achievements put a cap on a career that's not yet over. In the 22 full seasons since Kimmel won the 1992 ARCA Racing Series' Rookie of the Year Award, he's only finished outside the top-five in points once -- eighth in 1996 -- and he's either won or been second 15 times. He's finished in the top-five in 55% (260) of all his 468 career starts and in the top-10 in 76% of them (354).

Kimmel also earned the S&S Volvo Laps Completed Award, completing all but three laps raced in the season's 21 races and in the process gained the lap leader award by leading at least a lap in 13 races, which equaled his races-led total in 2006. Kimmel led 483 laps this season, the most he's led in a season since 2005.

With Kimmel's victory Toyota won the series' manufacturers' championship, Prince secured the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year Award and the team's Triad engine tuner Bryan Griffin won the Engine Mechanic of the Year Award.

Kimmel's wife, Donna, daughter, Holly and son Frank II were all in Kansas to share in the moment.

"Still at a loss for words about how much (Friday) night meant to my family and I," Kimmel said on Saturday via his @FrankKimmel Twitter account. "Thank you to Ansell, Menards and all of ThorSport Racing."

Crafton actually flew to Kansas for the weekend to support his teammate. It was significant that a couple NASCAR champions also offered their congratulations to Kimmel via social media shortly after Kimmel's big victory.

"What a historic night for @FrankKimmel," five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson posted on his @JimmieJohnson Twitter account shortly after the checkers flew. "Now the winningest @ARCA_Racing driver with 80 wins and his 10th championship. #Stud #Congrats."

A short time later defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, whose father Bob Keselowski is a former ARCA champion who raced against Kimmel at the beginning of the 2013 champion's career, also weighed-in via his @Keselowski Twitter account.

"Congrats bro! You da man 'big kid,'" Keselowski posted. ";@FrankKimmel: Number 80! Wow."

Kimmel will be honored for his historic achievement at the 61st ARCA Racing Series awards banquet on Dec. 14 in Indianapolis, Ind., which the public can attend.

"It's just been a phenomenal year," Kimmel said. "This championship really means a lot to me because, for me to come back after four or five years of not winning, or really being competitive and to win a couple races last year and then four more this year -- like I said, I really have to thank Duke and Rhonda and Ansell and Menards for still believing in me, and my guys for never giving up."


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