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Kimmel, Thorsport Feted For 'Season For The Ages'
Posted by: newsla on Dec 16, 2013 - 02:42 PM
Kimmel, Thorsport Feted For 'Season For The Ages'

The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Saturday night honored 10-time champion Frank Kimmel and the ThorSport Racing team that delivered the Indiana veteran's career-capping season in 2013.


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The celebration will continue Monday from 4-7 p.m. with a public open house at the 100,000-square-foot ThorSport shop in Sandusky, Ohio.

Kimmel, with the ARCA drivers' and owners' championship trophies and several of his No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyotas, will appear for three hours of autographs and pictures with fans with his two ThorSport teammates: 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers' champion Matt Crafton and three-time 2013 race winner Johnny Sauter as well as two-time USAC champion Tracy Hines, who drove a ThorSport Toyota Tundra this season at Eldora and whose USAC Sprint Car will be sponsored in 2014 by the Carolina Nut Co.

The ThorSport complex is at 312 Neilsen Ave. in Sandusky.

Saturday night in the Sagamore Ballroom at the Indianapolis Convention Center the ARCA Racing Series presented byMenards celebrated its historic 2013 season, paying respect to former drivers, honoring its current ones and reflecting on an incredible, milestone season.

Ten-time series champion Kimmel and his ThorSport racing team was the focus of the night, and with good reason. Kimmel ended the season, not only by winning his record-extending 10th series championship, he also set the ARCA record for all-time series wins, passing one of his boyhood heroes, Iggy Katona, when he won his 80th career race in the season-finale at Kansas Speedway.

It was one of four victories Kimmel posted in an 18-year career-best season for wins by ThorSport, eight total across its four teams in two series. Kimmel made history in ARCA's 61st season by scoring a top-10 finish in all 21 races, which extended his top-10 streak across two seasons with ThorSport to 31 consecutive races.

In addition to several other awards, Kimmel most notably earned the Bill France Four Crown Award, given to the driver accruing the most points in four distinctly different venues, and the Hoosier Tire Speedway Challenge.

Kimmel tied Katona's mark of 79 wins in the summer at Winchester, and broke it in spectacular fashion, with a rain-interrupted victory in the last race of the season.

"I didn't want to keep answering the question about when I was going to win 80,"
Kimmel said, laughing before turning serious. "But setting that record was big, because Iggy was a hero -- he was my hero."

Kimmel's earned the same stature across a career in ARCA that began in 1990, including ARCA Rookie of the Year in 1992 and a spectacular career record of 76 percent of all his starts being top-10 finishes and 56 percent being top fives.

"Frank Kimmel has not only won the races and won championships," said ARCA president Ron Drager at the black-tie event attended by nearly a thousand, "but he is a champion in every way possible."

Kimmel, per the usual, traded genial barbs during the event with Ansell's Steve York, retired Director of Channel Development for Ansell, who was responsible for Kimmel's past few years racing with Ansell and Menards sponsorship. York, who retired just before the season ended, received the ARCA Spirit Award.

At the event, Kimmel's No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota sat on one side of the stage, opposite 2013 Rookie of the Year Justin Boston's No. 25 Toyota. That pair, along with multiple race winner Venturini Motorsports, helped Toyota win its first ARCA Manufacturers' Award.

Kimmel was on stage for numerous sponsor and contingency awards. In addition, he received the Distinguished Hoosier honor, given to him by a representative from Indiana Gov. Michael Pence.

ARCA's milestone season was highlighted by video excerpts and season recaps that captured the essence of the 2013 season, especially the drivers in the top 20 and top 10 car owners. Several drivers took turns at the podium congratulating and occasionally jabbing at Kimmel and his incredibly consistent season.

"We tried chasing him down at the end, but we fell a little bit short," said ARCA Racing Series second-place driver Mason Mingus, who received the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell.

ThorSport's Bryan Griffin of engine supplier Triad Racing Technologies, was named Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Year while his teammate, Kimmel's crew chief Jeriod Prince, was honored as the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year.

"Championships are about the team, and this ThorSport team was the best in every way imagineable," Griffin said. "We treasure this night, and we'll treasure this championship together because in racing, and in life there are no guarantees of what the future will bring."

Griffin tuned the Toyota engines that extended Kimmel's top-10 stream -- but more important, extended his record of completing an extraordinary number of laps. Across two seasons, Kimmel failed to complete only seven laps, Prince said.

"That sort of performance under the hood is one of the main reasons this team is up here," Drager said in honoring Griffin, Prince, owners Duke, Rhonda and Alli Thorson and their team.

Prince brought the entire ThorSport team on stage while accepting the crew chief award. He thanked other ARCA teams for sometimes pitching in when the team needed an extra hand.

"It's that little stuff in this series that makes it big," Prince said. "To me, the main reason we are up here goes back two years. No DNF's, no destroyed race cars. That comes down to the guys and the driver."

Kimmel, who received a 10-karat gold ring from Hoosier's Dennis Sherman among his special awards, said it was a special night to spend with his family and friends. His father, former ARCA winner and short-track champion Bill Kimmel Sr. was among those in attendance -- as well as his brother, Bill Kimmel and nephew Will Kimmel, who also finished in top 10 in the championship.

"Dad started all of this," Frank Kimmel said. "It's been a rewarding life we've got to live."

Kimmel listed several of his former owners and others who helped him achieve such great levels in the ARCA Racing Series. A specially-prepared video honored his career, which now includes 22 consecutive years finishing in the top 10 in the final season point standings for the oldest driver to win a championship in series history.

"It's been a year that none of us could have ever dreamed we could have," Kimmel said in conclusion.

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