Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A familiar face: Frank Kimmel

Kimmel takes ARCA points lead

(TOLEDO, Ohio) - Often regarded the unluckiest of numbers, 13 may be a charm for Frank Kimmel and the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Ford in 2010.

Sunday's Garden State ARCA 150 at New Jersey Motorsports Park's 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway marked the 13th of 20 races on the 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards schedule. In finishing fourth in Race No. 13, Kimmel achieved his 10th top-10 of the year and the series points lead, a position he's come to know all too well since his first of nine series championships in 1998.

Kimmel entered the weekend trailing Craig Goess (No. 81 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota) by 10 points, and it's that margin (3030-3020) by which the 48-year-old Indiana driver leads Goess after the conclusion of the Garden State ARCA 150, won by 18-year-old Casey Roderick.

Kimmel finished fourth and Goess eighth Sunday, allowing Kimmel to gain 20 race points on the incoming leader. Neither driver led any laps or earned a bonus for qualifying in the top three in Menards Pole Qualifying Saturday afternoon. The two did drive side-by-side early in the race just inside the top 15.

The 2010 title would not only give Kimmel a record 10th series championship, but would also make Kimmel the first driver to win an ARCA national championship in three separate decades.  Bob Dotter was the last driver to win a championship without winning a single race, accomplishing the rare feat in 1980, the first of his three title seasons (1983, 1984).

Tom Hessert (No. 77 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Dodge) unseated Justin Marks (No. 32 Construct Corps Dodge) from third place with a fifth-place finish. Hessert is 45 points and Marks 75 points behind Kimmel's lead. Yet again this week, only 105 points separate first and seventh places.

Coulter Continues to Lead Four Crown: Joey Coulter's (No. 16 Darrell Gwynn Foundation/Rip It Energy Fuel Chevrolet) second-place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park was his first top-five finish in three road course races in the ARCA Racing Series, and it helped him maintain the lead in the Bill France Four Crown standings.

The Bill France Four Crown is the season-within-a-season contest which rewards drivers for success on a diverse slate of tracks. The Four Crown schedule is comprised completely of the ARCA Racing Series races scheduled for August. Remaining Four Crown races are scheduled for the (Springfield) Illinois State Fairgrounds (dirt track; August 22) and Chicagoland Speedway (1.5-mile speedway; August 27). Coulter also led the Four Crown standings after his win in the first race at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway on August 7.

Four Crown points are allocated without qualifying or in-race bonuses, and distributed in the same method as in the official series standings. A race winner receives 200 points, the second-place finisher receives 195, and following positions receive five fewer points per lower position until five points are awarded to a 40th-place finisher, if necessary.

"I am really thrilled at bringing home a second-place finish," Coulter said. "My guys have worked their tails off and I have really been trying to improve my road course skills this year. Leading the Four Crown headed into this weekend's race at Springfield is a great feeling and I want to go out there and continue our consistent runs."

The top 10 drivers in the Four Crown standings are as follows: 1. Coulter 395; T-2. Tom Hessert 365; T-2. Frank Kimmel 365; 4. Steve Arpin 350; 5. Mikey Kile 345; 6. Patrick Sheltra 335; 7. Dakoda Armstrong 330; 8. Craig Goess 325; T-9. Tim George Jr. 275; T-9. Chad McCumbee 275.

Extra Mileage Worthy: When the engine expired in Casey Roderick's No. 51 Bill Elliott Driver Development Dodge after the 18-year-old driver had completed just three laps in Saturday's opening practice, a member of the Bill Elliott Racing crew was forced to drive to the team's headquarters in Dawsonville, Ga. to pick up a spare engine. Dawsonville is approximately 765 miles from New Jersey Motorsports Park's location in Millville, N.J., and though the roundtrip of over 1500 miles wasn't complete until 8 a.m. Sunday, Roderick was pleased, calling it an "awesome effort" after his win.

Elliott Unable to Attend, but Influential: Bill Elliott was unable to be in attendance for the first ARCA Racing Series victory of protégé Casey Roderick, as he was driving to a 22nd-place finish in yesterday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway. Roderick insisted that despite Elliott's continuing career as a driver, the 1988 NASCAR champion has carried a prominent role as a teacher since Roderick's days racing in lower divisions.

"I was racing the Thursday Thunder Series at Atlanta. I was 15 and my dad basically ran out of money to keep me going," Roderick said. "We figured we were going to have to pack it in. Bill's wife, Cindy, came up to me and asked me what my helmet size was. The next thing I know they had me in a car and I got to run Late Models and ASA before coming to ARCA. Every day I wake up and thank Bill Elliott. Now, he makes me work on the cars. That's what Bill's taught me. It's a lot of hard work and he's definitely not making it easy on me so he's been a big part of that."

Roderick was born in 1992, a year in which Elliott won five races and finished second in the NASCAR Cup Series standings for a third time. On the weekend of August 8 that year, Roderick's birth date, Elliott started sixth and finished 14th at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, which like New Jersey Motorsports Park is a prominent Northeast road course.

Buescher, Marks Speak on Incident: Chris Buescher (No. 17 David Ragan Fan Club Ford) and Justin Marks (No. 32 Construct Corps Dodge) collided in a first-turn incident on Lap 55 which took Marks, a leader for much of the race, out of contention.

"The day was turning out just the way we wanted it to, just hitting my marks and staying out of trouble the first half of the race. We didn't get as great of fuel mileage as we hoped, so we had to short pit, followed by a short green flag run that shuffled us back into traffic a little bit," Marks said after the race. "That last restart I didn't get as good of a start as the 17 (Buescher), so I moved to the inside going into Turn 1. As soon as I got on the brakes, I got hit from behind and shoved into the fence. I guess those things happen sometimes. I'm proud of my team and our fast racecar, and we're just going to pick up and move on, and try to win as many races as we can from here on out."

Said Buescher: "I hate that it happened. I waited until the start/finish line and got under him, just like you're supposed to, and he kept pushing me down, down, down. Eventually, there was grass and I had to turn back left, and by that time it was just too late."

Silver Lining for Marks: Justin Marks led 36 of 67 laps, including the 34th, to win both the $500 Aaron's Lap Leader Award and the $500 Messina Halfway Leader Award in Sunday's race.

Marks' closest competitor in the lap leader category was Tim George Jr. (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Development Chevrolet), who led twice for 19 laps. Tom Hessert was on track to lead the race at halfway, but ran out of gas on Lap 33 after three laps led. Hessert did close to within three laps (158-155) of Steve Arpin for second place in the year-end Aaron's Lap Leader Award standings, led by Chris Buescher.

New Names Aplenty on Winner Lists: With his win in the Garden State ARCA 150, Casey Roderick helped to set an ARCA Racing Series record. Roderick became the 11th driver to win his first career race in 2010, a mark which surpasses the previous mark of 10 first-time winners in 2007.

Roderick is the 12th driver to win in the series in 13 races this season. Only Steve Arpin has multiple wins (Salem, Texas). The record is 15, set in the first 22 of 23 races in 2007.

Justin Marks' pole made him the 11th different Menards Pole Award winner in 12 qualifying sessions this season. (Qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway in April was cancelled for severe weather.) 10 drivers with one pole each are tied for second place in the season-long Menards Pole Award standings behind Chris Buescher, who qualified first at Toledo and Mansfield.

Top-10 for Mitten in First Start: Robert Mitten, making his first ARCA Racing Series start, started 11th and finished seventh in the No. 82 Corr Motorsports Chevrolet. Mitten, 46, resides in Plantation, Fla. and has experience driving in the Rolex Sports Car Series and in other sports car disciplines.

Nick Igdalsky (No. 14 Modspace/Red Cross Disaster Relief Ford) showed that road racing is his specialty, matching his season-high finish of 15th. Igdalsky finished in the same position in the series' previous road course race, at Palm Beach (Fla.) International Raceway in February.

Dr. Ed Bull (No. 28 Back in Shape Ford) made the third start of his ARCA Racing Series career - and his third on a road course. Bull, a chiropractor from Chapin, S.C., finished two laps down in 16th, an improvement on his 23rd-place finish at Palm Beach and 27th-place finish at New Jersey last year.

Off to the Fair: The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards visits the one-mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill. on Sunday, August 22. Practice begins at 10 a.m. Eastern, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell following at noon. The 100-lap, 100-mile Allen Crowe 100 begins at 2 p.m. Eastern, and live timing and scoring and live audio coverage for all three events will be presented by ARCA Nation at ARCARacing.com.  Frank Kimmel is the all-time leading winner at the track, with seven victories between 2000 and 2008. Parker Kligerman won in the series' most recent event at the track, in 2009.

The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards features 20 events at 17 tracks on its 2010 schedule. The series has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 racetracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as left- and right-turn street and road courses.

More blog entries from this writer:
• Angel in Black: Remembering Dale Earnhardt Sr. (a book of great stories)
• Then Junior Said to Jeff... (the book of great NASCAR stories)

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