SANDUSKY, Ohio (May 15, 2013) — Frank Kimmel’s got winning at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway figured out, as the nine-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion has a series-best nine victories at the moderately-banked half-mile oval.
Heading into Sunday afternoon’s Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care Kimmel — who comes to Toledo, the fifth of 21 races this season, with a 40-point lead in the championship over Tennessee youngster Mason Mingus — hopes a Toledo test with his No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota and its ThorSport Racing crew last week pays off.
“I’m always excited to go back to Toledo,” Kimmel said, breaking into a grin. “It’s a place that has so much good history for me and my family, with how much success we’ve had there in the past, and it’s a great racetrack. I really enjoy it.”
While Kimmel’s nine Toledo wins were accrued over 14 races between May 1994 and September 2005, he has only two poles in his career there, in 2001 and 2006. Kimmel hopes his team, led by crew chief Jeriod Prince and car chief Rich Lushes, can come up with a better set-up than last spring, when Kimmel qualified only 12th but led 20 laps in the race’s second half before finishing second to winner Chris Buescher.
“We got to test (last Thursday) and ran a lot of laps, and threw a lot of different things at it,” Kimmel said of the more than 150 laps he turned. “We were trying to figure out what the car liked and didn’t like, and we picked up on a few things. So hopefully Jeriod and Rich can go over the notes we have and we’ll come back with the best package we’ve had at Toledo in quite a while.”
The car that Kimmel used to fashion on old-school Kimmel performance in the last short-track race, at Salem, Ind., last month is sitting in pieces at the ThorSport shop in Sandusky. But last week’s test session is another reason Kimmel has big confidence coming back to Toledo, even though he’ll have a different car under him.
“Actually they’re sister cars — virtually identical racecars — that came from Kevin Harvick Inc.,” Kimmel said. “They’re set up almost exactly the same so really, once I sat down in the car we’ll use at Toledo, it felt about like the other car did.
“I’m excited because it’s a really nice racecar — just as nice as the other one was — and I expect it to do really well.”
It was easy to get that impression at the test, where Kimmel’s car performed favorably against Mingus’ Win-Tron Racing Toyota, showing similar times on the stop watch on roughly equivalent tires.
“Without a doubt, that’s the way it’s going to be, virtually everywhere we go — a real knock-down, drag-out, toe-to-toe battle to the end of this championship,” Kimmel said. “They’re going to be there, right at the front, everywhere we go because Mason’s doing a really good job and Win-Tron is an absolutely first-class outfit, so they’re gonna be a tough competitor.”
But Kimmel was quick to point out that’s not all he’ll have to face.
“There are going to be probably 10-12 other cars that can win this race,” Kimmel said. His nephew, Will Kimmel, was at the test as a coach, not a driver as he will be in his family-run No. 68 Ford this weekend. And Kyle Benjamin, a 15-year-old phenom, was also at the test and was quick, and consistent.
“I really look to see some guys running well (at Toledo),” Kimmel said. “It’s not just gonna come down to me and (Mingus) because there will be a lot of other players in the game. Of course, we want to beat Mason — but we want to beat all the rest of them, too. That’s our goal and that’s why we tested.”
At Mobile in the series’ second race Frank Kimmel — who has four top-six finishes in his four 2013 starts — wanted a car that was better on a long green-flag run. He had that at Salem, where he dominated the race’s second half by leading 90 of the last 104 laps. At Toledo Kimmel has one seemingly simple request.
“It’d be nice if I had the only set of new tires left, with 50 laps to go,” Kimmel said with a laugh. “That would probably be the best thing because right now these Hoosier tires we’re running (at Toledo) wore out really quick at the test and they slowed down quite a bit. That was one of the reasons we tested because on the longer runs we haven’t been as good as some of these other cars.
“So we worked on that quite a bit at the test and I’m sure we put more laps on the racetrack than anybody that was there. You just want a car that turns good and has good forward bite, because when the tires wear out you lose both of those things. So we just need to make sure, again, that our car runs a lot longer than the other guys’ does.”
ARCA has scheduled two 45-minute practice sessions Saturday for the 35-car entry. The first is from 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET and final practice is from 1-1:45 p.m. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. to set the starting grid.
The season’s fifth race, 200 laps and 100 miles, is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start Sunday, with live television on SPEED Channel. Live timing & scoring and audio coverage is available on ARCARacing.com throughout the weekend.
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ABOUT THORSPORT RACING:
ThorSport Racing, based in a state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is the longest-tenured active NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. Thorsport, which has run full-season Truck Series schedules annually beginning in 1998, in 2013 will run the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra driven by Matt Crafton, the No. 98 Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota Tundra driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 SealMaster Toyota Tundra driven by Todd Bodine in the Truck Series and the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota Camry driven by Frank Kimmel in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.