SANDUSKY, Ohio (June 11, 2013) — In Frank Kimmel’s 24-year career in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, he’s never met a racetrack he didn’t like, and considering his two career victories at Michigan International Speedway, site of Friday afternoon’s Michigan ARCA 200, the “pride of the Irish Hills” is closer to the top of his list.
“I like the place,” Kimmel said. “We’ve won some races there, though we haven’t been totally successful, overall. But it’s all about the racecar there, so I’m really looking forward to going back to Michigan because I know we’re going to have a great car.”
Kimmel’s Michigan record is a little better than the nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion would lead you to believe. The driver of the No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota is riding a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes at the high-speed 2-mile oval. In all, Kimmel has nine top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in 24 career Michigan starts.
Kimmel rides into Michigan with 78 career ARCA victories, which remains one shy of Michigan native Iggy Katona’s record 79 wins.
The 28-car Michigan entry list has a number of drivers who’ll mount serious challenges for the win, including Texas 22-year-old Brennan Poole, who finished third in the 2012 ARCA Racing Series and has three career wins in 33 starts, but is making his first start of the season and Ryan Blaney, 19, who has a pole and two top-six finishes in his only ARCA starts and who’s never raced an ARCA superspeedway race.
It’s an adventure for Kimmel, who finished third last weekend at Pocono behind teenagers Chase Elliott and Erik Jones, and whose closest pursuer in the championship is 18-year-old Mason Mingus. Mingus comes to Michigan 80 points behind Kimmel.
“What a remarkable deal these young kids are,” said Kimmel, himself the father of an aspiring young racecar driver, 22-year-old Frankie Kimmel. “They really do a nice job. Erik Jones is a very good young man and a very good racer and it’s a pleasure to race with him.
“Chase, again is a chip off the old block (his father is 1988 Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott), so these young kids are a lot of fun to race with. A couple times this year they’ve added up the ages of the two or three guys racing around me and their total age doesn’t equal mine (51). But it’s pretty cool and I don’t have any problem racing with those guys because they’re good racers.”
Each week at the racetrack it seems like Venturini Motorsports and Cunningham Motorsports, in particular, have high-profile development drivers in their cars but even that doesn’t faze Kimmel.
“That’s the neat thing about it, for me, is that you’re not racing against the same guys every week,” Kimmel said. “Of course, Tom (Hessert) and Mason are gonna be there and they’re doing a great job, too, so every time we look up, it seems like we’re around each other the whole day so it’s just part of the whole deal.
“It’s going to be a great race all year long. Mason does really well on the short tracks — I think he was a little behind (at Pocono) and he did the right thing. He didn’t have the fastest car or a car to run up front so he did the best that he could and that’s what’s going to make him tough to beat all year because he’s not going to make mistakes.
“And the 77 car (Hessert) was right there in fourth (at Pocono) and Tom’s done a great job, too. He’s third in points and I don’t think it’s going to be a two-man battle. The top-five are going to be going at it all year long.”
And this week that means Michigan, a wide-open oval that has the reputation of fostering fuel-mileage derbies. If such a race occurs, Kimmel has no trouble with that.
“As long as your car is working well and the race goes like that, it’s a lot of fun if that gives you a chance to win,” Kimmel said, laughing. “But it’s just like any other place we run. It’s a big place and if your car’s not running well, you’re slow, you can really feel it in the turns and it just kills you.
“But I’m really looking forward to going to Michigan. With what the guys have learned (at Pocono) and with how good this (Pocono) car was, I think we’ll be good at Michigan, too.”
With the cars crew chief Jeriod Prince and car chief Rich Lushes and their crew have been putting under Kimmel, speed and reliability hasn’t been a problem so far in 2013, where Kimmel has seven consecutive top-six finishes and in fact, is riding a streak of 17 consecutive top-10 finishes stretching back to Winchester last summer.
And Kimmel was so committed to his Pocono primary car that, despite the entire right side being badly scuffed, ThorSport’s technicians were in the shop Sunday, the car was in the paint shop Monday afternoon and in the final prep area Tuesday afternoon.
“We didn’t want to take the (backup) car unless we had to,” Kimmel said. “This car, which I really enjoy driving, will do great at Michigan. It’s done well for us so far.”
ARCA has scheduled one 145-minute practice session Thursday for the 28-car entry, from 1:05-3:30 p.m. ET. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday to set the starting grid, followed by an ARCA autograph session from 1:45-2:30 p.m. in the “Pit Patio” adjacent to the ARCA garage.
The season’s eighth race, the 200-mile, 100-lap Michigan ARCA 200, is scheduled for a 5:15 p.m. start Friday, with live TV coverage on the SPEED Channel at 5 p.m. and live timing & scoring and audio coverage available on ARCARacing.com throughout the weekend. The ARCA race will also replay on SPEED at 10 p.m. Friday.
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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.