SALEM — Frank Kimmel’s determination and persistence are two of the reasons why the Clarksville native has set ARCA Racing Series records in victories (80) and series championships (10) in his racing career.
This weekend at Salem Speedway, Kimmel and his Win-Tron Racing team needed every ounce of those intangibles to record another top-three finish at his home track.
Kimmel battled adversity throughout the weekend to place third in the Federated Auto Parts 200 on Sunday. “I’m really happy with the finish,” said Kimmel, who came up short of his 10th career ARCA victory at the Southern Indiana half-mile oval. “It was a pretty ill-handling car all day, but [crew chief Jamie Jones] and the guys really threw some big changes at it. At the end in the final 30 laps, it was pretty good.”
Kimmel’s weekend had a rough start.
On Saturday, he smacked the Turn 4 wall during his first qualifying lap. The accident damaged the entire right side of his No. 44 Toyota and his crew spent all Saturday night making repairs to the car to get it ready for Sunday’s race. Plus, under ARCA rules, Kimmel had to start the race from the rear of the field because of his wreck in qualifying.
Kimmel needed only 39 laps to reach the top 10 and was running seventh on the 100th circuit of the 202-lap race. He got into the top five for the first time on Lap 136.
During his ascension to the front, Kimmel went a lap down twice. He got back on the lead lap twice as well, thanks to ARCA’s “Lucky Dog” rule that allows the first car that is a lap down will get that lap back under a caution.
After benefiting from the “Lucky Dog” rule a second time on Lap 148, Kimmel got to up to third on the 180th lap when he passed last year’s winner Tom Hessert between the third and fourth turns using the outside lane.
Kimmel moved back to fourth on Lap 187 when Spencer Gallagher passed him in Turn 2 for third. Kimmel wound up third when former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kenny Schrader, who was leading on the final restart at Lap 200, blew out a right-front tire and hit the Turn 1 wall. Fairhope, Ala., native Grant Enfinger won the race, while Gallagher finished second.
On Lap 191, Schrader got together with a lapped car driven by Kyle Weatherman and damaged the right-front fender of Schrader’s No. 52 Chevrolet. The damaged fender rubbed the right-front tire, which eventually resulted in the tire blowing out.
Kimmel, who will turn 52 Wednesday, saw Schrader’s misfortune on the final restart as he restarted behind the ex-NASCAR driver.
“What a shame. He ran so good,” Kimmel said about the 59-year-old Schrader. “On that restart, I thought the old guys might run first and second.”
All in all, Kimmel was proud of the way his team battled through its struggles this weekend.
“The mark of a good team is how you go through adversity, and we’ve been through a lot of adversity like me hitting the wall in qualifying and starting from the back, battling up through there and going a lap down,” said Kimmel, who won a late model feature at the Sportsdrome Speedway in Clarksville on Saturday night. “It’s a good championship quality team when you go through adversity and fight really hard and come out of there with a top-five. We raced up to a top-five. There was some pretty good cars that we battled with at the end and we passed a bunch of cars. I’d say I passed more cars than anybody today.”
Kimmel has enjoyed being a part of Win-Tron Racing so far this season. He is in his first year driving for the Mooresville, N.C.- based team.
“They are a good bunch of guys and they’re real racers. They really work hard and it’s a pleasure to drive for them,” Kimmel said.
Enfinger led a race-high 106 laps, including the first 104 circuits. Sunday’s victory was Enfinger’s third win in as many races in the 2014 ARCA season. Enfinger was second on the final restart and benefited the most from Schrader’s late-race problem.
“I hate he had issues. I think I could’ve drag-raced him into [Turn] 1. I wanted to beat him straight-up there and I think it was our best shot with the restart. Then as you saw, he had issues,” Enfinger said. “It’s absolutely incredible. It’s a true blessing to be able to do this in the first place. To be able to have the success that we’ve had at the beginning of this year is unbelievable. It’s hard to explain because we are not doing anything differently. It’s just stuff is going our way right now.”
Clarksville-based Kimmel Racing’s highest finish on Sunday was 18th by 16-year-old Port Orange, Fla., resident Michael Lira. The teenager got involved in a four-car accident on the 91st lap between Turns 1 and 2.
“We weren’t having the day that we thought we was going to have,” said Kimmel Racing owner Bill Kimmel Jr., who saw Lira qualify his No. 68 Ford in the ninth spot on Saturday. “We made some adjustments and seemed to get better with it. He simply got inside of lapped car and they got together or something. We thought we would have a better run. As the race went on last year, it did better, but for some reason today, the car went the other way. Unfortunately now, we’ve got a torn-up car and we’re not going to find out what was wrong with it.”
The other Kimmel Racing entry driven by Louisville resident Mark Meunier finished 22nd. Bill Kimmel said his son, Will Kimmel, will drive the No. 68 car in next Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Henryville resident Darrell Basham finished 23rd. Frank Kimmel II, Frank Kimmel’s son, wound up 25th.