Sellersburg resident Will Kimmel is getting an opportunity this year that thousands of race car drivers throughout the country can only dream about.
Kimmel is in the midst of competing in five NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season for Mooresville, N.C.-based TriStar Motorsports. On Saturday, he will participate in the second of those five Nationwide events as he races in the Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at one of NASCAR’s signature tracks, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. This weekend’s race will be the first time Kimmel has ever run at Bristol.
The 25-year-old Silver Creek High School graduate is excited to get the chance to race the half-mile, high-banked oval.
Kimmel thinks Bristol can be a good track for him because it is similar to the half-mile Salem Speedway, where he has had lots of success in his racing career. Bristol also compares to two other half-mile ovals Kimmel has raced at in his ARCA Racing Series career in Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and Toledo (Ohio) Speedway.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Kimmel said. “I’m happy to go to a place where it relates to Salem. I just want to get some laps underneath my belt.”
Bill Kimmel Jr., Will’s father and owner of Clarksville-based Kimmel Racing, is confident his son can reel off some fast laps at Bristol on Saturday because of his half-mile experience.
But the elder Kimmel’s biggest concern is how much stamina his son will have in the latter stages of the 300-lap race.
“There are going to be a lot of similarities [at Bristol] with the experience he has had at those places. It shouldn’t intimidate him,” said Bill Kimmel Jr., an ex-late model champion at the defunct Fairgrounds Speedway in Louisville and a former eight-time ARCA championship crew chief for his brother, Frank Kimmel. “But it’s 300 laps and he’s never run 300 laps on a half-mile oval before.”
Frank Kimmel, Will’s uncle, also thinks his nephew will be able to handle Bristol’s high-banked concrete turns that measure between 24 and 28 degrees.
“He’s going to do great,” said Frank Kimmel, a Clarksville native and 10-time ARCA champion. “The concrete will be different. It is similar to the half-mile tracks where he has cut his teeth on. He should do fine.”
Will Kimmel’s main goal on Saturday is to complete all 300 laps and gain as much experience as possible in a Nationwide car. As for a secondary goal, he would like to steer his No. 44 Toyota Camry to a top-20 finish.
“I would really like to finish the race and run the whole race,” the younger Kimmel said. “Ending up in the top 20 would be great.”
Unfortunately, Will did not get to race all the circuits during his first Nationwide Series race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway a couple of weeks ago.
He and his TriStar Motorsports crew had transmission problems in the early stages of the Blue Jeans Go Green 200. Will Kimmel lost several laps because of repairs and ended up finishing 33rd in the rain-shortened race. He ran 117 of the 168 completed laps.
Despite the mechanical issues, Will took away some positives from his second career Nationwide Series start.
“I was able to learn a lot,” he said. “Anytime you get laps on a track where you have never been to before, it is a good thing.”
TriStar Motorsports has not decided yet where Will Kimmel will race his final three Nationwide Series races in 2014. He is getting financial help during the five races from associate sponsor Ingersoll Rand, which produces air compressors, tools and material handling equipment.
“This is a big opportunity that Ingersoll Rand is doing for me,” Will Kimmel said.
Bill Kimmel is glad to see that Will is getting a chance to show what he can do in the NASCAR ranks. Will Kimmel is one of the drivers for Kimmel Racing in the ARCA series.
“It’s a neat opportunity for him because he gets to do it on his own merit. It has nothing to do with Kimmel Racing,” Bill Kimmel said. “The Ingersoll Rand people have been good for him.”
Frank Kimmel is thrilled to see his nephew getting the chance to run with some of NASCAR’s most talented drivers.
“It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s got nothing to lose,” Frank Kimmel said. “It’s a chance for him to run in front of the NASCAR people. If he runs well, it’s great for him.
“Will has raced a lot in his career. He really doesn’t need advice from me. It’s his showcase now. He needs to show what he can do.”
Will Kimmel’s father says the most important things his son must do during the Nationwide Series stint are to take care of his equipment and reach the end of races.
“The thing he’s got to do is keep the car on the race track. He’s got to finish races,” Bill Kimmel said.
Along with competing in the five Nationwide races, Will Kimmel is running eight ARCA races this season for Kimmel Racing.
He finished a disappointing 38th in ARCA’s season opener, the Lucas Oil 200, on Feb. 15 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Will Kimmel qualified eighth and ran with the leaders in the race’s opening laps. But on lap 13, he got caught up in an accident on the main straightaway as his No. 69 Ford suffered significant damage.
“The guys up front were getting antsy. When [another car] spun around, I checked up and I went down the pit lane. But another car hit us,” Will Kimmel said. “It was going to be a good run. It was just a matter of getting in line with the right cars.”
Despite having a rough day at Daytona, Will Kimmel thinks he can persevere during his part-time ARCA schedule this season.
“I think we can have some top-5 [finishes],” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting our equipment together.”
DRIVE TO STOP DIABETES 300
• DATE: Saturday.
• TIME: 2 p.m.
• PLACE: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
• TV: ESPN2.
• QUALIFYING: 10 a.m., Saturday, ESPN2.
• LOCAL DRIVER IN RACE: Will Kimmel, Sellersburg.
• NOTABLE DRIVERS: Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Regan Smith.