One Last Chance: Kimmel Looking to Erase Deficit
A difference of 85 points separates Frank Kimmel from a record 10th ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards title. Kimmel and the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota will look to erase that deficit on Friday night over the course of 99 laps at Kansas Speedway.
While the majority of Kimmel's success this season has come on the short tracks, his statistical history at Kansas shows he is more than capable of pulling off a miracle in the Kansas Lottery 98.9. Kimmel has visited Victory Lane twice at Kansas, in 2002 and 2006, both years en route to winning the championship. With losing last week's race at DuQuoin to weather, Kimmel and team are left with one opportunity to track down the championship lead.
Of the 19 races on the ARCA Racing Series schedule in 2012, Kansas and Chicagoland Speedways are the only 1.5-mile tracks on the most diverse schedule in stock car racing. In July, Kimmel finished third at Chicagoland as a result of ThorSport Racing's constant improvement on the intermediate track program. Finishes of sixth and fourth at Pocono, and a seventh at Michigan, have the Ansell/Menards team optimistic they can improve their results on the fresh asphalt at Kansas.
Kimmel has started more ARCA races at Kansas than any driver entered in the field, and has been in all 11 events since the track's opening in 2001. In the first six races at Kansas, Kimmel notched two victories and finished in the top three in all six events, leading a combined 295 laps. His average starting position of 5.3 and two Menards Pole Awards presented by Ansell bodes well for not only starting up front Friday night, but also gives Kimmel a chance to tie Iggy Katona's record of all-time pole awards of 43.
While the ARCA Racing Series has been known for driver development and a surge of young talent, Kimmel has been a constant mainstay in the series, and 2012 has seen a career resurgence for the Clarksville, Ind. native. Since moving to ThorSport Racing this year, Kimmel's performance has been elevated to a level he has been accustomed to throughout his illustrious career.
Kimmel broke a 75-race winless drought in August at Lucas Oil Raceway Park, and followed it up with a dominating win on the dirt mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. With 290 laps led, Kimmel has surpassed his combined total of laps led from the previous two seasons. With the performance the No. 44 Ansell/Menards team has shown this season, Kimmel is focused on making sure the championship goes down to the final lap at Kansas.
As a result of finishing fourth after being nearly two laps down at Salem Speedway on September 15, Kimmel extended his streak of top-10 finishes to nine races. Kimmel is in the midst of his longest streak of consecutive top-10 finishes in 2012, which dates back to a seventh-place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
In order to have a mathematical chance to win his 10th ARCA title, Kimmel must finish at least 12 positions ahead of Buescher. Kimmel must gain more than 85 points to overtake Buescher, as Buescher holds the tiebreaker with four wins. For the championship to be mathematically in reach, Kimmel must finish at least 28th if all 40 cars entered take the green flag.
Tonight, Kimmel will appear at the St. Joseph, Mo. Menards location on Thursday night from 6-7:30 p.m. Fans can meet and get an autograph from the nine-time ARCA champ in addition to seeing the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Camry showcar.
During that time, any guests that purchase a pair of Ansell gloves will receive a voucher for a free pair of Ansell gloves, presented by Kimmel outside the store. The St. Joseph, Mo. Menards store is located at 4320 Commonwealth Dr.
Kimmel answered several questions to give his outlook for the Kansas Lottery 98.9.
What did you benefit by testing at Kansas?
"I thought the test went really well. Taking two cars, and having Matt Crafton there, was a real big deal for us. Both cars ran real well and ended up in the top five in overall speeds. That was the first time we were able to test on a mile-and-a-half track all year and we feel like we learned a few things."
What are your thoughts on having to gain 85 points to win the title?
"I've said all along the past few weeks, we're going to have to have some help. We're 85 points behind, and Chris has been running real well all year long and has been very consistent. I'm not expecting him to have problems, so we have to go out and do our thing. If they run into some issues, then we need to have ourselves in position. It should be a good race; we've run real good all year, and if we gain the points we need to, then it will be a real good night."
How pleased are you with the performance of you and the team in 2012?
"My favorite thing this year has been being with ThorSport Racing and being with a team that wanted me to drive the car. We got along really well with everybody on the team, which has been a real rewarding part of the season. A real special moment was winning at Lucas Oil Raceway because that was such a big event for us. We were showing signs that we could run up front and lead races, but to win there was great. Then to come back and win at Springfield was really good too. It's been a really good year for everyone at ThorSport Racing and for me personally as well."
Practice for the Kansas Lottery 98.9 will take place from 9-11:15 a.m. Friday, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell following at 5:35 p.m. The 99-lap, 148.5-mile Kansas Lottery 98.9 will start at 7:30 p.m. All listed times are Central.
ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage of all on-track activity, and SPEED will air the race live to a national audience.