Kimmel's Road to Daytona: 10th Title in 2012?
Frank Kimmel isn't the type to brag. One is more apt to find him out working on cars or tractors on his farm, than in press conferences or slick office meetings.
It's that humility that makes the "nine-time" reference somewhat of a surprise to most fans when it is mentioned. Kimmel is the record nine-time ARCA Racing Series driving champion (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007) and has led 10,177 laps in 191 races - more than any other active driver. He looks to break his own record in the 2012 season with a new team and a new make - ThorSport Racing and the No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota Camry team.
To add to the stats pile going into Daytona, Kimmel is the all-time leading superspeedway lap leader with 2,645 laps led in 80 races, and the all-time leading superspeedway pole winner with 20. Kimmel finished as the second-place driver in the ARCA Racing Series in 1994, 1997, and 1999. In 2011, Kimmel finished third in driver points.
One distinct goal Kimmel always walks around with in the back of his mind as a veteran driver: the all-time career victories holder, currently Iggy Katona, with 79. Going into Daytona in a few weeks, Kimmel sits just five victories away from eclipsing the record - at 74. Can he do it this year? He sure hopes so. In his past, 66 of those 74 victories came with a successful partnership with owner Larry Clement. This season, he looks to seasoned veterans at ThorSport Racing - new to the ARCA Racing Series but the longest-tenured team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - to hopefully conjure the same magic.
"Every year I get asked what's important to me to achieve for the season," said Kimmel. "Winning Daytona is first on the list for me, and it's important for my entire family. Being the first race for ThorSport Racing, everyone's working really hard to achieve some wins - period. Daytona would be great and such an accomplishment, but we all know what can happen there. I can honestly remember racing for two years without ever winning at all, and that's why it means a lot to have 74 wins under my belt now. The first time at Toledo was such a big thing for us. I have a lot to prove this year to win again, since it has been three years since I've been to Victory Lane. Iggy Katona is a huge hero of mine; he raced against my dad for years. He's the man. It's a privilege to be in the same class of driver as such an ARCA Racing legend as Iggy."
No stranger to accepting pole awards, Kimmel is excited to see his sponsor Ansell, through a partnership with Menards, present the pole trophies once again this year. His 42 career Menards Pole Awards comprises just one fewer than again, Iggy Katona - at 43; and he has finished in the top 10 in points in the ARCA Racing Series for an unprecedented 20 consecutive seasons. With 233 top-five finishes and 300 top-10 finishes, he is no slouch to records - those statistics both standing as the records for active drivers.
"Getting the first win is the most amazing achievement," he said. "I raced many years with Terry Shirley in the 02 car, and we only won one. When Terry left to be a crew chief, I didn't have a team to drive for at all. I thought I'd be driving late models. Then I was picked up by Dan Faldorf and got with Larry Clement. We ended up putting a hodge-podge of races together by the skin of our teeth, and with blood, sweat, and tears, we ended up fifth in driver points and didn't even go to every race. When we came back the next year and ran full-time for Larry, being manager, driver, and everything, we were second in the points, so we kept climbing. Then the following year, in 1998, we won our first championship. It just goes to show that the competition is always so fierce, it takes a lot to get there and it means so much. Every one of my nine championship trophies have people and a great story behind them. In my tenure of ARCA Racing Series driving, every year is a great battle. It's going to be a lot of fun competition in 2012."
In a historic 60th season of ARCA racing, nothing could be more special for Kimmel than driving through the tunnel to Daytona International Speedway as one of the most recognized faces in ARCA Racing Series history. In a year of "star power," he hopes to not only give the fans a great show, but have some record-breaking moments as he does it. Yet the "star" himself would love to say, he would do it, then enjoy just going home to the farm to work in the barn and be around his wife Donna.