SPARTA, Ky. (May, 8, 2004) Race fans in the Tri-State area were treated to an exciting opening weekend of racing at the Kentucky Speedway that saw rookie winners take the checkered flag in both the ARCA RE/MAX Series and the inaugural American Speed Association race here.
Photo by Don Ward
Rookie Ryan Hemphill (64) challenges
Frank Kimmel (46) in the early going.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series produced the first career victory for 22-year-old rookie driver Ryan Hemphill, whose win came at the expense of five-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel of Jeffersonville, Ind. Kimmel, who won the pole position on Friday night, led the first 21 laps Saturday but slammed into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 22 of the 137-lap "Channel 5-205" race, taking him out of contention. His car suffered significant rear-end damage and, despite trying to stay in the race, he was eventually black-flagged to settle for 20th place. That left Hemphill and other drivers to battle it out, while enduring eight cautions on the night.
Hemphill, from Apollo, Pa., had qualified second and took charge of the race at that point, fending off challengers Billy Venturini of Chicago and Mark Gibson of Winder, Ga., who placed second and third, respectively. A few more laps, however, and Hemphill would have certainly run out of fuel.
Photo by Don Ward
Rookie Ryan Hemphill (left) and
Frank Kimmel before the race.
Hemphill pitted only once during the 205-mile race. He had opted to stay out on the track for the final 77 laps and chance winning on his remaining fuel level. He was aided by a series-record 58 laps under caution that allowed him to conserve fuel. In fact, after crossing the finish line, Hemphill drove straight to Victory Lane without making any victory donuts or celebratory laps.
"I wasn't sure I had enough fuel to even get back to the pits," said Hemphill, who set a new series single-race record by leading 116 laps. The cautions helped. If not for the cautions, we wouldve had to pit again. The crew kept assuring me that we would make it (on fuel), so I had faith in them and brought it home in the end. I kept asking if I needed to pit, and the crew chief said stay out. It is kind of lucky that we got all of those cautions and the race went in our favor.
A few days later, Hemphill's team owner Eddie Kelley was fined $1,500, and Kelley and Hemphill were penalized with the loss of 25 championship points, based on a post-race technical inspection. The penalties were issued for violation of ARCA Rulebook page 26, Item 25 B (3), which states in part, "Fuel cell to be secured with no spacers."
Photo by Don Ward
Ryan Hemphill celebrates
his ARCA victory.
Venturini was only 0.706 seconds behind Hemphill. Gibson had his best finish at Kentucky, followed by Ken Weaver of Dallas in fourth place. Christi Passmore, the only female driver, tied her career best ARCA finish by placing fifth.
I hate it that we finished second again, said Venturini, who is chasing Kimmel in points. Weve been around the top two and three for three out of four races."
Kimmel, a three-time winner at Kentucky, saw his streak of five top-2 Kentucky finishes come to an end. He also saw his lead of 105 points in the ARCA standings over Venturini drop to 45.
Kimmel attributed his spin on the backstretch to spilled oil on the track from Matt Hagan's car, which had blown an engine just minutes earlier. Kimmel, who has won a race earlier this season, finished outside the top-10 for only the second time through nine Kentucky Speedway starts.
There was oil on the track from the No. 9s engine and I just didnt see it, Kimmel said. I got a little loose through there the lap before. The No. 64 was right behind me and my car was cruising along pretty good before I made a Gremlin out of it.
Blake Feese, an earlier winner this season, finished eighth at Kentucky after having started at the back of the 41-car field. He had turned in the second-fastest practice time but spun out, hitting the wall, and was unable to turn in a qualifying time on Friday. He was among nine provisional cars entered late Saturday, moving up from a 33rd starting place.
Photo by Don Ward
singer Sheree Austin
performs prior to the
Perfect weather drew a crowd of 23,160 to the speedway on Saturday. The fans were entertainted by Australian-born country music singer Sheree Austin prior to the race.
On Friday, night, the ASA Series, based in Pendleton, Ind., made the first of its two appearances at the track this season. Rookie driver Scott Lagasse Jr., 21, won his first ASA National Tour race in a wild inaugural BFGoodrich Tires 125 in front of 10,119 race fans.
The St. Augustine, Fla., native survived a 125-lap, 187-mile challenge, passing Wade Day of Elizabethton, N.C., in the final 200 yards to win by less than a quarter-car length (See related story, Page x).
Lagasse Jr., who entered the race 20th in the series standings, took his first win and top-five finish of 2004. He had been in sixth place, a half lap behind day, with 20 laps to go before mounting his late race charge.
I just knew we were wide open, so I wasnt letting up, Lagasse Jr. said of his charge down the frontstretch. We ran hard all the way. I dont think there was a good tire left on the car.
Cincinnati-native Glen Allen Jr. was third and Reed Sorenson of Forest Park, Ga., fourth.
The ARCA RE/MAX Series returns to the Kentucky Speedway for a 150-mile race on July 9. The evening also features NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying for The Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by The Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers, which will be held at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday, July 10.
For more information on the ARCA RE/MAX Series' "Channel 5-205," visit the Kentucky Speedway website.