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Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150
collects 4th career win at Sparta
Six-time series champion slips by
Blount and never looks back
By Don Ward
SPARTA, Ky. (May 14, 2005) Frank Kimmel didnt win the Harley-Davidson motorcycle given away May 15 at the Kentucky Speedway, but he did win the ARCA RE/MAX Series race. After accepting his Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati 150 trophy in Victory Lane, he was also presented with a black Harley-Davidson leather jacket.
He eagerly slipped it on and wore it throughout the hat dance photo session that followed and was still wearing it when he entered the media center for the post-race interview.
I went over and asked my mother if it was OK if I bring home a Harley, and she said, No. Its too dangerous, Kimmel said. I guess Ill stick to racing stock cars.
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Kevin Hamlin, in Ken Schraders Dodge, finished a solid fifth in his career-first series start.
In addition to his runner-up finish and pole honors, Chad Blount also earned the Weld Wheels Halfway Leader award and the ReadyHosting.com Lap Leader honors for leading the most laps. Blounts crew chief Tom Sokoloski was the recipient of the SK Hand Tool Crew Chief of the Race award.
Stuart Kirby, who started second, recovered from a front stretch spin coming down for the initial start and finished sixth.
Rookie Marc Mitchell finished a career-best seventh Chevrolet. Mitchell, who started 33rd, also won the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.
Christi Passmore, the only female driver in the field, finished eighth. Mark Gibson was ninth over Brandon Knupp, who finished 10th.
The Boca Bay Racing team and driver Johnny Leonard, who got caught up in Kirbys mishap, struggled all day with a wrinkled race car and several trips down pit road to earn the Gladiator of the Race award.
Top-10 ARCA RE/MAX Series points after Kentucky Speedway on May 15 was: 1) Frank Kimmel 855; 2) Joey Miller 835; 3) Chad Blount 785; 4) Ken Weaver 770; 5) Mark Gibson 575; 6) Todd Bowsher 550; 7) Chad McCumbee 530; 8) Christi Passmore 525; 9) Norm Benning 515; 10) Mike Harmon 505.
At 43, Kimmel may not be ready for two-wheeled action, but he is certainly not ready to give up four. After a victory drought that had lasted since September 2003, Kimmel admitted that he was starting to hear rumblings from around the garage that maybe he was getting too old.
Its a relief (to finally win). You start doubting yourself after a while. I started hearing all that old stuff, but right now I feel pretty young, Kimmel joked in the press room following his 100-lap victory over young guns Chad Blount and Joey Miller before a crowd of 17,662.
The six-time reigning ARCA RE/MAX Series champion from Clarksville, Ind., made it look easy after starting in an uncharacteristic 17th qualifying place and overtaking leader Blount on the 67th lap of the 1.5-mile tri-oval. He never again relinquished the lead, coasting to a 2.235-second victory in a race that had been delayed one day because of rain.
Fans hoping for drama between Kimmel and Blount didnt get much controversy this time out of the duo after Blounts wild victory three weeks earlier on the short track at Salem, Ind. With less that two laps remaining, Blount bumped Kimmel from behind, sending the veteran into the wall, while Blount coasted to victory. Kimmel limped in for seventh.
Asked if he had any devious thoughts while chasing down Blount at Kentucky, Kimmel replied, That kind of thought cant be thought of on these kinds of tracks. Then he added, A little bit. It would have been a lot easier if I just punted him.
But Kimmel won this race without controversy or contact with Blount, 25, of Walkerton, Ind. In fact, Blount praised Kimmel during the postrace interview, saying, He did a great job today. You can tell hes a true champion.
After winning the pole in qualifying, Blount took control of the race early, fending off early chargers Miller, Ken Weaver and Kyle Krisiloff. Meantime, Kimmel was snaking his way through the field and patiently waiting for his chance. It came on the 67th lap, after he trailed Blount for several trips around the superspeedway. Once he eased past Blount, Kimmel sped off to a large gaping lead over the field.
I had been trailing cars all day, so I really didnt know what my car had until I got out in front, Kimmel explained. It was running super all day. (Crew chief and Kimmels brother) Bill (Kimmel) made a great change with the tire pressure, and after that, I could keep it on the white line whenever I wanted to.
Kimmel collected his 57th ARCA RE/MAX Series career victory. He has won 34 of the last 95 races, but his first of this young season. Blount, meanwhile, has won twice this year, while Bobby Gerhart won the opener in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Blount seemed destined to capture his third consecutive race victory, but he said late in the race his car was getting tight, and he lost power. It just seemed as the race went on, the car kept getting tighter and tighter, Blount said. Its hard for a driver to handle that.
Once Kimmel had the lead, it was all Blount could do to hold on to second place, with hard-charging Miller right on his tail.
Hes a smart little racer, and once I got past him, he realized he wasnt going to win, and he wisely held his position for second, Kimmel said of Blount.
The day began with several crashes during qualifying that sent seven cars against the wall. Some wrecked cars, including that of Henryville, Ind.s Darrell Basham, was unrepairable for the race later that day, so he was forced to use his short track car that he had planned on letting his son, Jason, drive. Jason, instead spotted for his father, who had trouble keeping up with the field in his slower backup car.
Qualifying was the biggest scare of the day for me, Kimmel joked after having seen cars crash before and after his qualifying run. It was really slick out there, so I was a little cautious early in the race. I just tried to stay out of the way.
Kimmels victory was his fourth at Kentucky, a place he considers his home track. Its great to win here because I have a lot of family and friends who come out to support me, he said. For that reason, we put some pressure on ourselves to win here, and when you do that, eventually youre going to break through (and win).
In all, Kimmel has racked up seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes at the Sparta track since it opened in June 2000. He will be back in mid-July to try and make it five winshere when the ARCA RE/MAX Series opens for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
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