April 15, 2014 – By Don Radebaugh, ARCA PR — ARCA photo — TOLEDO, Ohio – Frank Kimmel has won more ARCA races at Salem than anyone else, reaching back to his first win there on April 19, 1998.
Since then, the 10-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion has racked up nine wins total at Salem. That’s the good part. The not-so-good part is that he hasn’t been back to the Salem winner’s circle since September of 2008.
“And we may never win again at Salem – it’s way too hard to predict,” said Kimmel, driver of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Toyota. “There are just way too many variables that can get in the way there.”
In addition to the rough track, which can reach out and bite anytime it feels like it, there are the steady stream of well-financed rookies that can get in the way too. Case in point: last year’s Fall Classic when rookies Kyle Benjamin and Kyle Weatherman raced under the checkered flag first and second. Kimmel, the first veteran in the order, followed in third with veteran Ken Schrader trailing in fourth.
“It’s just not that easy. All these young guys coming in here with great equipment, and they’re all coming and testing too. It used to be that a guy’s first time at Salem was the race; there wasn’t a lot of testing going on. Now they’re seeing it, testing on it, so they have a good understanding of the place before the race begins.”
According the Kimmel, Salem is the great equalizer.
“Just when you think your car’s good, the handle will get away from you. And it’s getting harder lately. We haven’t won in quite a while. Sometimes you come out of there feeling good, and that the next time you go back, it’s going to be hard to beat you. Then what worked last time, doesn’t work so well this time, and you walk out of the place scratching your head.
“You know the deal. So many things can happen there. If it’s not the track that jumps out and bites you it’ll be the other people on the track that’ll take you out of it. If you’re near someone else’s trouble, then you end up in it too, more so probably at Salem than anywhere else we go. It’s just a tough place to race.”
It’s not a secret that the patch work around the old speedway complicates things, in addition to the notorious car eating characteristics that have always exemplified the legendary, high-banked oval in southern Indiana.
“I like it just the way it is,” Kimmel said regarding the track’s rough surface.
“I don’t care about the bumps and the rough. The only reason you’d eventually have to repave it is if the asphalt was coming apart in big chunks, chunks that could blow through your radiator and take you out of the race. You never want track conditions to mess up anyone or change the outcome of a race.
“And you have to consider the other divisions that run there too. ARCA’s not the only thing at Salem. The winged sprint cars are already too fast. If you repaved it, you’d have to consider how that might affect the other divisions. You have to look at the big picture. And, when you think about the investment it would take to repave the place – the half-million or more to do it – it’d be hard to recoup that level of investment.
“Repaving it would also bring it down to one lane, at least for a while. For me, rougher’s better.
“Either way, it’s still Salem, and that’s the cool part. It’s a very special place. If you look at everything the place offers – all the history and tradition, the whole thing. I mean, just think about all the drivers who have won there over the years; it’s amazing. It’s a very special place.
“But I love all the short tracks. These ARCA cars are built for short track racing. Even though the speeds aren’t as great on the short tracks as they are on the big tracks, you might think it would be easier, but it’s the exact opposite. It’s much harder to keep the fenders on it on the short tracks, especially Salem. You get 30 cars out there, and it turns into one busy little speedway. And just when you relax for a moment, it jumps out and bites you, and usually pretty hard.”
If experience is indeed the best teacher, then you could call him Professor Kimmel when it comes to Salem.
Kimmel, whose father and brother also raced at Salem, whose son and nephew race at Salem, has himself been racing there for decades, cutting his teeth in the local street stock and bomber divisions before he made his first ARCA start there in 1992. He finished fourth.
Since then, Kimmel has racked up more miles than any other on the Salem high-banks, competing in 40 ARCA races to date. In addition to his nine wins, which include five consecutive (2000-2002), the Salem track-master has led a whopping 1,727 laps in ARCA competition at Salem.
“No doubt, Salem is home,” added Kimmel, who lives about a half hour from the track.
“Like always, we’re coming to win. But however it comes out, it’s just so cool to race at Salem. It’s so close to home. That place will always have a special place in the Kimmel family. It’s our home track, and we want to win on it.”
The Federated Auto Parts 200 presented by Crunch ’N Nutter, the 95th ARCA race at Salem since 1955, is scheduled to get the green flag Sunday afternoon, April 27 just after 2:00 p.m. local time.
Two practice sessions precede Sunday’s race activity on Saturday, April 26 at 12 noon and at 1:15. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell rolls off at 3:30 Saturday. An on-track autograph session accompanies pre-race festivities Sunday from 11:30 – 12:30. Driver introductions follow at 2.