(TOLEDO, Ohio) – Not only did Frank Kimmel draw closer to Chris Buescher in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship standings with his victory Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, but he also trimmed Buescher’s lead in the Bill France Four Crown standings.
The season-within-a-season points chase will conclude at Salem Speedway next month after races on a superspeedway (Michigan) and a road course (New Jersey), and Sunday’s event on the fairgrounds dirt mile. Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/Roulo Brothers Racing Ford) leads with 570 points, but Kimmel’s (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) 200 points for winning at Springfield have him at 540. Alex Bowman (No. 22 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dodge) is third at 530. Buescher can clinch the award with a finish of sixth or better at Salem, or Kimmel can win the award by topping Bowman by any margin and Buescher by seven or more positions at Salem.
Kimmel lauded the work of Sunday’s race promoter, Bob Sargent, in preparing the fairgrounds track after rain dampened the surface before teams arrived in the morning. The start of the opening practice was delayed by 45 minutes, but all teams had the opportunity to practice for a full hour, as was originally scheduled.
“This is racing country right here,” Kimmel said. “Bob Sargent and his entire crew did a super job. It rained this morning and it didn’t faze them a bit. This track stayed down and it was probably as nice as it was all day at the end. What a great opportunity to go out and win a race. It was great for the guys from ThorSport, Ansell, and Menards after the way it’s run the last few races.”
Kimmel, whose win was his sixth consecutive top-five dating back to the July 13 race at Iowa Speedway, earned the Aaron’s Lap Leader Award for the race by leading a race-high 51. He also led more than half of the Berlin Raceway event eight days earlier.
Even after a top-five of his own, Buescher acknowledged the heat Kimmel is applying in pursuit of the 2012 series title.
“We’ve got a proven, tough competitor to put up with for this tough points chase,” he said. “Frank’s going to be really good, and he’s proving it right now.”
Buescher Leads by 15: Chris Buescher’s lead in the ARCA Racing Series standings is just 15 points after finishing four spots below Frank Kimmel and not leading any laps to Kimmel’s 51. Still, Buescher is the man in front. Last season, he finished either first or second at each of the remaining tracks on the 2012 schedule.
Reminded he has just as much Madison experience as his closest points rival and a more recent win at DuQuoin, Buescher quickly and humbly placed his own accomplishments in perspective.
“That’s one way to put it, but he’s definitely got more experience behind the wheel of these things. He’ll be really good there, I’m sure, and I hope that we will too. I think we will be. We’ve got to keep plugging along. We’ve got to go to Madison, get a good run in, and hopefully repeat at DuQuoin what we did last year.”
Changing track conditions at Springfield surprised Buescher, but he was happy to come home fifth.
“That was a tough one,” Buescher said. “Track conditions changed with the sun coming out right there at the end and it kind of caught us a little off guard, but we were still able to rally back and get a fifth-place finish out of it. The car’s a little torn up. I don’t know what was going through a lot of those guys’ heads. That was a little unnecessary, to say the least, but we came home in the points lead.”
Brennan Poole (No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet) is third in the standings, 80 behind Kimmel and 95 behind Buescher’s lead. Alex Bowman is fourth (-195), and Chad Hackenbracht (-320; No. 58 Tastee Apple Chevrolet) is fifth.
Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet), Spencer Gallagher (No. 23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet), Nelson Canache (No. 35 Venezuela Tourism Chevrolet), Tom Hessert (did not race at Springfield), and Josh Williams (No. 02 Southwest Florida Cable Construction Ford) currently fill the sixth through 10th positions, respectively.
The full and official ARCA Racing Series standings will be released Tuesday.
Pit Stops Surprise Runner-Up Bowman: Alex Bowman did not pit when the other contenders – including eventual winner Frank Kimmel – did to close Lap 76, and he feels that while that move gave him the lead, it may have cost him the race. Instead, Bowman finished second and earned his series-leading eighth top-three finish of 2012.
“We were pretty good,” said Bowman, who earned his series-high fourth Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell on Sunday. “I’ve just got to thank everyone at Cunningham Motorsports. (Crew chief) Paul Andrews called a great race from on top of the box and it was good to have St. Jude on board. I didn’t really see everybody coming to pit road the way they did there, but it is what it is. I think we might have won the race had we pitted, but we didn’t and we brought it home second. I can’t complain. I’ve just got to thank everybody: Penske Engines, Briggs Cunningham, Kerry Scherer, everybody that helps out.”
Bowman, 19, was concise in his appraisal of the 50-year-old Kimmel’s 76th career win.
“The old man’s still got it.”
Swindell Unhappy with Third: Kevin Swindell (No. 55 Curb Records Toyota) led 25 laps and earned his third straight top-three, but left unsatisfied after running out of time to gain positions at race’s end.
Swindell was fifth with five laps to go and improved two positions to third, but felt that he should have been in higher positions earlier. He was displeased with other cars kicking dust into the main groove, creating conditions he compared to an “ice rink.” He said that put him “behind the eight ball.”
“I’m not happy at all,” Swindell said. “We had the best car and it just didn’t play out right. We got tires at the right thing and everything we needed. We were way back with five to go and ran those guys down quickly. I’m just really frustrated today. The best car didn’t win.”
The three-time defending Chili Bowl Midget Nationals champion plans to race on DuQuoin’s dirt on Monday, September 3.
Another Race Record: Clean racing in the ARCA Racing Series has again helped to set another race record. Before Sunday, Bobby Bowsher’s average of 90 miles per hour was the race record on Springfield’s dirt mile, but Frank Kimmel broke that. By finishing the race in one hour, two minutes, and 58 seconds for an average speed of 95.265 mph, Kimmel set a new standard.
Bowman Top Rookie for Race: Alex Bowman’s second-place finish gave him Team Messina Rookie Challenge race honors for the seventh time this season, two more times than rookie points leader Brennan Poole. Since only the best 15 rookie scores are included in the year-end standings and Sunday’s race was the season’s 16th, each rookie contender’s point total can now drop its lowest race.
With that said, Poole’s Iowa score and Bowman’s Talladega score drop, and Poole leads Bowman, 400-390. Matt Lofton is third with an unofficial total of 368 points in his best 15 races.
Doubling Up: It’s more a quirk than anything else, but the number on each car that led laps in Sunday’s race was a digit doubled. Alex Bowman (No. 22) ceded the lead to Kelly Kovski (No. 99), who gave way to Kevin Swindell (No. 55). Frank Kimmel (No. 44) was the fourth and last driver to lead.
Kovski Ties Career High: Kelly Kovski (No. 99 Billingsley Towing/HUDL.com/Schluckebier Farms Ford) finished fourth in the Allen Crowe 100, tying a career-best he achieved last September at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. Kovski finished better than any of the six other Illinois drivers in Sunday’s starting field.
Backup Car? No Problem for Hackenbracht: A practice crash relegated Chad Hackenbracht and his CGH Motorsports team to a backup car which he later qualified 20th for the Allen Crowe 100. Hackenbracht improved 14 positions from start to finish, though, more than any other driver in the race.
Mike Affarano, though, won the CGS Imaging Hard Charger Award for the race. Affarano rose 11 positions from start to finish (27th to 16th), more than any other driver participating in the decal program. The finish was the best of his career.
Top-10s Stacking Up for Some: Two young drivers who continue to search for their first ARCA Racing Series victories continue to gather top-10 finishes. Mason Mingus (No. 32 811 Call Before You Dig/Diamond Equipment Toyota) finished eighth, his sixth top-10 this season. Spencer Gallagher was 10th, his fifth top-10 in his last nine starts after none in his first 10 races.
Speer, Rettig Have Career Days: Tyler Speer (No. 10 Fast Track Driving School Chevrolet) finished seventh, his first career top-10 in the ARCA Racing Series. Austin Rettig (No. 01 Allan Rettig Racing Dodge) was ninth, his best finish in six series starts.
O’Leary, Koch Break into Top 20: Tommy O’Leary (No. 40 Carter 2 Motorsports Dodge) had never finished in the top 20 in 23 prior ARCA Racing Series starts, but drove to 13th in his first race for owner Roger Carter. O’Leary was the first driver one lap down.
Mike Koch (No. 79 K&K Racing/Karl’s Plumbing Chevrolet) finished 19th in his 56th ARCA start for his first top-20.
Three Drivers Make Debut Starts: Illinois driver Shane Cockrum finished 15th in his first ARCA Racing Series start, topping fellow debut drivers Jeff Choquette in 25th and Ira Small in 32nd.
Off to Oregon…Wisconsin, That Is: Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wis. is the next stop for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. Practice for the Herr’s Live Life with Flavor 200 on the half-mile oval will take place from 1-1:45 p.m. and 2:15-3 p.m. Saturday, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell following at 4:30 p.m.
ARCA Racing Series drivers will appear on the frontstretch for an autograph session open to all fans at noon Sunday, and the 200-lap, 100-mile race will begin at 2 p.m. All times are Central.
Young phenom Chase Elliott will make his fifth ARCA Racing Series start, but admitted recently that he knows “absolutely nothing” about the track in southern Wisconsin.
“I’ll be new there,” he said. “I’ve heard good things about the race track and I feel like our Aaron’s/Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet will be good.”
If Elliott’s fortunate, his afternoon will turn out like Alex Bowman’s career debut did last year at Madison. Bowman had never competed in an ARCA race before last August, let alone at Madison, but drove a Venturini Motorsports entry to his first career win.
Even after three wins on tracks under one mile this season, Bowman is still looking for improvement and hopes Madison will be the place for that momentum to start.
“We’ve just got to improve our short track program,” Bowman said. “It seems like places like Salem and Winchester we’re really good, but anywhere else we’re not very good. We’re going to test Wednesday at Motor Mile (Speedway in Virginia) with two different race cars, so we’ve got to figure something out because I’m kind of frustrated with running 13th like we did at Berlin.”
ARCARacing.com will feature live timing and scoring coverage throughout the weekend, and ARCA Racing Network hosts Charlie Krall and Tim Clagg will deliver a live audio call for Sunday’s race on the site.
2012 is the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards’ 60th Anniversary Season, featuring 20 races at 18 tracks. The complete 2012 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season. This year, the series visited Alabama’s Mobile International Speedway and Minnesota’s Elko Speedway for the first time.
Founded by John and Mildred Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in three professional touring series and local weekly events.
Griffin Hickman, ARCA
(419) 574-2685 (mobile)
Don Radebaugh, ARCA
(419) 450-0611 (mobile)