Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kimmel Seeks Record Tying Win at Winchester Speedway

Frank Kimmel at Michigan International Speedway
I am back on the road tomorrow for a racing road trip, but this one is practically in the neighborhood. Winchester Speedway is only about 75 miles from my Indianapolis home and marks one of the shortest trips I have to make all year. It's another short, fast, high-banked oval which proclaims itself as the "World's Fastest Half Mile". I will be helping out ARCA again at this race and am looking forward to getting to see my friends run here again, something I've been able to do now for several years in a row. The track hasn't changed much since I started coming here in the 1990's to shoot USAC midgets and sprint cars, but the ARCA teams really put on a good show here and use every inch of race track during their 200 lap features. There may also be history in the making here as veteran Frank Kimmel has the chance to tie the all time ARCA wins record of 79 victories set by Iggy Katona.

If Frank were a university professor, he would have achieved emeritus status in ARCA long ago, but he's a racer and is determined to win a record 10th series championship in the twilight of a great career in the series. Regarded by some as a big fish in a small pond, Kimmel shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, has the best sponsor in ARCA and is one of the most fan-friendly drivers you would ever want to meet. The lines are always longest to get his autograph during ARCA's pre-race autograph sessions and Winchester will be no exception. There is no questioning his desire to win every time he races and if he is disappointed about not making it to the top of the stock car racing world, you would never know it when you see him at a racetrack.

Yet the ARCA series is changing, having become a training ground for young up and coming stock car drivers. Two years ago, Dakoda Armstrong won at Winchester and last year it was Alex Bowman's turn, both young guns with bright futures in stock cars. This year Mason Mingus, Justin Boston and Mason Mitchel are among the young guys hoping to make names for themselves by winning at this historic track. At Michigan two weeks ago, youngster Ryan Blaney was on the pole while another fresh faced "kid" Brennan Poole snagged the win in his first ARCA start of the season. While Blaney - who won the pole here two years ago - is not currently entered this weekend, Poole's win at Michigan has to put him among the potential race winners. Poole has won at Salem Speedway before so he clearly knows the fast way to get around short tracks like this. Along with Kimmel and the other young guns I've noted.

Winchester seems calm before the ARCA storm hits the high banks
The race is typically well attended, similar to the ones at Salem as Winchester has a long history and loyal, albeit regional, fan following.  This event  also has a title sponsor which is a great thing for ARCA. The "Herr's Chase the Taste 200" recognizes a company which makes some fantastic chips and snack products. I had a chance to sample some at the Michigan race for the first time and wish I could have pirated out a case or two to take with me. While that wasn't possible, it's good to see an event sponsor like Herr's jump into ARCA. This series needs support like any other racing series, but especially one which has been around longer than any other stock car sanctioning body and which races on every kind of track imaginable. They raced at Elkhart Lake on its scenic four mile road course last weekend and before August is over the series will also have run on another road course, two mile dirt tracks, other paved short tracks, and on mile-and-a-half ovals. Running at big tracks like Pocono, Talladega and Daytona gives ARCA drivers well rounded experience unparalleled in any other series, but it is still Frank Kimmel's show until more drivers and team owners commit to running the full season schedule like Chris Buescher did in 2012 in winning his ARCA championship before moving up.

Winchester ARCA action from 2011
In the meantime, I've added a few pix from the last couple years to get you warmed up for Sunday's action. Winchester promises lots of close racing with multiple grooves for passing, a bumpy and weathered surface which challenges teams to find grip with their Hoosier tires, and likely some beating and banging among those in the top ten who are fighting for a win. That's what I've seen here in years past and Sunday will probably not be any different. I am looking forward to it after two weeks away from a racetrack. Be sure to visit the ARCA website after the race at to check out photos and race results from little old Winchester. If you're in east central Indiana and love short track stock car racing, then just go! Head over to Muncie and turn east on State Road 32 - in about 20 minutes you'll feel like you're at home at the races. You won't regret it. See you there!

Tim George, Jr. didn't have a good day at Winchester in 2011
2011 Winchester winner Dakoda Armstrong (22) presses the issue with Chad Hackenbracht
Matt Lofton (16) and Jared Amrks (12) demonstrate two groove racing at Winchester in 2012

Frank Kimmel's crew provides quick service on a beautiful day for racing in 2012

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