Monday, July 1, 2013

Kimmel Outruns Young Guns at Winchester - Ties ARCA Win Record

Frank Kimmel (#44) led from pole on owner's points after rain washed out qualifications
"Old age and treachery wins out over youth and exuberance." I don't know where that quote originated, but it sure seemed fitting after watching Frank Kimmel get another ARCA win on the Winchester high banks Sunday June 30th. On a misty and wet day which caused the race to start under green/yellow conditions, Kimmel bided his time and pounced in the final third of the  Herr's Chase the Taste 200 after most of his younger competitors ran into problems or each other. After leading quite a few laps, Mason Mingus got caught up in an incident and finished the race with a car that looked like a modified, the team having used a sawzall to cut off the right front fender so he could finish. With the win, Kimmel tied the all-time ARCA wins record of 79 set by Iggy Katona and remains atop the ARCA season points standings with Mingus lurking in second. Austin Self was charging hard at the end but couldn't catch Kimmel and had to settle for second.

Rainy ARCA Autograph session
This was another race where I had the opportunity to shoot for ARCA and my day started off with a short drive through scattered showers between Indy and Winchester. The weather radar looked like it was going to clear off eventually, but the pattern was odd since rain usually doesn't come from the north and east like this system. As I got onto I-69 to head out of town, I saw a large hawk perched on a set of INDOT solar panels, so I had a feeling that the day was going to work out alright. Once at the track, the sprinkles persisted until about an hour before the scheduled start. I was dealing with equipment issues with one of my cameras as a result of the "moisture" but I wasn't totally surprised since that particular camera had gotten soaked at Mid Ohio a couple of years ago in monsoon conditions during an American LeMans series race. But I was able to work around the problem for the most part, as it only seemed to effect one lens, and I was able to do what I needed to do for ARCA. Although the track was still wet at the start, by the time the race was over, there was bright blue sky and sunshine. The lead picture (above) was taken during the pace laps when I noticed an area of ponding water on the inside of  the track between Turns 3 and 4, and I liked the reflection effect. Track officials did a great job getting the racing surface ready and the start was only minimally delayed.

Austin Self's crew gets ready to work on a rainy Sunday
I'm sure the wet weather kept the crowd down, and that's a shame, because ARCA, and especially a small track like Winchester, need the fan support. But those who came and stuck it out were treated to a good race. It's not often fans get to witness racing history and I was certainly glad to do my part in helping document it. I've been shooting ARCA races pretty consistently since 2006, and Frank Kimmel has been a mainstay of the series. He races hard and clean, and I got the chance to shake his hand afterward as I was leaving the track to head home. NBC Sports Network was on hand to tape the event for a special which will air sometime in August, so everyone involved was highly motivated to get the whole 200 laps in and put on a good show. Check, and check, as both missions were accomplished.

Tom Hessert and father walk the track early on race day
It's funny what you see sometimes being on the inside of a racing series. I got to Winchester so early that the credential office wasn't even open, and all the cars were impounded on pit lane covered with rain tarps. Within an hour or so, teams started filtering in and making pre-race adjustments. I saw drivers milling around talking with crew members, friends and family, or checking out the displays of historic Winchester photos inside the main building where fans enter. I always enjoy shooting the ARCA autograph sessions too as the fans genuinely love the chance to meet and talk with these drivers, many of whom are future stars in the making. I was a race fan before I was a racing photographer, so I can sympathize with fans who are going to say "I saw them then.." like I do as time passes. And at a track like Winchester, time passes quickly as 200 laps didn't seem to take much time to complete once the race got underway. I don't know when I will be shooting for ARCA again, but I look forward to it with the same passion I approach shooting any other racing event. Hopefully next time, my equipment troubles will be a distant memory and we'll have another historic moment to write about. See you on the road somewhere soon.

Ominous skies were present right up to the start of the Herr's Chase the Taste 200 at Winchester Speedway
ARCA Driver Tom Hessert checks the historic photo displays with friends
Frank Kimmel during driver introductions

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