13abc.com Joe Nugent, Sports Anchor/Reporter - email
Toledo Speedway will forever be a special place for 10-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion Frank Kimmel. It was the site of his first ARCA victory in 1994, and the place where he would, time and time again, return to the 7-UP Winners Circle, for a record nine wins at the renowned half-mile oval.
That said, it's hard to believe that nine years have passed for the ARCA icon without a Toledo trophy. The last time Kimmel won at Toledo was 2005. Considering he's the all-time ARCA winner with 80 wins overall, Kimmel is long overdue for a return trip to Toledo's victory lane.
"You would have to remind me of that," Kimmel said.
"I can't believe it's been that long; that means we're overdue. An ARCA race has never been easy to win, and they're not getting any easier."
To make things more complicated for the 52-year-old driver, several ARCA teams tested at Toledo ahead of this Sunday's (May 18) Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care; however, Kimmel's No. 44 Win-Tron Racing Ansell-Menards team was not one of them.
"I'd say those guys (that tested) would have the upper hand. It's really important to test whenever you get the opportunity. We would love to be able to come and test, but, financially, it's not always possible. But it doesn't matter how many times you've won in the past; the technology is always moving around on these cars. There isn't a lot of time in practice weekend of the race either."
Kimmel, who was 32 when he won that first ARCA race at Toledo in '94, acknowledges that the kids that are coming to compete in ARCA in the modern era are getting tougher and tougher to beat.
"Now you've 15-16 year old kids coming to race. And, they're all in the very best equipment. It used to be when you'd get a young guy coming in to race - back then guys in their late 20's was considered young - they would often make mistakes because they just hadn't competed in these big- heavy cars anywhere yet. These kids now are all testing, and they've been racing since they were four. It's a different game these days."
Kimmel remembers his first win at Toledo like the back of his hand.
"I remember the tremendous amount of relief I felt after that first win - you never forget it. The race itself was one heck of a battle all the way through. Bobby Bowsher, (Bob) Keselowski and (Dave) Weltmeyer were all really running good - it was a very competitive field. And there were also several restarts - thank goodness single file at the time - near the end of the race that were complicating things.
"But I remember being so happy, especially for my car owners at the time - the Shirley's...feeling so good for them. We were all so happy.
"I also remember that my wife Donna wasn't there. She rarely missed one of my short track races, but she couldn't be there that day. I remember calling her. She asked, 'How'd you do?' I told her we won it; she thought I was lying. It was a really special day.
"Toledo's a very special track for that reason alone, but special too because we've had so much success there over the years. We'd sure like to add that 10th win (at Toledo), but looking at the entry list, that will be no simple thing."
Asked if there were any special secrets to success at Toledo, Kimmel responded, "Toledo's a pretty standard half-mile, and that's what makes it so good. Even without testing, at least you know exactly what you've got when you get there. It's the perfect size track for these big, heavy cars, and it's such a good show, from the grandstands and from the driver's seat. I just love the place."
Frank Kimmel Appearances at Menards
Frank Kimmel will be appearing at local Toledo area Menards stores on Friday, May 16, including the Oregon store from 4-5:30 p.m. and the Toledo North Menards, near Toledo Speedway, from 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Tickets are on sale now for the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway. Tickets are $15, compared to $25 on race day, and are now available at Menards stores in Toledo, Defiance, Holland, Oregon, Sandusky and Findlay.
The weekend's activities include two ARCA Racing Series practice sessions Saturday, May 17 from 11:45-12:30 and 1-1:45, with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 3:30. An ARCA-sanctioned Sportsman feature race will follow qualifying Saturday afternoon. The Menards 200 is Sunday at 2, with an autograph session from noon to 1. Pre-race and driver introductions follow the autograph session.
The Menards 200 is live on FOX Sports 1.
ARCAracing.com will provide live timing & scoring and live streaming audio of all on-track activities both Saturday and Sunday.
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