ARCA champion Kimmel relishing Homestead atmosphere

ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards legend Frank Kimmel punctuated his 10th ARCA championship with a historic 80th career victory little more than a month ago on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. 

 

That's a big part of the reason why Kimmel can't wait to make his 14th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in Friday evening's Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- the series' 19th season finale -- in the No. 13 Ansell / Menards Toyota fielded by ThorSport Racing.

With the race being the opening event of NASCAR's "Championship Weekend" at Homestead, Kimmel will be involved in a championship gala unlike any other he's experienced.

But even more important, Kimmel's ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton has achieved exactly what Kimmel hoped and prayed would occur a couple weeks ago when ThorSport owner Duke Thorson made the decision to field the combination tribute to Kimmel, support of Crafton and "thank you" gesture to sponsors Ansell Gloves and Menards.

Crafton, simply by taking the green flag Friday night, will clinch his first NASCAR national series title, owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson's first NASCAR title and sponsor Menards' first NASCAR title but its second stock car title this season to go along with Kimmel's iconic 10th.

"It's going to be really special to be able to celebrate those championships together, as a team, with the way we raced and worked together all season," Kimmel said. "I'm really excited for a lot of reasons -- and one of them is certainly getting to finish that story we started in 2011, when we didn't get a chance to race."

The open chapter in Kimmel's career began two years ago, shortly after he signed a deal to drive for the Thorsons' newly-formed ARCA team in 2012.

 

ThorSport entered a truck for Kimmel in the 2011 Homestead finale, when teammate Johnny Sauter, who'll be driving one of three ThorSport trucks in Friday night's race, was in a championship dogfight with Austin Dillon that Sauter ultimately lost by six points.

It was Kimmel's debut with crew chief Jeriod Prince and truck and car chief Rich Lushes -- a combination that's won six ARCA races over the last two years along with this year's title -- but the truck, which was plenty fast enough, was a non-starter when qualifying was rained-out.  

 

"We unloaded really loose and spent nearly all of practice battling trying to get the thing underneath me," Kimmel said in flashback mode. "But then Jeriod and Rich and I hit on something and our last lap of practice was the fastest we'd run -- on 30-lap (old) tires. It was such a shame we never got to find out how that truck would've raced.

"I'm sure Jeriod knows a whole lot more now about how I'd like the truck to feel, than he did then and I think we'll have something pretty good to work with because this is a truck out of Matt's stable. I can't wait to get started." 

Kimmel will find that out Friday in a Toyota Tundra that looks virtually identical to Crafton's No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra -- and is also virtually a carbon copy of Kimmel's typical Menards-yellow ARCA car, though that Toyota is No. 44.

Kimmel has 13 career Truck Series starts, including his career-best eighth-place finish, at Daytona, for owner Bob Keselowski. His most recent Truck start was at Iowa Speedway in July, where he finished 20th.

 

"This is the 88 truck team's weekend but we're excited about being there to celebrate it with them," said Kimmel, who also plans to attend Monday night's Truck Series awards ceremony. "This is a huge event for Menards and we're really proud to be able to be a part of it.

"With the Truck owners' championship still up for grabs, one of the things that you're concerned about when you come in doing a one-off deal is messing any of the regulars up on their points racing and we definitely don't want to do that. But I think to be able to go down there with no pressure on us and most of the pressure off Matt and Johnny is having such a great fall run -- he's in contention to finish in the top two or three in points himself and that's just remarkable -- so this is a really special way to finish off our season."

Homestead's one-day Truck Series race format begins with a single practice from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET Friday, with live TV coverage on FOX Sports 1. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 4:30 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2.

 

Friday's 134-lap, 201-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 7:30. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio also begins at 7:30.Live timing & scoring for the day's events will be at www.nascar.com

 

Thorsport PR

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Steven B. Wilson

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