(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - February 20, 2012) - Kimmel Racing opened up the 60th season of competition for the Automobile Racing Club of America with a fresh face and a lot of unknowns.
However, by the end of Saturday night’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, it was Will Kimmel who shined into the spotlight by producing a thrilling third-place effort at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Kimmel taking the vacated seat of his Uncle, Frank Kimmel was optimistic heading into his second career start at “The World Center of Racing.” Primed and ready in his No. 68 Enterprise Software Development / Clarksville Schwinn Ford Fusion when Thursday morning arrived, it was time to get down to business.
In the first practice session of the weekend, Kimmel in his blue-oval produced the 15th fastest time overall in an affair that was consisted of both drafting and single-car runs. Under the guidance of his father and multiple ARCA championship crew chief Bill Kimmel, the duo consulted about ideas to make minor tweaks for their No. 68 Enterprise Software Development / Clarksville Schwinn Ford Fusion in time for Menards pole qualifying presented by Ansell on Friday afternoon.
In time trials, Kimmel circled the legendary racetrack in 50.375 seconds topping a speed of 178.660 miles per hour which lined the Indiana-based team in the 21st position. Safely in the starting field, the team turned their attention to the short but influential final practice session on Saturday morning to fine-tune their automobile for ARCA’s version of the Super Bowl.
Acquiring the ninth fastest time overall in the “happy hour” practice session, the Kimmel Racing team remained optimistic despite their No. 68 Enterprise Software Development / Clarksville Schwinn Ford Fusion wasn’t exactly drafting to their liking.
43 cars took the green flag with Kimmel easing his way towards the front. Climbing into the top-20 by the end of the first lap, Kimmel’s blue-oval continued to climb the leaderboard until the race’s first caution occurred on lap six when Milka Duno went for a spin on the frontstretch.
Electing to utilize pit strategy, the call from atop of the pit box was to bring the 23-year old to pit road to top off the fuel tank. Restarting in the 29th position on lap 13, Kimmel would have to show extreme patience as he tactically began working his way back towards the front.
Another caution for Leilani Munter jumbled up the field again but with Kimmel restarting the event on lap 17 in the 19th position. Methodically, the No. 68 Enterprise Software Development / Clarksville Schwinn Ford Fusion continued its march forward and entered the top-10 on lap 47.
Continuing to hover in a single-car formation, Kimmel would squeeze underneath the No. 58 of Chad Hackenbracht on lap 60 to steal another position in the top-10.
A multi-car incident ensued on lap 69 with Kimmel knocking on the door of entering the top-five. A restart with five laps remaining would begin to seal up the exciting finish in the 49th ARCA race held at Daytona International Speedway.
With some cars electing to make a trip down pit lane for a splash of fuel, Kimmel would take the lap 75 restart in the fourth position behind fellow Ford driver Chris Buescher (No. 17). While Buescher tried to make an attempt to pass second-place second Chris Windom on the outside, Kimmel kept his No. 68 Enterprise Software Development / Clarksville Schwinn Ford Fusion on the yellow-line freight-training the No. 17 and moving into third.
Buescher brought out the final caution of the race on lap 78 when we tagged from behind by another competitor setting up for a green-white-checkered finish. With father Bill encouraging his driver to try his best and save fuel, the family-owned team knew they had the opportunity to win ARCA’s most prestigious events.
On the restart, Kimmel remained glued to the yellow line on the back bumpers of McReynolds and Windom. The group would take the white flag with Kimmel searching for a way to maneuver past the two leaders.
As the field thundered out of turn four, both leaders nearly simultaneously ran out of gas forcing Kimmel to take abrasive maneuvers to avoid a collision but it allowed the Chevrolets of Bobby Gerhart and Drew Charlson to make a bold move to the outside to take the checkered flag first and second. Brett Hudson and Nelson Canache both made moves underneath Kimmel for third coming to the stripe but ARCA officials quickly would yank those positions away from them for passing below the yellow line to move Kimmel from fifth into the third position in the final rundown.
“Wow, that was crazy,” said Kimmel, who collected just his third top-five finish of his ARCA career. “We had a shot at winning the race but when those guys ran out of gas, I had to check-up and I was done. I tried to keep those guys from passing me but it was already then too late. At that point, I was happy to finish fifth, but when they penalized them and moved us back into third, it was even a better feeling.”
He added, “I can’t thank everyone on this Kimmel Racing team for all of their support and dedication. We have an all-volunteer crew and we picked up some sponsorship from Enterprise Software Development and man, I’m happy for them. Hopefully this run will help us moving forward and we can acquire some more sponsorship that will keep us in the ARCA championship battle.”
In addition to Enterprise Software Development (ESD), Kimmel Racing extends a huge thank you to their other sponsors for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 including Clarksville Schwinn, Crosley Radio and Ingersoll Rand.
Kimmel unofficially sits third in the ARCA championship standings just 10 points from leader Bobby Gerhart. Kimmel though could inherit the point’s lead by traveling to Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway for round two on March 10 as Gerhart and Charlson are not expected to enter that event.
Next up for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will be the first of two stops in the state of Alabama with the sanctions first ever visit to Mobile (Ala.) International Speedway for the running of the Mobile ARCA 200 on Saturday, March 10.
For more on Will Kimmel, please visit willkimmel.com.