(INDIANAPOLIS - July 27, 2012) - Never before in his ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards career had Frank Kimmel endured such a long winless streak. Race after race since September 2008, the nine-time ARCA champion had fallen short - until tonight's Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Kimmel (No. 44 Ansell/Menards Toyota) led the final 43 laps on the Indianapolis short track to win for the first time in the last 76 ARCA Racing Series events. His victory was his first since a win at Salem Speedway nearly four full seasons ago.
"It's hard to get here some times," said Kimmel, who started seventh. "I've got to thank this team and sponsors Ansell and Menards. I'd like to take a lot of that credit but we had a good handling race car. I could turn and cut into traffic and run into the flat, whatever I needed at the end. That made the difference. This is a hard place to drive around and a really hard place to pass people. That's what makes it special."
Kimmel's 75 wins have come on 27 different tracks. Kimmel had never won at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Tom Hessert (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet) made a late charge for second, and Kevin Swindell (No. 66 Curb Records Toyota) was strong for the second straight week, following his victory at Chicagoland with a third-place finish.
Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell winner Matt Crafton (No. 88 Messina Wildlife Management/Menards Toyota) led the first 20 laps easily, building his lead to 5.108 seconds before Alex Bowman crashed in Turn 1. Crafton, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran, led the field to the green flag at Lap 26 with Chad Hackenbracht and Mason Mitchell battling for second behind him.
Crafton built his lead to over a second within several laps while Kimmel battled his way into the top five by running on the bottom groove against Matt Lofton (No. 16 Strutmasters.com Chevrolet) and Mason Mingus (No. 32 Call 811 Before You Dig Chevrolet). Crafton, like Kimmel in a ThorSport Racing entry, continued to lead, even after a close call with two lapped cars as he finished Lap 42.
Crafton's dominant run would not be for long, though. He lost control of his car after a mechanical problem as he closed Lap 51, and slammed the wall in Turns 1 and 2 to lose the lead to Hackenbracht. Crafton's day was done, forcing another substandard finish at Lucas Oil for the veteran. He finished 31st, one spot ahead of his result at Lucas Oil in 2011.
Swindell led off of pit road, but it was Hackenbracht who was taking control and seemed a likely candidate for a first career victory. After passing Mitchell (No. 6 J&S Ag Services/Make-A-Wish Foundation Chevrolet) - who had beaten him on pit road after the Crafton caution - right away, he started to look inside Swindell for first. Hackenbracht took the lead on Lap 62, and Mitchell and Kimmel passed Swindell for the top three positions.
Hackenbracht led at Lap 100, the race's halfway point, but that was not easy. Heavy traffic at Lap 91 allowed Mitchell to challenge for the lead and gave Kimmel a chance to close to within one second. Chris Buescher (No. 17 Reliance Tool/Roulo Brothers Racing Ford) was fourth, about four seconds behind.
Jared Marks crashed into the Turn 3 wall while on the tail end of the lead lap, just as Hackenbracht, Mitchell, and Kimmel approached on Lap 107. Brennan Poole, Ryan Reed, Chad Boat, and Swindell pitted, while Hackenbracht, Mitchell, and Kimmel continued to lead. Hackenbracht drove out to a big lead on the Lap 114 restart, but Mitchell and Kimmel kept it close the next lap around.
Mitchell looked inside Hackenbracht on Lap 129, but Hackenbracht kept the lead. The drivers were three-wide on Lap 132, just at the same time as Swindell made contact with Mason Mingus in fourth, a true sign that action was clearly heating up.
Kimmel passed Mitchell for second on Lap 134, just before another caution flag flew. Hackenbracht won the race off of pit road to start Lap 136, with Kimmel just edging Mitchell out. Swindell drove off fourth.
Having pitted at Lap 109, Boat (No. 98 Curb Records Chevrolet) led the race on Lap 136. Behind him was Poole, another early pitter. Hackenbracht advanced to second on the Lap 140, the first lap of green flag action. By Turn 2 the next lap, he led over Kimmel and Mitchell. Kimmel looked inside for the lead on Lap 142, forcing another three-wide situation, but Hackenbracht continued to lead. He was side-by-side with Kimmel for half of a lap until continuing to lead out of Turn 2. All the while, Kimmel kept looking inside.
But when Kimmel could not advance to the lead, he lost some ground. Mitchell actually took second on Lap 150 and grabbed the lead on the next lap. Engine issues forced Hackenbracht out of contention on Lap 156 and left the door wide open for a recovering Kimmel to attack Mitchell's lead. He took the first position on Lap 158, just laps before Boat crashed to bring out another caution.
Kimmel got off to a good start at the Lap 167 green flag. Poole (No. 25 Country Music Artist Buddy Jewell Chevrolet) advanced to second with about 25 laps to go and seemed to be on his way to passing Kimmel for his third victory of 2012. Mitchell passed him to start Lap 191, though, and Kimmel continued to move away.
Korbin Forrister spun on the frontstretch with eight laps to go, an incident that would bunch up the field for a final three-lap run to the green flag. Mitchell lost momentum on the restart from second place, and no other driver had anything for Kimmel after the Lap 198 restart. The Clarksville, Ind. driver took off for a 0.886-second win.
Below Kimmel, Hessert, and Swindell, Poole finished fourth and Mitchell fifth. Reed (No. 15 RaceHard.com Toyota) was sixth, Buescher was seventh, and Boat was eighth. Spencer Gallagher (No. 23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet) ended the night ninth and Mingus completed the top 10.
The race lasted one hour, 38 minutes, and 16 seconds, finishing with an average speed of 83.772 mph. Six caution flags slowed the race over 37 laps.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will visit Pocono Raceway for the second time in 2012 in the Pennsylvania ARCA 125 on Saturday, August 4. The 50-lap shootout on the 2.5-mile oval will begin at 3 p.m. and air live on SPEED. Practice will take place on Friday, August 3, from 1:40-3 p.m., and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell will start at 5:15. ARCARacing.com will provide live timing and scoring coverage of all on-track action. The event will be the 14th of 20 this season.