#ARCAThrowbackThursday - 1997 Auto Value 200 at West Virginia Motor Speedway

The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has been racing on the two dirt miles at Springfield and DuQuoin since 1983, but dirt track racing has been a big part of the series history since its inception. And for much of ARCA's pre-1983 existence, racing on dirt short tracks - one-quarter, one-third, and one-half miles in length - was a big part of the schedule.

While ARCA hasn't raced on anything shorter than a one-mile dirt oval in many years, the occasional half-mile still popped onto the schedule throughout the 1980s and 1990s. ARCA raced at Muskingum County Speedway in 1982, Perry County Speedway in 1988, Hagerstown Speedway in 1989 and 1990, I-80 Speedway in 1995, and West Virginia Motor Speedway in 1997.

The race at WVMS was the last the ARCA Racing Series ran on a dirt track under one mile in length.

Twenty-nine cars started the Auto Value/United National Bank 200, with Wes Russel surprising the ARCA regulars by taking the pole at 85.363 miles per hour around the sweeping 5/8ths-mile banked oval. It wasn't meant to be Russel's night, however, as he got beat by Tim Steele into turn one and never led a lap. A faulty oil pump sidelined him 32 laps into the race.

Steele led the first 104 laps before Russel's teammate Bobby Gerhart took over the top spot from laps 105 through lap 128. Gerhart eventually gave way to Frank Kimmel, who would lead the rest of the way to score what was just his fifth career ARCA victory.

Kimmel ran the 1997 season in a unique partnership with Larry Clement and Dan Falldorf. Falldorf supplied the short track Pontiacs while Clement supplied the superspeedway Chevrolets. In 1998, Clement became Kimmel's sole car owner and they raced off into the history books, earning nine championships together and scoring 69 of Kimmel's record-setting 80 ARCA wins.

All told, Kimmel scored 11 ARCA wins on dirt.

Kimmel defeated Blaise Alexander by over a lap. Tim Steele, who was second until three laps to go when he punctured a tire, was third, Steve Kosiski was fourth and Bobby Gerhart fifth.

To date, this is the only ARCA Racing Series event at WVMS. The track has sat idle since 2011 when it was shortened from 5/8ths of a mile to 4/10ths. It's still visible to the west side of I-77 when you travel through Mineral Wells.