SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — In recent weeks, Frank Kimmel has shown flashes of his old dominance in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards — notably returning to victory lane after 75 races away and leading over half of another race in the midst of five consecutive top-five finishes.
Sunday the ThorSport Racing driver made another step in his ongoing quest for a 10th ARCA championship, leading 51 laps in the Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds to earn his sixth consecutive top-five, but more importantly, his 76th career win and eighth on the Springfield dirt mile.
Kimmel started just 10th but took the lead for the first time on lap 40 when Kevin Swindell drove to pit road and surrendered the lead. Kimmel gave the lead back after pitting to close lap 76, but passed Alex Bowman on lap 87 and led the final 14 laps to take his second win in 24 days.
“This Toyota was really strong right off the truck,” said Kimmel, whose other seven Springfield wins came in a nine-year stretch between 2000 and 2008. “I knew it was going to be fast, and Alex did a great job. It was just a really special day. When you’ve got a car that runs that good, you need to stay up there. I appreciate all the fans coming out and I really appreciate what a wonderful day it was for our entire team.”
Kimmel went on to thank Andy Belmont, who owned and oversaw the winning effort for driver Chad McCumbee at the Springfield track one year ago. Though Belmont is not currently an active owner in the ARCA Racing Series, Kimmel said Belmont helped him recently with setup tips for the dirt track.
The nine-time ARCA champion drew to within 15 points of Chris Buescher, who finished fifth, for the series lead. Brennan Poole, formerly second in points, dropped to third after completing just 85 laps and finishing 22nd.
“The best way to get points is to win the race,” said Kimmel. “They’re all going to be tough next week and the week after that, so we’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Bowman won his series-leading fourth Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell earlier in the day and led the first 10 laps, but Springfield driver Kelly Kovski — making his first ARCA start of the year — passed for the lead on Lap 11. By that time, Kimmel was in sixth.
Swindell passed for second to trail Kovski, and the two quickly put a second on Bowman. Swindell drove to the lead on lap 15, and eight laps later he and Kovski had separated and were approaching Matt Lofton and Austin Rettig, the 20th and 21st cars on the lead lap.
A two-car crash on Lap 25 brought out the race’ s first caution flag, and the green flag flew again at Lap 30. Swindell continued to lead, but pitted under another caution 10 laps later, giving Kimmel the lead.
Frank Kimmel and nephew Will Kimmel held the top two spots through the race’s halfway point at lap 50, with Kovski, Bowman, and Tyler Speer behind them. However, the elder Kimmel was putting some distance on second place. He led by 3.824 seconds at lap 54, and by more than four seconds after Lap 60. Bowman passed Will Kimmel for second on lap 62 and started to pick up speed, but Frank Kimmel still held more than a three-second lead.
A.J. Fike, winner of Saturday’s USAC race at the Springfield track, slowed down on the backstretch with a cut tire on lap 75, forcing the race’s third caution flag. Kimmel drove to pit road and relinquished the lead, but earned it back just eight laps after the lap-79 restart.
He passed Bowman in turns one and two on lap 87, and immediately started putting space between himself and Bowman in second place. Kovski pressured Bowman for second with less than 10 laps to go, which only served to help Kimmel. He led by more than four seconds with five laps to go, and won by 5.087 seconds.
Bowman held on for second, with Swindell moving from fifth to third in the last 10 laps. Kovski finished fourth over Buescher and Chad Hackenbracht.
Speer finished seventh, just ahead of Mason Mingus, Rettig and Spencer Gallagher.
The race lasted one hour, two minutes, and 58 seconds.