Raikkonen and McLaren are feeling the heat.
When talking ARCA, Frank Kimmel's name must be mentioned. It's a rule. The four-time defending (and five-time overall) ARCA champ will be in action at Friday's PFG Lester 150 at Nashville, the second event on the '04 ARCA schedule. Kimmel, driver of the No. 46 Ford, got his latest title defense effort off to a good start, finishing second behind Kyle Busch in the season-opener at Daytona in February -- not that Kimmel was completely pleased with the finish.
"I don't think anybody was going to pass (Busch)," Kimmel told ARCA's official Web site. "... But it was a great day for the Advance Auto Parts car. At the same time, it's pretty frustrating (finishing second), but we've definitely improved our superspeedway program."
Kimmel, who has 50 career ARCA wins and has finished in the overall top-10 for 12 consecutive seasons, should be confident heading into Nashville. After all, he's won three of the previous races at the track (and finished second in two of the other three races), not to mention winning five of six poles.
If Kimmel's name sounds familiar to the strictly NASCAR fan, it should. Kimmel, who lists on his Web site "starting a Nextel Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway" as an ambition, has made seven career Cup starts. His best finish was a 26th at Charlotte while driving for Travis Carter in 2002.
Kimmel also has two career top-10s in 11 CTS starts. He plans to run a part-time Truck schedule in '04 while continuing his full-time ARCA effort. So far this season, Kimmel has CTS finishes of eighth (at Daytona) and 30th (at Atlanta).
It's definitely a step up from the ARCA series in competition," Kimmel told the Courier-Journal (of Louisville). "Instead of having five or six guys competing for the win, there are 10 or 15 you have to worry about. It's like an ARCA race on steroids."
Kimmel has also made one Busch start. He led four laps and drove to an 11th-place finish in 2001 ... at Nashville.
As for this weekend's ARCA race and the season championship, Kimmel -- who will bring his cars "Faith" and "Travis" to Nashville -- is the prohibitive favorite. As for any competitors hoping to find a chink in the 41-year-old's armor? Well, suffice it to say that Kimmel feels good about his prospects for this season.
"We're pretty excited to get racing. Everything has been really solid this year," Kimmel told the paper. "We basically have the same bunch of guys we had last year. I think this new Taurus is going to be even better than it has been in the past."
Other familiar names entered in Friday's ARCA field include Ken Schrader, Andy Belmont, Casey Atwood, Todd Bodine, Norm Benning, Jason Jarrett and Greg Sacks.
On his bad start:
"This is not where anyone expects McLaren Mercedes to be. I don't suppose we will be in that position for very long. We've got to ... get some wins before the end of the year, that's got to be the dream. It might well be a dream."
On Johnny Sauter:
"His awareness is hideous. Pardon my French, but I wish he would have left it down to me and Kasey to race and should have never been a factor here, but, hey, we all knew that going in. We race with him every week."
On winning the Texas IROC race:
"I can't believe this and I know I won't sleep all night. ... I'm so honored to be in this series. I'd probably pay to race these cars. I love to compete and these guys are the best in the world."
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