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.
The second weekend of April will not be anything close to normal for race fans.
There's no Nextel Cup race, giving us no field-filler or Junior-spinning-on-purpose debates to keep us busy.
No Formula One action, if that's what it's being called these days, meaning no Mercedes-engine-on-fire while Michael Schumacher wins race No. 70-something stories after being wined and dined by Middle Eastern royalty.
Ditto for the dormant IRL, Champ Car and NHRA series, leaving the upcoming weekend a veritable nightmare for those who think methanol is proper cologne and whose garages are filled with spare "racing parts" belonging to cars they may or may not still own (if ever).
But before you begin weeping in your Juan Fangio vintage race helmet (and who hasn't?), we offer a few hot spots that could offer a slice of heaven this weekend should you choose not to head to your local circle track of choice.
In Nashville, check out Frank Kimmel and the ARCA/Remax boys battle on Friday before the Busch Series stars run in the Pepsi 300 on Saturday. Not familiar with Kimmel? Read our driver focus this week to see why he is likely to put on another good Southern show.
If loading the family into the Mini Cooper and making a road trip to Nashville isn't an option this weekend, maybe Rossburg, Ohio, is closer to your crib.
There, you can watch Danny "The Dude" Lasoski, fresh off his IROC race victory over the Cup stars in Texas, take on reigning series champ Steve Kinser in World of Outlaws.
If WOO is not for you, then get thee to Phoenix, where the Food City 250 weekend of racing offers something for everyone.
In support of the Rolex Sports Car Series, the Grand-Am Cup Series lets you see what happens when a modified BMW M3 tangles with a modified Audi S4 or Nissan 350Z -- picture what you see on your typical U.S. Interstate, only with qualified drivers and no dazed mini-van drivers thrown in.
As for the Rolex Series itself, no, those "Daytona prototype" cars aren't likely to resemble anything in your driveway, but neither are NASCAR's "stock cars" and 75 million people still watch those.
We know the temptation will be there to rent the entire Cannonball Run movie series for laughs, or watch "Bullitt," "Ronin," "The French Connection" and the original 1974 "Gone in 60 Seconds" to determine once and for all which flick contained the best car chase scene.
And we can't blame you if a trip to the video store is all you can muster this week. However, might we remind you that said movies could be watched on a VCR at a hotel on the way to the races.
Oh, and we're partial to the Ronin sequence in Paris where Mr. De Niro appears to have seen a ghost while "driving" (he was really riding shotgun); but that may also be because the sight of an Audi S8, several BMW M5's and a bevy of Peugeot's and Citroen's we don't get on this side of the Atlantic stirs us more than the old '68 Dodge Charger and Mustang GT.
No offense, Dukes of Hazzard fans (and you know who you are).
There you have it. Gas and Go's own mini viewer's guide for the racing deprived masses.
So put the Fangio helmet back on the mantle. Dig out your driving gloves, Serengeti shades, fire up the "project" that's been hiding out the winter under its cover and hit the road.
True racing awaits.
Where is this magically appearing and disappearing rule book that nascar has anyway? I've heard all of the "experts" saying Junior didn't break a rule that was in the "rule book." Those include Darrell Waltrip, Ryan Newman and many other race drivers or announcers. How is it that these people knew nothing of this rule? It is my humble opinion that nascar can make a rule when it wants because no one has a copy of the book so no one truly knows all of the rules.
Ahh, the ever elusive rule book. With the frequent modifications, it does seem to be a work in progress. And that's fine, assuming all of the relevant parties know exactly what it says each Sunday. Based on the post-Junior spin fallout, it appears that is not the case. There is something to be said for having the flexibility to adapt to whatever situations may arise, but for there to be such doubt among drivers and teams as to whether a rule even exists is preposterous.
Got your own questions about what's happening in the pits? Ask away, and we'll answer a question or two in the next Gas&Go.
David Coulthard 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."
Elliott Sadler 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."
Danny Lasoski 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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