ARCA: Kimmel Wins 8th of Season; Coleman Fatally Injured
30 August 1998HAMPTON, GA - ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series point leader Frank Kimmel drove Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts-Visionaire Chevrolet to his 8th series win of the season in Friday's Georgia Power 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in an event marred by the death of driver Chad Coleman.
Kimmel, in the first race ever held under the lights on the 1.54 mile quad oval, held off Jeff Finley by a half car length to earn the $19,050 top prize and his 13th career ARCA victory in his 141st start. Mark Gibson trailed in third at the stripe by five car lengths with Harris DeVane and Mike Swaim, Jr. completing the top five.
The race was only one lap old when Greenville, South Carolina driver Coleman slammed into the outer retaining wall on the backstretch while racing for position. Rescue workers tended to Coleman at the track and he was flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Georgia Baptist Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Coleman, 30, was running in his fourth ARCA race at the time of the accident. Coleman's other ARCA starts, all in 1998, came at Daytona where he led 17 laps before finishing 17th on the lead lap. The promising rookie also finished 19th on the lead lap at Charlotte and 10th at Pocono recording his best career ARCA finish there.
For most of the 200 mile race, Kimmel suffered with an extremely loose car but got the exact adjustment he needed when all the leaders came down pit road for one final stop with less than 20 laps to go. "My crew chief Jeff Lemons won this race tonight," said Kimmel in victory lane. "We were loose all night long and just trying to keep the leaders in sight when we got that last caution and the chance to adjust on it one more time. Jeff called for a major air pressure adjustment, and I don't know how he did it, but he nailed it and it worked. This team is awesome." Kimmel later dedicated his win to the Coleman family.
During the final pitstop Gibson's JaniKing Ford Taurus crew out-dueled everyone else and led the way off pit road. However, when the race went back to green Kimmel, with his newly adjusted race car, soon tracked down the leader and raced by on lap 117. In the end, Kimmel's toughest challenger would be Finley who made a late-race charge from fifth to second to battle for the win. With five laps to go, Finley planted his QuicShine 99 Chevrolet inches away from Kimmel's back bumper and patiently waited to make his move. It came on the final lap when the Diamondale, Michigan driver stood the crowd on end and raced to the inside of Kimmel off turn four only to fall short by less than a car length at the finish.
Three-time ARCA champion Tim Steele set the pace early on from the pole and led for 47 laps before a backstretch accident eliminated the Coopersville, Michigan driver on the 54th circuit. Mike Ciochetti also spent time at the helm as did rookie driver Matt Mullins and Bill Baird. Baird had one of the strongest cars of the night and was leading with less than 30 laps to go when he hit the turn two wall after his right front tire went down. Both Steele and Baird checked out okay. Kenny Martin and Mullins finished sixth and seventh respectively and were the last cars on the lead lap. John Kinder, Bobby Gerhart and Ciochetti finished eighth, ninth and tenth. Kinder was also awarded the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie honors, and two-time ARCA Midget champion Rick Harrell won the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions, from 40th to 16th.
Series Point Leaders: Frank Kimmel 4155, Mark Gibson 3795, Bob Strait 3605, Jeff Finley 3535, Bill Baird 3125, Andy Belmont 2995, David Boggs 2775, Norm Benning 2645, Curt Piercy 2590, Josh Baltes 2395.