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ARCA: Last Lap Pass Gives Kimmel Michigan Cash

14 June 1998

By Don Radebaugh

After a disappointing 27th place finish in Memphis last week, Frank Kimmel rebounded with a bang, drove underneath Andy Hillenburg on the final lap and beat the former ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series champion to the checkered flag by .176 seconds to win the Michigan ARCA 200 here Saturday before a record 70,000 estimated onlookers. Kimmel earned $17,570 for his effort and reclaimed the point lead from Mark Gibson who debuted the first-ever Ford Taurus in ARCA competition to a ninth place finish.

With the crowd on its feet and the white flag already waving, Kimmel and Hillenburg staged a door-to-door duel down the backstretch that would be settled in turns three and four. "I had pretty good momentum at first coming down the backstretch and got up beside him," said Kimmel. "We were pretty even going into three and I wasn't letting off until he let off. When he let off, I backed off and that gave me just enough advantage to get into the turn. Luckily it stuck and I think he wiggled around a little more than I did at that point. I knew if I got off that turn straight, I'd be okay." It was the third victory of the year for the Jeffersonville, Indiana driver in the Larry Clement owned Advance Auto Parts-Visionaire Chevrolet, and eighth ARCA win of his career.

As impressive as the final lap was, equally as impressive was Hillenburg's run that began from the 41st starting position after taking a past champion's provisional. Jeff Finley was in contention for the win for the second week in a row and finished third moving from fifth to third in the series standings. Bobby Gerhart, who won his first career ARCA Talladega Pole Award with a speed of 180.768 mph, finished fourth with Mike Ciochetti completing the top five. Dennis Berry, In his first ARCA start, was impressive all afternoon and finished sixth on the lead lap.

But the final outcome did not tell the entire story as Gary Laton and Kirk Shelmerdine dominated most of the afternoon having led 46 and 48 laps respectively of the 100 lap event before fuel gremlins and yellow flags would keep both from victory lane.

Laton, from outside row one, showed the way into the first corner and led the first 46 laps with Shane Yoder in tow until the Albemarle, North Carolina driver ran out of fuel trying to stretch it one more round. As fate would have it, the caution flag then appeared on lap 54 for sporadic rain showers, but not in time for Laton who went 2 laps down after coasting powerless through turns three and four just before the caution appeared. By this time, all the leaders had pitted under green except for Shelmerdine who managed to stretch his fuel mileage enough to give the former Winston Cup crew-chief the luxury of pitting under caution. Shelmerdine's yellow flag stop put many of the top contenders a lap down including Kimmel, Ciochetti and Finley who had to work their way back to the lead lap late in the race. When the race went back to green, only race leader Shelmerdine, Hillenburg and Bill Baird remained on the lead lap when the caution came out again on lap 70 for Josh Baltes and Andy Belmont who exchanged paint in turns one and two. Most of the leaders came down pitroad for fuel and fresh tires while Shelmerdine elected to stay trackside. Back under green and with fresher tires, Kimmel, Ciochetti, Finley, Gerhart and Berry raced by Shelmerdine to get back on the lead lap but would need another caution to make up the distance. Their wish was granted on lap 89 when the yellow flag waved for Marc Brenner who crashed in turn three. On the lap 94 restart, Shelmerdine gave up the lead to Hillenburg before the final caution of the race appeared when Shelmerdine and Baird tangled battling for second in turn two. The incident cost both drivers several positions on the track and set the stage for a dramatic two lap shoot-out that kept the record ARCA/Michigan crowd standing to the very end.

Series Point Leaders: Frank Kimmel 1600, Mark Gibson 1565, Jeff Finley 1370, Bob Strait 1355, Andy Belmont 1235, Bill Baird 1115, Josh Baltes 1110, Norm Benning 1030, David Boggs 1000, Curt Piercy 875, Brian Conz 875.