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ARCA: Kimmel Fights off Strait for Flat Rock Glory

2 August 1998

By Don Radebaugh

The last thing Frank Kimmel wanted to see in the closing laps of the Flat Rock ARCA 150 Saturday night at Flat Rock Speedway was a rear-view mirror full of veteran Bob Strait. But that was the hand that was dealt and Kimmel played it well.

Strait, who has not won on the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series tour in five years, and hungrier than ever, set his sights on Kimmel with 20 laps to go, aimed, and fired. But Kimmel fired back giving up the lead for only 3 laps before outmaneuvering Strait in lapped traffic to reclaim the point. When it was over, Kimmel beat Strait to the final stripe by .041 seconds to win his seventh victory of the season in Larry Clement's Advance Auto Parts-Visionaire Chevrolet, and 12th of his career. Jeff Finley finished third hot on Strait's heels with Randy Churchill finishing fourth and Mark Gibson, the last car on the lead lap, finishing fifth. Rick Groetsch, who after just a handful of ARCA starts, won his first-ever Talladega Pole Award and eventually finished sixth in his Prototype Machine-Koolmat Ford. Wes Russell, Dave Weltmeyer, Joe Cooksey and Cavin Councilor completed the top ten.

"Now that was fun," said Kimmel in victory lane. "But I'm glad it's over. That rusty old veteran is the last guy I wanted to feel on my bumper there at the end. You sure don't have to guess who's back there. Bob's one heck of a racer and I know he wants to win bad but I wasn't going to be his reason for it. Not tonight anyway. I want to thank my car owner Larry Clement for this opportunity. I'm having the time of my life."

At the onset, Groetsch grabbed the top-spot and held on for 13 laps before Kimmel raced to the inside in turns three and four to take command. Then while Kimmel slowly extended his advantage, Groetsch, Weltmeyer, Finley, Churchill, Gibson and Bill Baird brought the fans to their feet continually with ongoing passing back and forth while Strait, who started 11th, methodically worked his way to the front. Strait, aboard Jack Bowsher's Zinsser Paints Ford, out-maneuvered his opponents one by one and by the halfway markers, found himself fifth.

Fortunately for Strait, eight cautions totaling 42 laps kept Kimmel within reach while the Mokena, Illinois driver continued his assault to the front. However, the closer Strait got to the front, the tougher it got, and by the time he was second, only 22 laps were showing on the leader board. Having not been to victory lane for so long, Strait quickly took matters into his own hands and got assertive with Kimmel's back bumper. Kimmel held on for a awhile before deferring to Strait near the end of the 150 chase while the crowd roared. But Kimmel used the lapped car of Baird to pin his opponent to the inside lane and raced on by to the high side never to give up the lead again while Strait was forced to fight off Finley for the runner-up spot.

Kimmel added $500 to his $10,570 payday for winning the Auto Value Parts Stores Halfway Leader award. Naples, Florida driver Councilor was credited with the STP-Prestone Highest Finishing Rookie honors while Curt Piercy, who finished 13th, won the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.

Next action for the series will be Sunday, August 23rd on the clay at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Current Point Standings: Frank Kimmel 3450, Mark Gibson 3095, Bob Strait 2995, Jeff Finley 2920, Bill Baird 2625, Andy Belmont 2565, David Boggs 2290, Josh Baltes 2235, Norm Benning 2080, Curt Piercy 2025.