ARCA: Frank Kimmel Claims First ARCA Crown
20 November 1998Year End Release
By Don Radebaugh
Toledo, Ohio - After finishing twice runner-up in the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series and 148 career starts later, Frank Kimmels perseverance finally paid off. The Jeffersonville, Indiana driver clearly established himself as the new man in command in 1998 posting nine victories, 16 top-fives and 19 top-tens en route to his first ARCA crown. Growth in the series continued under the helm of ARCA President Ron Drager with a total of $2,883,015 in posted awards distributed at 22 races in 12 states. Attendance grew to 622,000 in 1998 with every series race televised. And even though the new champion won nine races there were still 11 different winners including Mark Gibson who was runner-up in points for the first time in his ARCA career as well as four first-time winners including Kenny Irwin, Kirk Shelmerdine, second generation driver Mike Swaim Jr., and fourth generation driver Adam Petty.
In one of the most versatile stock car series in the world, Kimmel, who drives for Larry Clement in the familiar #46 Advance Auto Parts-VisionAire Chevrolet, excelled in every arena imaginable from short-tracks to superspeedways. After a sixth place run in the season opener at Daytona, Kimmel stepped up his effort at Atlanta serving up a Talladega Pole Award and a third place finish. It got even better for Kimmel when he found victory lane at Salem in the Spring, his first win there, and backed that up with his first superspeedway victory of his career in May at Charlotte. Kimmel repeated as the victor at Michigan with a daring last-lap pass on Andy Hillenburg before going on to dominate the short-track schedule with wins at Shady Bowl, Toledo, Kil-Kare, Flat Rock and again at Salem in the Fall. Kimmel also chalked up his first win at Atlanta under the lights in August, a race marred by the death of Greenville, South Carolina driver Chad Coleman. "It was truly a dream season, not only for Frank Kimmel but for the entire team," said Kimmel. "But it wasnt just me. It was the team effort that continually put this Chevy in victory lane. You know when youre working with a great team, then great things are going to happen, and they did all year long. We only had three DNFs all year, and those were crashes. It was just our season."
The year of dominance by the driver of the familiar #46 Chevy Monte Carlo also brought many other accomplishments to Kimmel and his team including the Oceans Eleven Resorts Lap Leader award for leading the most laps; 893 in 14 races, and the Superspeedway Challenge championship. Additional awards included the Motive Gear Maximum Performance and Thermo-Tec Durable Driver awards for completing the most laps, the Auto Value Parts Stores Halfway Leader award and the Racing Electronics Lightning Challenge honors. Crew chief Jeff Lemons won the AE Clevite Mechanic of the Year award. In all, Kimmel and company won $265,702 in total team earnings.
The STP-Prestone Rookie of the Year chase went down to the final wire with the 98 Daytona ARCA 200 polesitter Bill Baird taking the honors just eight points ahead of Andy Belmont and Chevrolet won the Manufacturers championship.
After leading the points early in the season, Winder, Georgias Mark Gibson finished a strong second in the series standings in the Briggs Cunningham/Kerry Scherer owned JaniKing Ford posting one victory at Texas Motor Speedway, 12 top-fives and 16 top-tens. Gibson raced his #59 Ford to the front in six races and led a total of 177 laps before a crash at Talladega Superspeedway resulting in a broken arm eliminated his chances for a shot at the championship.
Other than Kimmel, Tim Steele was the only other driver to win more than once having done so at both Pocono events, Pikes Peak and Talladega. In only six shows, Steele sat on the pole five times, enough to take the Talladega Pole award for the most poles of the season. Additional winners included Irwin in his inaugural ARCA run at Daytona, Shelmerdine at Atlanta, veteran Bob Schacht who posted his 19th career ARCA victory at Memphis, Ken Schrader on the clay at Springfield, Billy Thomas at DuQuoin, Bob Strait at Winchester and Petty who, under the lights at Charlotte, held off Mike Wallace by less than a car length to become the youngest ARCA winner in history surpassing his father Kyle in that honor. The season concluded with a battle between second generation drivers at Atlanta when Swaim held off a late-race charge from Bobby Hamilton Jr. Hamilton, in his first year on the ARCA circuit, posted four top-five finishes in only five starts.