Frank Kimmel continues down a road never before traveled in ARCA, busting down fences along the way. And we’re not talking about the fences that surround the racetrack, either.
News of the seven-time champion’s latest endeavor came this week in the name of an official invitation to join the 2006 Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC), making him the first champion in ARCA RE/MAX Series history invited to compete in the series.
Six of those titles came consecutively, a feat unmatched in the aforementioned category.
He followed up his champion accolades in January when he was elected by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) to join the All-America First Team in the Touring Series category. The 2005 honor marks the second time he has been selected for the honor, and he remains the only driver in ARCA RE/MAX Series history to be elected to the team.
Kimmel’s latest accomplishment, the Crown Royal IROC invitation, will once again take him down a road that ARCA has never traveled before. He joins an impressive list of champions from a wide spectrum of racing venues selected to compete in the four-race season schedule, including Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Steve Kinser, Ted Musgrave, Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor, Max Papis, Carl Edwards, Sam Hornish, Jr., Scott Sharp and Matt Kenseth.
“I’m really, really excited to race in the Crown Royal IROC Series,” said Kimmel. “I’m very honored that they have given us this opportunity. I would be remiss to say that without racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series I would never have had the opportunity to race in IROC. The folks at ARCA have been extremely helpful and racing in that series all these years has done a tremendous job preparing me for this opportunity.”
But the Crown Royal IROC invitation is only one of many firsts for the veteran ARCA RE/MAX Series driver. In 2005 he joined Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers in auto racing history to win seven championships on a national stock car tour that competes on both short tracks and superspeedways.
“We’re extremely proud to have Frank Kimmel in the Crown Royal IROC Series this year, which marks our 30th Anniversary Season,” said Jay Signore, president of IROC. “Frank has been on our radar screen for quite some time and deservedly so with each of his seven ARCA RE/MAX Series championships. I’m so glad for both of us that we are finally adding his name to our roster of more than 130 drivers.”
For ARCA, the ability to honor a seven-time national driving champion in the IROC ranks means a lot for the organization.
“We’ve admired what Jay Signore and his crew have accomplished with the Crown Royal IROC Series for a long time,” said Ron Drager, president of ARCA. “It’s truly an honor to have the ARCA RE/MAX Series champion invited to compete. We have every confidence that Frank Kimmel, with his considerable talent and experience, will represent our series well. For 4 races of the 2006 season, every ARCA member and fan will have reason to come together to support him as our Crown Royal IROC Series representative.”
The Crown Royal IROC Series has been selecting champions to
compete in the series since 1974. And over the course of the past 30 years, some impressive names have raced in the series, including A.J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Mark Donohue, Cale Yarbrough, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Harry Gant and Mario Andretti.
The Crown Royal IROC Series kicks off during Speedweeks with a 100-mile event at Daytona International Speedway. From there, the champions selected to participate in the series travel to Texas to tackle the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. For the first time in 14 years, road course racing has been added to the 2006 schedule as well, with the inclusion of a race at the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course on June 29. The season concludes at Atlanta Motor Speedway on October 28. All events will be broadcast on SPEED.
“The whole premise of the IROC Series is to include champions from many different forms of racing,” said NASCAR Nextel Cup Series veteran Mark Martin. “Inviting Frank Kimmel from the ARCA Series is a great way to bring new drivers to the IROC field and increase the level of competition. I enjoy watching the ARCA races when I can and look forward to having Frank in the field this year.”
And, judging by Kimmel’s long list of ARCA accomplishments, he should be well suited for IROC competition. He has led 8,920 laps in 156 races, more than any other active driver. In addition, he is the all-time superspeedway lap-leader with 2,499 laps-led in 69 races. In 303 career ARCA RE/MAX Series starts since 1990, Kimmel has acquired 183 top-5 finishes and 226 top-10s, more than any other active driver in both categories.
While Kimmel is the first ARCA RE/MAX Series champion ever selected to compete in the Crown Royal IROC Series, the 54-year-old sanctioning body has enjoyed a long history with IROC. Several former ARCA race winners, including Mark Martin, Kyle Petty, Davey Allison and Ryan Newman, have gone on to compete in IROC later in their careers as representatives of other series.
IROC’s ARCA flavor becomes even more intense when you consider that current ARCA RE/MAX Series car owner and 1995 driving champion Andy Hillenburg has, for the past ten years, served as a test driver for the series.
Over the course of Kimmel’s long and storied career, he has raced on a challenging combination of superspeedways, intermediate tracks, road courses and even dirt tracks, all of which have helped prepare him to face-off against his fellow Crown Royal IROC competitors.
“To have the opportunity to race against all of these tremendous race drivers is quite an honor,” said Kimmel. “It’s a privilege to represent both Tri-State Motorsports and ARCA in the Crown Royal IROC Series.”
Whether Frank Kimmel can add to his seven ARCA RE/MAX Series championships in 2006 with a Crown Royal IROC title remains to be seen. But the multi-time champion has certainly blazed trails never before seen in ARCA competition. And the invitation to compete in the IROC series has become a source of pride not only for Kimmel, but also for the entire ARCA community.
Frank Kimmel will be wheeling something in addition to his #46 Ford in 2006.
Kimmel knows how to win on big tracks - here he ios last season at Michigan.