Top ARCA Rookies Have Gone On To Many Great Things Through the Years
Who Will Be The Top 2007 Rookie? That Answer Will Start to Be Answered at Daytona
Over the course of its 50 plus years in auto racing, the ARCA RE/MAX Series has strategically placed itself as both a driver development series and a destination for professional stock car racers. And if anything exemplifies ARCA’s position as a highly regarded driver development destination perhaps it is the strength of the Rookie of the Year program, which has been running strong for five decades.
Frank Kimmel has gone on to many victories and championships after winning the 1982 ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year award.
Former ARCA Rookie of the Year award winners have gone on to successfully compete in a wide range of racing series, including all three of NASCAR’s top touring divisions. Frank Kimmel, whose storied racing career has included eight ARCA RE/MAX Series championships, an invitation to compete in the International Race of Champions (IROC) Series, along with forays into the NASCAR Nextel Cup and NACAR Craftsman Truck Series, was the 1992 ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year.
“Winning the 1992 ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year award was the first honor I earned in ARCA competition and I feel like it helped pave the way toward my eight championships in the series,” said Kimmel, who is pictured at right with Ryan Foster. “As ARCA has grown over the years the level of competition for championships and for the coveted Rookie of the Year award have grown tremendously. I think that was never more true than this past season when we fielded a car for Ryan Foster who finished second by only six points to Blake Bjorklund. A lot of great rookie talent have gotten their starts here in ARCA and moved on to the highest levels of NASCAR competition. There is no doubt that the addition of ‘ARCA ROTY’ to a racing resume is very impressive in today’s competitive world of motorsports.”
NASCAR Nextel Cup Series regular Jeremy Mayfield earned ARCA Rookie of the Year honors in 1993.
1984 ARCA Rookie of the Year Davey Allison, pictured left in victory lane at Talladega, went on to claim the 1987 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award.
Other former winners of the ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year award include TJ Bell, Jason Jarrett, Glenn Brewer, Lee Raymond and Charlie Glotzbach, to name a few.
But, an even greater testament to ARCA’s position as a training ground for America’s future racing stars is the list of drivers who did not clinch the Rookie of the Year title during their freshman ARCA RE/MAX Series season. The competition, historically, has been intense; and so have the abilities of the drivers gunning for the prestigious honor. Among the 2005 Rookie of the Year competitors were promising young talents such as David Ragan, Chad McCumbee and eventual ROTY title holder Joey Miller. All three drivers used the experience they gained in ARCA to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2006 for teams such as Waltrip, Roush and Dotter. What’s more is that all three drivers remain close to their ARCA roots; Miller entered the ARCA RE/MAX Series’ season finale at Iowa Speedway at the conclusion of 2006 and McCumbee and Ragan have both entered 2007 ARCA 200 at Daytona.
“Chad [McCumbee] and I are good friends and I’m sure that he would agree with me in
saying that the ARCA deal is the number one proving ground for young kids and in my case
I think what makes ARCA so good is that we run on all the right tracks,” said Ragan, who
has landed a full time NASCAR Nextel Cup Series ride with Roush for the 2007 season. “You
get to race at Michigan, Pocono, Daytona, and a lot of the same tracks that NASCAR runs
at. Plus, in ARCA you get to race with guys like Mark Gibson, Frank Kimmel and Bobby
Gerhart, who all have lots of experience and so as a driver competing against these guys
you get lots of experience as well. “
While Blake Bjorklund earned the 2006 Rookie of the Year title on the strength of one victory
at Salem Speedway, two pole awards, six top-5 finishes, ten top-10s and the Bill France
Triple Crown award, the accomplishments of his fellow rookie competitors were equally
impressive. Five Rookie of the Year contenders finished in the top-10 in the final point
standings in 2006, filling up the fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth and tenth positions.
“It was an honor to earn the 2006 Rookie of the Year title, especially considering all of the competition in ARCA this year,” said Bjorklund. “When we decided to run ARCA I didn’t realize how difficult the series was until the first couple of races where we struggled to even make races. And, even as our team gelled together and improved, the other rookies got better too.“
Ryan Howard finished fourth in the final point standings while driving for ARCA RE/MAX Series veteran Mark Gibson in the No. 59 HD Supply Chevrolet and earned six top-10s along the way, while seventh-place points finisher Ryan Foster posted equally impressive results by earning four top-5s and eight top-10s in the No. 47 Frank Kimmel Racing Ford. Ninth-place points finisher Brett Rowe, a former champion in the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series, earned two top-5s, six top-10s and a pole award at Winchester Speedway. Justin Allgaier became the first hometown driver to win at the Illinois State Fairgrounds during the track’s 72-year history and earned six top-five finishes and eight top-10s on his way to a tenth-place showing in the final point standings. In addition, Rookie of the Year contender Dexter Bean, who finished 12th in points, earned two top-5’s, five top-10s and a pole award at Salem Speedway in September. In all, registered Rookie of the Year contenders finished in the top-five in 17 of 23 events in 2006.
A total of five ARCA Rookie of the Years have gone on to capture ARCA RE/MAX Series championships later in their careers, including Benny Parsons, Dave Dayton, Bill Venturini, Kimmel and Bill Baird. Parsons, pictured left, holds the distinction of being the only ARCA Rookie of the Year who has gone on to win season-ending championships in both the ARCA RE/MAX Series (1969) and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (1973).
To compete for Rookie of the Year honors, all rookie challengers must sign a rookie declaration form and present it to an ARCA official before any race in which they earn points. All rookie challengers must attempt to compete in at least one superspeedway event and one short track event to be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award. Points are awarded and accumulated from the best fifteen finishes out of the 23-event ARCA RE/MAX Series schedule, with the highest finishing rookie in each event earning 30 points and points decreasing in increments of two (1st–30, 2nd–28, 3rd–26, 4th–24, 5th–22, 6th–20, 7th-18, 8th-16, 9th-14, 10th-12, 11th-10, 12th-8, 13th-6, 14th-4, 15th-2). Final determination of award winner is based on points earned and a vote of the award committee. ARCA RE/MAX Series competitors interested in competing for ROTY honors in 2007 should call the ARCA home office (734) 847-6726 to request an official rookie declaration form. Longwood, Florida's Tim Russell and New Albany, Indiana's Josh Clemons are among those expected to battle for the 2007 ROTY award.
The 2007 ARCA 200 at Daytona rolls off at 4:15 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, February 10,
In 2006, Blake Bjorklund was named as the ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year after winning one race and posting 10 top 10 finishes with the #32 car.
Tim Russell hopes to be able to earn this year's ARCA Rookie of the Year honors.