Rookie Coulter, Veteran Kimmel Welcome Mansfield Short Track
Here's a switch. When the ARCA RE/MAX Series lines up at Mansfield Motorsports Park for this Saturday's (June 20) inaugural Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA 200, veteran Frank Kimmel will see the track for the first time. For a guy who's won nine series championships and 74 races all across the Midwest, that seems a bit odd; but that's the case for the Clarksville, Indiana stock car legend.
On the other hand, 18-year-old rookie Joey Coulter will be returning to familiar territory this weekend at Mansfield, which is an anomaly in itself. In fact, the majority of the tracks on tour are all new to Coulter, with the welcome exception of Mansfield.
"I've actually raced at Mansfield three times in the past," said Coulter. "I raced there once in 2007 and twice last year."
Not so much for Kimmel.
"Never seen the place before," said Kimmel. "It may take a little time to get used to, but anymore, our short track set-ups are very similar no matter where we're going.
"But anytime you've raced somewhere before, I think you have a little advantage. If you've raced there before, you know where the line is; it speeds up your testing.
"It may take a little while for me to figure out where I need to be on the track, but we've already been on the phone talking to people about gear ratios, so we're doing everything we can to get ahead of it."
Coulter, however, really doesn't feel that his previous experience at Mansfield gives him the edge in Saturday's show, which also features a 50-lap ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series race.
"It's not necessarily a hard track; it's just a short track," added Coulter. "It's a lot of fun to drive, but it's still just a short track. These guys (series veterans) have been driving these cars a lot longer; I don't really feel like I have an advantage over guys like Frank (Kimmel) just because I've driven there before and he hasn't. Frank's going to be good everywhere, whether he's raced there or not."
If Coulter is impressed with Kimmel's record, Kimmel seems to share an appreciation for Coulter's talent.
"I think Joey's done a really nice job this year," said Kimmel. "You can race around him all day; you don't have to worry about him running into you. He hasn't hit me yet; I can say that. But yeah, he's been very impressive, and I think very respectable of all the competitors."
Coulter, has also put together an impressive string of top-five and top-10 finishes in the last three events with a seventh place run at Toledo, a career-best fourth at Pocono and a fifth place finish last Friday at Michigan.
However, it didn't start out that way for Coulter, whose average finish in the first three races of the season was a dismal 23rd before breaking through with an eighth place run at Talladega to turn things around.
"We never let ourselves get down," said Coulter. "We've had fast cars everywhere and have run good everywhere; we just didn't have the finishes to go with it. But we kept our heads up because we knew we were fast.
"We had 20 laps of practice at Pocono and pulled off a top-five; we were really happy about that. I can't wait to go back to Pocono. That place is so different than anywhere else I've been. You go down that long frontstretch, and it's like being at Talladega before you dive off into that big sweeping corner; you can really haul through there. You hang on for dear life in the tunnel turn - kind of like Salem, and then it's pretty flat in turn three; but you have to get through there good to be able to get back on the gas to get down the frontstretch."
Coulter was also on the gas at Michigan where the Miami Springs, Florida driver cranked out another top-five finish and moved to seventh in overall driver point standings.
"I can feel my confidence going up, which adds to my overall comfort level. I tend to beat myself up a lot, and I need to quit doing that. Fortunately, Harold (Holly/crew chief) has been very patient with me which definitely helps with my comfort level.
"The whole team's working very well together. My engineer Michael's been working with Harold a long time. My car chief Richie Harris has Nationwide and Cup experience. I get along with all of them, and they're all very patient with me, which, helps me more than anything, and helps me build my confidence.
"At Michigan, I felt like I didn't have to force the car to do things it didn't want to do; it worked wherever I needed it to. My guys are giving me awesome racecars."
So with his confidence on the rise, Coulter is heading back to familiar territory at Mansfield.
"When I heard that Mansfield was going on our schedule, I got really excited. It should be a really cool race. If there's one thing I learned there is that there's not a lot of room to race. It's like there's not even a full groove there - more like a half a groove. The asphalt's getting older and it's losing its grip. But once you get side-by-side with someone, you can run that way all the way around. You just need to be a little careful getting there. It's still hard to pass though.
"You may see a lot of bump and runs - get behind someone and put the pressure on that way. Either that or you have to wait for someone to mess up and be ready when they do. But if you're waiting for Frank to mess up, you're going to run out of time on that one."
And like Coulter, who is excited to go back to Mansfield, Kimmel is just excited to get back to some good old-fashioned short track racing.
"I'm definitely ready to get back on a short tracks," added Kimmel, who finished 12th at Michigan. "We're improving our performance everywhere, although we're not having the luck we need to go with our performance."
And if Kimmel is not yet familiar with the Mansfield short track, he is certainly familiar with his primary car he'll be racing in on the Ohio short track.
"We're taking 'The Don' to Mansfield. Chassis no. 37 will be our backup."
Kimmel won three races in The Don in 2008 - his hometown Salem Speedway and both mile-dirts at Springfield and DuQuoin.
"Biggest thing I think (for Mansfield) is getting the gear choice right. It takes so much time to change gears that you can use all your practice time just doing that, which puts you behind. So gear choice, I think, will be the most critical thing. We're already talking to some people about that, so we feel like we're out in front of this one."
Kimmel hopes to be 'out in front of this one' when the checkered flag falls on the Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA 200. Kimmel is just five wins away from Iggy Katona's all-time win mark of 79 victories.
The ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series will join the ARCA RE/MAX Series for the same-day double-header at Mansfield. Raceday features an action-packed day of activity with ARCA Truck practice from 1:30 to 2:30 followed by RE/MAX Series practice from 2:30 to 4:00. Qualifying for the Trucks is at 4:15 followed by RE/MAX Series qualifying (Menard Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell) at 5:00. The fan-friendly affair also features an on-track autograph session from 6:00 to 6:45. Racing gets underway at 7:00 with the 50-lap ARCA Lincoln Welders 50 Truck Series event followed by the grand finale - the Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200 mile race, set for 8:30 PM.
Humble Texas ARCA Rookie Stephan McCurley Right at Home at Mansfield
When the ARCA RE/MAX Series heads to Mansfield Motorsports Park for the next event on tour - the inaugural Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200 Saturday June 20 - Humble Texas rookie Stephan McCurley will be a long way from home. Although, it may feel more like home compared to the rest of the schedule.
"Looks like I'm going to be able to test at Mansfield if everything goes good," said the 18-year-old driver, who's planning to test at the Mansfield, Ohio short-track Monday, June 15th.
While testing for some is common place on the ARCA RE/MAX Series tour, it's certainly not for McCurley who has so far tested, not at all.
"You think being a rookie is tough, try it with no testing.
"All my testing's been in practice, which here lately has been getting rained out a lot. In reality, my test is the race, and that's a heck of a time to try and figure things out."
At Pocono, McCurley got neither the opportunity to practice or test. Unfortunately, he lost a motor in practice, then another early in the race.
Even without practice at Salem - again from a blown engine - McCurley started in the back row and drove up into the top-five before a lapped car drove him up into the wall ending his great run prematurely.
"I mean, I never stepped into an ARCA car before Salem........shook the car down for five or 10 laps, made some small adjustments, then the motor let go. We changed motors, started at the backend and worked from there. One thing about starting in the back, you can only go forward from there."
While the team hasn't had the resources to run the top-five on the superspeedways, on the short-tracks it's been a completely different story where McCurley has been very impressive - like at Toledo where he finished a career-best 11th on very little practice.
"Toledo is an awesome track. Honestly, it only took me about five laps to get the hang of things there. I'll be ready when we go back."
And that's been the story so far for McCurley - show up at a track he's never seen before, climb into a car he's never tested before, and race against ARCA's finest, some of which are well-funded to boot.
"Yah, we've had to pretty-much suck it up wherever we go. One of the reasons you see us making so many pitstops early in these races is because we're still trying to get the handle right. But by doing that, you get way behind. Most I've had in practice anywhere has been 20 laps. A lot of my practice has been on the phone asking questions. It's kind of crazy really.
"All these tracks are new to me, although some I feel right at home - like Salem, but not so much the speedways. I'm used to tracks like Salem; I grew up on short-tracks like Salem, so I feel more at home on those tracks. Mansfield will be the first race in the ARCA Series where I will get the opportunity to test.
"As well as we ran at Salem and Toledo without testing, or practice, let's just say I'm pretty excited for Mansfield. For the first time, I feel like I'll have a fighting chance.
"As for the speedways, I'm still getting used to these mile-and-a-half tracks. It's all new to me. Biggest thing on the speedways for me was learning when to get in the gas pedal and when to search for the brakes. The speedways definitely have their own feel. But I am really looking forward to going back to Kentucky, because I've been there before."
And the same will be true for Mansfield where McCurley will have already tested. Considering how well he performed at Salem and Toledo with no testing and very little practice, he just may have that fighting change at Mansfield.
ARCA Racing Network to Broadcast All Day at Mansfield
The ARCA Racing Network will be covering all the on-track activity for both the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series and the ARCA RE/MAX Series from Mansfield. Listen and watch live streaming audio and video of practice, qualifying and both races at ARCAracing.com inside the ARCA Nation.
Youth Excels at Michigan
The average age of the top-5 finishers in Friday's Racing for Wildlife 200 at Michigan Int'l Speedway is 19 years old and four of the top-5 finishers are still considered teenagers. At 22-years-old, third-place finisher Chase Miller is the oldest of the top-5 finishers and no driver who finished in the top-10 has yet reached their 30th birthday.
Twelfth-place finisher Frank Kimmel, easily the most recognizable name in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with nine championships and 378 career starts, made his career first ARCA RE/MAX Series start at Toledo Speedway on July 1, 1990--one month before race winner/current point leader Parker Kligerman was born.
ARCA RE/MAX Series Hauler Parade through Mansfield Friday
The ARCA RE/MAX Series will kick off the Mansfield race event weekend with a hauler parade through Mansfield, Ohio on Friday, June 19. Haulers will stage at Mansfield Motorsports Park beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday for a 4 p.m. departure.
Up to 20 ARCA RE/MAX Series Team Haulers will depart Mansfield Motorsports Park, travel South on Main Street and turn West on State Route 30 to the Richland Mall in Ontario. The Haulers will return to Mansfield Motorsports Park via Park Avenue, North Diamond Street and North Main Street as a tribute to the late Tim Richmond in his home state of Ohio. Race fans are invited to watch the Hauler Parade from any point along the parade route.
Also on Friday, race fans that have purchased advance tickets to the Tim Richmond Memorial 200 presented by National Speed Sport News are invited to a 7 p.m. celebration at the track. Several ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers will be in attendance.
Discount advance tickets to Saturday's Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200 presented by National Speed Sport News are available at www.mansfieldmotorsportsonline.com or by calling (419) 524-0183 for $20. Tickets purchased the day of race tickets are $25.
WAM Poker Run to Benefit ARCA Crew Member Matt Daniels
The Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports, Inc. will host a Poker Run on June, 27, 2009 at Pat Rogers Speedway Harley Davidson, 10049 Weddington Rd., Concord, NC 28027 (704-979-0529). The cost is $20 per person, $30 per couple and $5 per extra hand. All proceeds will benefit Matt Daniels, an ARCA RE/MAX Series crew member from Eddie Sharp Racing who is currently hospitalized as he battles Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an uncommon inflammatory disorder. For more information on the Poker Run contact Julie Seligman (firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-799-9299) or Michelle Thompson (email@example.com, 704-609-6871).
For information on additional fundraising initiatives in support of Matt Daniels, contact Trina Arpin at Eddie Sharp Racing (firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-489-8809).
National Speed Sport News Sponsors Pole Award at Mansfield
National Speed Sport News will sponsor a special award for a major event in central Ohio this month. National Speed Sport News Time Trials will determine the starting lineup for the Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200 at Mansfield Motorsports Park Saturday, June 20. The top qualifier will receive the National Speed Sport News Pole Position Trophy.
National Speed Sport News is known as America’s Weekly Motorsports Authority. At its helm is Chris Economaki, the tabloid’s publisher and editor emeritus. The newspaper is observing its 75th anniversary season in 2009. Economaki was 13 when he began selling National Speed Sport News at short tracks, and became its editor in 1950. He co-authored his autobiography “Let ‘Em All Go!” with Dave Argabright in 2006, and is enshrined in countless motorsports hall of fame. Most recently Economaki received Pocono Raceway’s Bill France Award of Excellence on June 6.
The Tim Richmond Memorial 200 kick’s off with a “Party With The Stars” on Friday, June 19 at 7 p.m. The trackside event featuring ARCA drivers is open to fans holding advance tickets for Saturday’s event.
On Saturday, June 20, National Speed Sport News Time Trials for the ARCA RE/MAX Series are scheduled for 5:00 p.m. A 50-lap Lincoln Welders Truck Series race is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., followed by the Tim Richmond Memorial ARCA RE/MAX 200 at 8:30 p.m.
Discount advance tickets are available at www.mansfieldmotorsportsonline.com for $20. Day of race tickets are $25.