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Published: Friday, 6/11/2010

Kimmel car names sometimes baffling

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BROOKLYN, Mich. - When Frank Kimmel chases his way around the track here in this evening's ARCA race, he will be accompanied by an especially frisky young temptress named "Carrie." She will envelop him in a tight embrace, and the pair will hunt the checkered flag together.

The nine-time ARCA Series champion and his crew like to tag their race cars, and they hope "Carrie" - named for country music super talent Carrie Underwood - is fast, trustworthy, and ultimately the star of the show.

"Right now, Carrie Underwood is a pretty phenomenal young lady. All the way around, she's a pretty good choice," Kimmel said yesterday after a morning practice session at Michigan International Speedway.

Kimmel has had a close association with his cars for some time, so they all get names, and take on certain personalities. Some are titled after important women in his life, and some after famous women not in his life, such as Underwood. Others are named after movie characters, fellow drivers, racing associates, and even processed meat products.

"Some of them race before they get named. You name them after someone or something that kind of reminds you of the way they are," Kimmel said.

The first of Kimmel's cars to receive a specific title was "Barbara," because one of the crew members at the time was a big fan ofcountry singer Barbara Mandrell. There is "The Don," named for an ARCA official who is a big proponent of dirt track races, because the car seemed to take a liking to that surface.

"Eva" was named for Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria, and that car brought Kimmel a win on the superspeedway at Talladega. When Kimmel received his primary sponsorship from The National Pork Board several years ago, a car he purchased from the Sprint Cup team of Matt Kenseth was then baptized as "Bacon."

"We have a lot of fun with this," Kimmel said about the assigning of names to his various cars. "We haven't called one "Bitchy" yet, but we've had a few that acted like that."

A car the team used in the 2003 and 2004 seasons was titled "Harry" after a character in the movie Dumb and Dumber. Another one was called "Martin" after NASCAR veteran Mark Martin, and that ride put Kimmel in victory lane in three of its first five races.

"Wendy" was named for an executive with Advanced Auto Parts and served a lengthy tenure from 2003-07. "Madonna" got its name from the famous singer, and was built from the ground up in 2000. It performed, carrying Kimmel to finishes of first, second, or third 15 times in 19 races.

Closer to home, the Indiana native has driven cars named "Mabel" and "Daisy," in honor of his mother and his grandmother, respectively. "Daisy" won all six races Kimmel entered in this car until a crash took it out of commission.

"Mabel" was the first Ford Kimmel bought from Roush Fenway Racing, and it was dominant, winning almost half of the 24 races it was entered in, and finishing in the top-10 in each of its races. It is now parked in a place of honor in Kimmel's garage at home.

Kimmel and "Carrie" qualified ninth for today's ARCA event, while Craig Goess won the pole with a 38.49 second lap (187.062 mph), while Mikey Kile was second fastest.

The ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards kicks off the first weekend of racing at MIS with the Racing for Wildlife 200.

NASCAR takes over the two-mile oval for the remainder of the weekend, with the Camping World Truck Series VFW 200 tomorrow afternoon, and the Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 on Sunday.

For Kimmel and "Carrie" to share victory here today, he will have to unravel the mystery of MIS, where he admits to having a love-hate relationship.

He has won 74 ARCA races in his career, but has struggled for the most part at this place.

"I love coming here, but I hate it that sometimes we can't get the car to run the way we want it to," he said. "Carrie is very fast, but this is a very racey track, so we've got to be able to make her turn all day long."

Kimmel admitted there could be a clear connection between his propensity to use female names for his cars, and then struggle to figure out just what the cars are telling him.

"That could be it exactly, because I certainly don't understand women at all," he said.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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