There was no flagging down Frank Kimmel until it was time for the checkered flag in concert with the American flag yesterday at patriotic Toledo Speedway.
Kimmel, of Jeffersonville, Ind., all but wrapped up his third ARCA Re/MAX series championship in the last four years with his 10th victory of the season. Andy Belmont, of Penndel, Pa., driving a car with an American flag paint scheme, was second. Jason Jarrett, son of NASCAR Winston Cup star Dale Jarrett, was third. His car bore the inscription, “We Race In Their Memory, Sept. 11, 2001” on the hood.
Neither Kimmel nor the rest of the 29 participants in the Jasper Engines & Transmissions 200 expressed regret over racing just five days after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
“I've always had a different belief,” Kimmel explained. “I don't think we can just sit back and count our sorrows. I don't think those people in New York or the Pentagon would want it to be that way. They would be in the front of the pack coming here to the race track if they could.
“I hope that no one thinks it's disrespectful that we did race today. With the show that ARCA and Toledo Speedway put on here today, it was a show of nationalism. We're racing in honor of them today and in spite of the idiots that destroyed those buildings, if we sit down and don't race and don't do what we're supposed to do, than they've won a small battle and we're not going to let them do that.”
And Kimmel, starting from the pole, wasn't going to let anyone beat him on this day. He led 152 of the 200 laps around the newly paved, half-mile, high-banked oval before an estimated crowd of more than 3,000. With four races remaining, he can surpass the ARCA record of 12 victories in one season, set by Tim Steele in 1997. Kimmel also tied Bobby Bowsher for most ARCA wins at Toledo Speedway, with five.
Kimmel had a couple of anxious moments, one coming when all of the leaders pitted on lap 81 and he had to pit again because of a stripped lugnut. That stop dropped him to seventh.
And then, while leading with 18 laps remaining, the 10th caution came out and, surprisingly, Kimmel and Belmont, who was running third, both pitted. For Kimmel it was precautionary. Each had a set of tires remaining. If Belmont was going to get new rubber, so was he.
On the restart with 11 laps to go, Jarrett was in the lead, but quickly fell prey to Kimmel and Belmont, who then had a little joust of their own.
“I got into a little push coming off the turn, just breathed the throttle for a minute, and Andy was coming real hard,” Kimmel explained. “He just tapped me a little. It was strictly an accident. He backed off and let me go, just like he always has. He's been nothing but a gentleman to run with.”
Belmont, who lives about an hour from New York City, said his brother-in-law and another crew member went to New York to volunteer their services.
“I think the way the day went speaks for itself,” he said. “I got goose bumps when they played the Lee Greenwood song (“God Bless The USA”) before the race. I think this put Toledo Speedway to the forefront. ARCA is a great organization and I'm proud to be a part of it.
“Racing today just seemed to be the appropriate thing to do. I think we forget why we get to do this, the freedoms that we have.
“When Frank and I got together I could have turned him around and gone on to win the race, but that would have been a cheap way to do it and I wasn't about to win that way.”
Jarrett knew long before the last restart that he wasn't going to be able to retain the lead.
“Actually it happened way before that, a valve spring or something like that,” he said. “If the engine would have been on all eight (cylinders), I would have had something for him (Kimmel). It's frustrating to get beat by him week after week, but I'm definitely not disappointed with third place.”
Jarrett said last week was the first time in his racing career of 10 years that he thought about something other than racing.
“I just felt the racing get away a little bit with all that happened,” he explained. “But what's important is that we all have the freedom to be here and we should all stop and realize why we're here.”
Pre-race activities included placing a small American flag on each race car as it sat on the starting grid, drivers using their helmets to collect money for the Red Cross, the singing of “The National Anthem” by Nina Riddle as the flag was raised to half-staff by veterans of American Legion Post 468, the singing of “God Bless America” by Toledo patrolman Paul Hickey, the playing of “America The Beautiful” by Ray Charles and Greenwood's “God Bless the USA.”