ARCA hosts a first class season finale in Kansas

The ARCA Racing Series, presented by Menards, presented a 2013 season finale that was first class during the Kansas Speedway racing weekend. Friday night's Kansas Lottery 98.9 was loaded with feel good stories and racing drama. By the time the day was over, a 51 year old icon set new series standards, a 79 year old icon officially retired and an 18 year old future star impressed a lot of observers.

51 year old Frank Kimmel arrived at the Kansas Speedway with a very secure 65 point advantage over Mason Mingus. That points lead was so solid that all Kimmel had to do was just run a single lap, during the Friday morning practice session, to lock down his unprecedented tenth ARCA Racing Series championship.

This American stock car icon, from Clarksville-Indiana, won his first ever ARCA title back in 1998 after scoring nine wins that year. He followed that up with eight consecutive ARCA titles that ran from the year 2000 to 2007.

However, Kimmel's day in Kansas was far from over. He won the Kansas Lottery 98.9 to score his 80th career win and topped the series' all time winner's list. He came to the final race of the season tied with series legend Iggy Katona with 79 wins. Katona's record dated back to over two decades and many series observers felt it was a mark that was insurmountable.

There were three series of events that led to Kimmel's historic win at Kansas. The first came early in the event when ARCA young guns Scott Lagasse JR and Corey LaJoie crashed into each other, while running one-two in the race, on lap 18. During a post wreck television interview, LaJoie, a three time series winner this year, manned up and accepted full responsibility for the incident and said "I got into him, I was a bonehead. I should have waited to any lap but that one to make that move. My brain and my foot were not working together."

During the ensuing caution flag period, the second race changing moment for Kimmel occurred. That's when Jeriod Prince, Kimmel's crew chief, made a brilliant call by bringing his driver to pit road for tires and fuel on lap 20 while the race leaders remained on the track. He made a second good call during a lap 34 caution flag by telling his driver to stay out while the race leaders came to pit road. That move elevated his driver to their race lead. Prince was monitoring the weather radar the entire time and sensed an approaching storm was not going to allow this race to run its full scheduled 99 laps.

The crew chief was correct and Mother Nature provided the third race changing moment for Kimmel and company. ARCA Racing Series and Kansas Speedway officials decided to shorten the Kansas Lottery 98.9 by 34 laps due to threatening weather approaching the greater Kansas City area and the desire to clear the grandstands. Lightning was visible in the distance when Kimmel exited the car in front of a celebratory crew and family. Heavy rains hit the track later.

Standing under the shelter of a make shift victory lane in the garage area, a very happy Kimmel said: "This is kind of a dream come true, to win the championship and get our 80th win on the same day. It's a great day for us, a great day for Ansell and Menards. It's a cool day." Commenting on the major assist from Mother Nature, Kimmel said: "I saw the lightning off behind the grandstands. I'm glad I didn't have to make the call, but I was happy about it."

Mason Mitchell, John Wes Townley, Dylan Kwasniewski and Justin Boston followed the race winner under the checkers to complete the top five.

James Harvey Hylton finished a respectable 18th in this race before officially hanging up his racing helmet to cap off a career that has spanned more than six decades. During the driver's meeting, ARCA President Ron Drager and NASCAR President Mike Helton presented Hylton with a special commemorative photo outlining his career. Literally everyone in the Kansas Speedway garage made it a point to shake Hylton's hand and have their photo taken with him.

“He’s accomplished a tremendous amount," ARCA President Ron Drager said in introducing Hylton. “We couldn’t be prouder that he chose to finish his career with ARCA." Looking around the room, during the driver's meeting, an emotionally charged Hylton said "

On the other side of the age spectrum, 18 year old Dylan Kwasniewski made his debut both in the ARCA Series, and racing on a 1.5 mile super speedway, in a very big way. He started that debut by posting fast time in qualifying and followed that up by leading 17 laps of the race and finishing fourth. Keep a sharp eye on this future racing star.

All in all, a great day for ARCA racing and their season finale.

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