Frank Kimmel, the 10-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion who claimed that iconic title a month ago, will be part of NASCAR's championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weekends where he'll drive a No. 13 Ansell / Menards Toyota for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series finale.
Kimmel, whose truck will be virtually identical to the No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra driven by ThorSport's Truck Series championship leader Matt Crafton, will be part of a three-truck ensemble from ThorSport in the Friday night Ford EcoBoost 200 that includes fourth-place point man Johnny Sauter's No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota.
Kimmel's truck will be tended by his champion ARCA team, including crew chief Jeriod Prince and truck chief Rich Lushes.
"I know it's another race that's put on our guys and they've worked so hard and they deserve a break," Kimmel, proving what kind of teammate he's always been, said. "But I'm just really excited to get to go and have an opportunity to get in the race and go out there and race the truck guys."
The Homestead entry closes an open chapter in Kimmel's career that began two years ago, shortly after he signed a deal to drive for team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson's newly-formed ARCA team in 2012.
ThorSport entered a truck for Kimmel in the 2011 Homestead finale, when Sauter was in a championship dogfight with Austin Dillon that he ultimately lost by six points. It was Kimmel's debut with Prince and Lushes -- a combination that's won six ARCA races over the last two years -- but the truck, which was plenty fast enough, was a non-starter when qualifying was rained-out.
"I'm really excited for a lot of reasons -- and one of them is certainly getting to finish that story we started in 2011, when we didn't get a chance to race," Kimmel said, his voice reflecting the level of emotion he felt. "We unloaded really loose and were really having trouble, but then Jeriod and Rich and I hit on something and our last lap of practice was the fastest we'd run -- on 30-lap (old) tires."It was such a shame we never got to find out how that truck would've raced."Kimmel hopes to do that next weekend, though his No. 13, which ran 10 races with a couple different drivers earlier this season, has fallen out of a guaranteed starting position in the Truck Series' owners' points.If he makes the race it'll be the 14th career Truck Series start for Kimmel, who's started multiple races in all three of NASCAR's national tours, in addition to winning the first NASCAR Touring Division race, for what's now the K&N Pro Series West, when Kansas Speedway opened.Kimmel ran the July Truck Series race at Iowa in another No. 13 Ansell / Menards truck and finished 21st. But that Tundra primarily carried the No. 13's more typical primer-gray paint scheme.
Kimmel quickly agreed that this Homestead could be considered a "celebration race," honoring not only Kimmel's 10th career championship but also Menards' first stock car championship and Ansell's first racing championship, and now possibly Menards' second if things go well for Crafton. It makes the "tribute" truck quite a bit more meaningful to Kimmel.
"I think that's the main reason Duke is doing it," Kimmel said. "To show how much he appreciated all the hard work the guys put in, doing the third truck some of the time and then the one race we ran in the truck, where we didn't have as good of a finish as we wanted to, at Iowa.
"It's huge to celebrate and honor what this means for Menards, and I think this is also a way for Duke and ThorSport to give back to Ansell and Menards for everything they meant to our championship in ARCA. But most of all I hope Matt can lock up his championship this weekend because it would be really special to be able to celebrate those championships together, as a team with the way we raced and worked together all season."
Kimmel, in the end, proved just how much of a racer he is, much as he did when he won his ARCA-record 80th career victory, at Kansas, even while he clinched his record-extending championship.
"The Camping World Truck Series is a reflection of not only where I came from in my racing career, but where a lot of drivers got their start," Kimmel said. "I think in the Truck Series a driver can get his elbows up, get up on the wheel and make a difference getting around the racetrack."