Frank Kimmel and the No. 44 Ansell/Menards team head to sunny Daytona International Speedway to kick off the 60th season of the ARCA Racing Series in full style - and with a new race team. The nine-time ARCA Champion and All-time Winning Purse Driver takes the wheel with ThorSport Racing, well known for their domination in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Combining a winning attitude with Toyota technology, both team and driver are ready to "make some noise" in the 2012 season - to the tune of a championship race.
SUM IT UP: Kimmel has 16 overall starts in the ARCA Racing Series since 1996 at Daytona; plus the added bonus of 341 starts over 16 years in the ARCA Racing Series. His best finish here came in 2004 and 2005 - both years taking a podium finish at second place. His best start was in 2007, starting in the third position. Kimmel is just five victory lane appearances away from all-time winningest driver in the ARCA Racing Series - Iggy Katona - and hopes to eclipse the record in 2012 with ThorSport Racing.
TAKING THE TEST: After running the NCWTS race back in November, Kimmel got a quick holiday break with his family, then returned to the racetrack at Daytona for the annual tire test in December. The 44 team came away with a binder full of race notes, as well as room for improvement in its new capacity away from the Truck Series.
A MESSAGE IN THE MAYHEM OF DAYTONA: Kimmel embarks on his third year with sponsor Ansell, a global leader in protection solutions, in a partnership with Menards Racing. The Menards Pole Award is presented by Ansell during the entire 2012 ARCA Racing Season - and Kimmel hopes to be standing on a podium to receive it in Daytona from an Ansell executive.
CHASSIS HISTORY: The No. 44 team will utilize chassis No. 5 this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. A new chassis for the team, it joins a full fleet of new race cars at the ThorSport stable in Sandusky, Ohio.
THOUGHTS FROM THE DRIVER: Frank Kimmel
AFTER A SOLID YEAR IN 2011, IS THIS YOUR YEAR? I get that question quite a bit these days. It has been a great learning experience so far with ThorSport Racing. They bring great resources to the table, and with the partnership with Toyota, the resources expand even farther. We can call up the engineers at any time with a question, or something that is "stumping" the guys in the shop, and the engineers can't wait to tackle it. It's really refreshing to see in a make relationship, and we've provided a lot of good feedback from the test sessions. Now we've just got to see how these engines do on the biggest superspeedway we've got!
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THORSPORT RACING SO FAR?
This is a great time to be joining a racing organization with momentum. These teams, in both series, are so focused on winning championships, it's unbelievable. Duke and Rhonda Thorson have slowly and steadily grown their program for 16 years, and they didn't do it in a "fly by night" way. It's the same way I look at my career - I've been blessed with a lot of opportunities from different team owners, and I knew to grow steadily. Coming from a family of "money racers" - ones who did it for a living and knew that they had to put bread on the table each weekend based on their racing results - it's the same way they run their shop. Every week, it's a run for a win and a championship. Top ten is great, but it's time to pay the bills with trips to Victory Lane. It changes everyone's focus.
ARE YOU READY FOR DAYTONA THIS WEEKEND?
I can't wait for Daytona. I have so many memories here; so many good times and challenging times. That's what racing is all about, and it's fitting that we have such highs and lows at the "Superbowl" of racing every year. Last year, I was able to pull off a top ten, but it wasn't where I wanted to finish obviously. We've got some understandable nerves, with a new team and a new crew chief - but everyone has worked tremendously hard to prepare these race cars and be professional. I'm excited to get out on track for first practice and see how we can work out the details. Jeriod, my crew chief, and I have worked together quite a bit to fine tune the details in the offseason. It's a good partnership already.
ARE YOU THINKING OF BREAKING RECORDS?
Iggy was one of my heroes in racing - I say that a lot. I grew up watching him race my dad, then racing him myself. It would be such an honor to be able to get past his win record, but it isn't something I think about daily. My dad always told me to get out there every race and be prepared. You really can't think past each race, since so much can happen. Especially at a superspeedway like Daytona - there are so many other factors at work, from luck to weather to other drivers' skill around you. We have a traditionally full field at Daytona, and my eye is always on safety. So I'll start conservative, but for sure my eye will be on Victory Lane. It's one place that I've never gotten a trophy, and I want that trophy!