Will Kimmel aims for 100th start at historic Illinois State Fairgrounds
It's more than a mile dirt for Will Kimmel, it's a milestone.
When the 54th annual Central Illinois SuperChevyStores.com 100 presented by Jive rolls off at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, it'll be Kimmel's 100th career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards start.
Kimmel was originally on track to get his 100th start at Berlin on Aug. 6, but opted out in order to make his centennial start at Springfield, a track more near and dear to his soul.
"Springfield's always been special to me," Kimmel said. "The list of names who have won there is so big...it'd be so cool to be on that list. Winning in our 100th start would be ideal at Springfield, but at this point, we'd take a win no matter where. But that's exactly why I didn't run Berlin. We weren't going to run the whole race and I didn't want that to be my 100th. We're coming full tilt for Springfield."
In seven previous starts at Springfield, every race since 2009, Kimmel's earned two top-five runs with his best in 2011, finishing fourth. He was fifth in 2014, eighth in '09 and 11th in '12. He's also had his share of bad luck on the Springfield mile, a rear-end failure in '10, and engine failure in '13 and an accident in last year's race. But, when the luck's going their way, the third-generation ARCA driver is always on the lead lap and in contention.
"Based on the success we've already had there, if things go our way we can compete at Springfield, same at DuQuoin. For a small team like us, the dirt tracks are the big equalizers.
"You can never really go there and know exactly what to expect out of the race track, so you shoot for the middle on set-up and hope you're close enough. We go with what we've done in the past, and tweak our set-ups as we go. We've tweaked our set-ups from when Frank (Kimmel/eight-time Springfield winner) won all his races. If you watch some of those past races, if the breaks go our way, we're one of the fastest cars at those places."
More than anything, Kimmel knows the set-up at Springfield is conditional on the weather.
"Weather plays a big part as to which way you go. One of my favorite races at Springfield was a couple years ago when we had all that rain and there was so much moisture in the track. You had an outside groove...something you don't always get at Springfield, but what a cool race ... so much fun to drive."
Kimmel is thankful for a weekend off from the travel grind before Springfield.
"We're having a hard time getting caught up in the shop, and this weekend will go a long way toward getting there. We're bringing the composite car we wrecked in the first Pocono race."
Kimmel ranks the Springfield mile dirt right up there with Daytona and his beloved Salem Speedway.
"I'd say Springfield is second only to Salem. I want to win Daytona in the worst way, but you have to rely on other people, other cars at places like Daytona...and your equipment has to be right on the money. At Springfield, our little team has a fair shot to win. Winning there in my 100th start would be a dream come true. Winning anywhere in my 100th start would be a dream come true, but it'd be a way bigger deal for me, personally, at Springfield. You look down through the list of winners there, and you'll know what I mean.
"I'd just like to win on the dirt."
Story and photos courtesy ARCA Racing Series