Frank Kimmel - Veteran Racer & Astute Businessman

Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs

Frank Kimmel, driver of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Ford, is a veteran with over three decades of racing experience who began competing during his teenage years. He has spent the past 16 years (1996-2011) competing mainly in the ARCA series which has resulted in 17 wins, 204 top-5s, 265 top-10s and 42 poles. Additionally, Frank holds the record as the all-time leader in purse winnings for this series.

Frank is currently sitting third in the point standings, 480 points behind leader Ty Dillon. His stats for the 2011 season include three top-5s and 17 top-10s.

He is a family man, racer and astute businessman whose words of wisdom should be taken very seriously. His experience and successful racing career is a testament to his wisdom as well as hard work.

Unique Hiram (UH): Y
ou started racing at the age of 16, can you give us some background and talk about what types of cars you've driven?

Frank Kimmel (FK): I got started racing because of my dad who began racing in the late 1940s so I pretty much grew up in it. At the age of 16, I drove street stocks and the little bombers that are driven at short tracks. After graduating from high school, I started attending college and was actually doing pretty well in street stocks so I was asked to drive a late model. Eventually, I began winning some championships in the late model and my car owner decided that we should go racing in the ARCA series. The rest of my racing career pretty much evolved from me being given that opportunity.

UH: You have driven in a number of racing series, what made you compete mainly in the ARCA series for the past 16 years?

FK: Our sport is a money sport and that is what makes it work. I've had some really good sponsors over the years such as Advance Auto Parts then the National Pork Board and now with Ansell-Menards. It just so happens that the companies I've driven for over the years had the budget to afford me racing in ARCA. Unfortunately, they really couldn't afford the budget needed to take the next steps. I thought if I had the opportunity to go over there then I would have done pretty well and stayed in there as well as really enjoyed that part of that too. We are talking about it taking three times the budget to participate in the Truck Series, five times for Nationwide and fifteen times for Sprint Cup so we did what our sponsors wanted us to do - that's why we stayed here.

Credit: SportsONE

UH: How do you think the sport has changed over the years and what do you think of those changes?

FK: The biggest and best change that I think has been made is the safety part of it. I think that Dale Earnhardt was of course Dale Earnhardt and he will go down as the legendary person that he was but he will also go down as the person who changed and made racing a lot safer. His accident and his death kind of woke everybody up. The man got killed in a race car - how could that happen? The seats, belts, HANS devices and everything improved so quickly because of that so I feel that safety has improved. The cars continue to get safer and better then it trickles down to the ARCA series also.

Some of the parts that may be up in the air is that the ARCA series has become a kind of pay-per-view type of thing or pay-to-drive type of thing whereas if your kid is young enough and your dad has enough money then you can go racing in this series. Whether you've dominated on the local short tracks or won the late model championship at a certain track and then moved on it doesn't really matter. It all comes back to if you have a little bit of experience and a lot of money then you can go race - I don't particularly care for that. I think that it was better when you had to pay your dues then make your steps. I'm not saying that these kids aren't talented enough to be here at all but I think that they should have a little bit more of a learning curve that would teach them more about racing.

UH: The attendance is a lot bigger at Nationwide and Sprint Cup races than ARCA, what do you think could be done to enhance the attendance at the ARCA races?

FK: I think that at any race division you go to now, they are wondering how to fill up the stands. I think all of the divisions like the Trucks will bring one half the amount of people it needs, Nationwide maybe three quarters and Sprint Cup almost full grandstands wherever they go. I think it is just the nature of the beast. For example, like a AA baseball team can't put 18,000 people in the stands - it's not going to happen. I think the more our television package would improve, I believe that people would understand more who is racing here and that would help to bring more to the racetrack. Right now, I think it is a normal pecking order and it's okay that way.

Brock Williamson, SportsONE PR Director: I know that this is not my interview but I would like to point out that Salem Speedway and Toledo Speedway are two tracks where there is a packed house out to see the ARCA

FK: Salem Speedway was packed last week and it was standing room only. You are not going to fill these big racetracks and actually nobody is going to fill them right now. It is just the level that we are at and that is okay.

Credit: SportsONE

UH: Who do you think are one or two of the up and coming ARCA racers that will go far? What veteran advice would you give those specific drivers?

FK: The best and one of the most talented guys that we have ever seen was Parker Klingerman who raced full-time in the ARCA Series a couple of years ago. He has done very well in the Trucks and he continues to do well. I think that he is one talent-wise that will make it as long as he can stay in the right equipment and get better cars all the time. Ty Dillon is here now, going to win the championship this season and has pretty much dominated the whole year. He is on his way and he is going to make it. His family, heritage and grandpa - they will make it just fine. Ty seems to do things the right way - he races really hard, has great equipment and is there at the end.

I think that anybody who wants to make it in this business they have to understand that it's not all about driving the race car and it's not all about being able to talk - you have to be very well-rounded in a lot of different aspects now. You know going out drinking and partying is getting to be a thing of the past. The old school guys, even before me, like the Dick Trickles and all those guys were out smoking and drinking every night. You can't do that anymore and have to stay away from some of that. I think just watch history, learn from other people's mistakes and try not to do any of that yourself.

UH: What are some of your favorite things - specifically food, vacation spot and hobby?

FK: Well, food is interesting. (laughs) Probably, my favorite junk food is pizza, I think that everybody like pizza and then steak. I am a meat and potatoes guy, I always have been. I think that the best vacation that we've had was when my wife and I went to the British Virgin Islands. We got on a catamaran boat, that was pretty cool and we stayed for about a week, I really enjoyed that. My wife is the warm weathered one and any place that is warm she will go. We love to go down and stay on the beaches. I am the type of guy that doesn't like planning things so she just points to the direction that we are going to and we just go that direction. We always have a good time. Racing is my hobby, that is probably kind of sad (laughs). My son is 21, attending college and just had his first ARCA true start last week at Salem Speedway. I guess my hobby is trying to get him going after he finishes college, which is a must because my wife is a school teacher so he is going to finish college or die (laughs).

Summer Dreyer (SD): Are your sponsors happy with the amount of exposure even though you aren't racing in one of the top tiers and there is a smaller number of die-hard ARCA fans compared to the other series?

FK: Yes, I think that they were aware of the level that they got involved in. I tell people that I can't bring your company what Jeff Gordon can, that's not what I can do but going to your place of business or going to your factory or going to one of your vendors and spending 4-5 hours with them is what I can do. I can also take them on ride-a-longs and that type of stuff - it is pretty difficult to get Jeff Gordon to do that kind of stuff so it's just a different type of sponsorship and sponsorship has changed a lot over the years. It's not really going to a company and saying that I will give you a lot of exposure - it's business to business stuff. How can you make my company better by bringing another company on board or something like that so there is a lot of that which goes on.

So, total TV exposure - you know that we've all seen the Joyce Julius reports – just because they see Ansell on my car for 12 minutes of this race tonight (referring to the Kansas Lottery 98.9), does that mean that people will go out and buy them? Probably not, in my opinion. I think that you have to put everything else around it. You have to show them why it’s a good product - you have to take them to the store and be the stores (normally does a little over 20 shows for Menards each year). The world has changed with a lot of that, so were they exactly happy with the numbers? Our numbers were outstanding as far as when it comes to what we were able to get exposure for advance support and all of those things. It has kind of dwindled down a little bit because speed has diluted a little bit. We only run 10 races a year and back then we were doing about ¾ of the races on television. Time selection on television is also a factor – the guy that runs at night gets 80 percent of exposure compared to the race that is shown at 4 a.m. in the morning. When the race is shown at this time, who really cares. The guys coming home drunk are the only ones watching at this time and they really don’t care at that point. (laughs) There are a lot of variables to that so I think that you just have to find your niche, what you are good at and find out what companies want basically what you can do for them. I think that so many people forget that – they have to remember the reason a sponsor is on that car is because they want something back for it. What is it that they want back?

Frank Kimmel Official Website
Ansell Racing
ARCA Racing

The ARCA series is headed to Toledo Speedway on October 16 and this 200-lap race will be aired on SPEED at 8:30 p.m. ET

I would like to thank Frank Kimmel for taking the time out to grant this interview with me on behalf of Skirts and Scuffs. It was indeed a pleasure and an honor to speak with this sports veteran.

Unique Hiram is an Associate Editor/Contributing Writer for Skirts and Scuffs. Additionally, she is also the author of "Fast Lane Poetry" which was published April 2011. Unique can be contacted via email or through Twitter.
Frank Kimmel - Veteran Racer & Astute Businessman Frank Kimmel - Veteran Racer & Astute Businessman Reviewed by Unique Hiram on Thursday, October 13, 2011 Rating: 5