Amid gathering darkness, Frank Kimmel finally found his place in the sun at Talladega Superspeedway.
Despite winning seven ARCA Series championships in his career (and closing in on an eighth title this year), Kimmel had never made it to Gatorade Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway. Until Friday, that is, as he took the checkered flag in the Food World 250 when the race was called because of darkness after 81 of the 94 scheduled laps.
A wreck in Turn 4 brought out a caution flag with 13 laps remaining in the race. Officials quickly determined there was not enough daylight remaining to clear the track and resume the race, a decision that gave Kimmel the victory over second-place finisher Steve Wallace and former Formula One star Juan Montoya, who placed third.
"It was a timely caution. I was in the right place at the right time," Kimmel said with a smile. "I hated that (the race) got cut short in one sense, but in another sense, I really didn't mind it. It was OK."
That's because Kimmel never had managed to win a race at either Talladega or Daytona International Speedway during his otherwise successful 14-year ARCA career. So he was happy to come up with any type of victory at a restrictor-plate track.
"Everybody always asks what kind of goals you set once you've won a few championships and things have gone well for you," Kimmel said. "Well, the two major races that I hadn't won are here and Daytona. If you have great equipment, you can do well at this race track. Then you have to have good luck, and today we had good luck with a great racecar.
"It was a pretty big day for me. When they were talking to me on the radio as I was coming for the checkered flag, it was pretty emotional."
Kelly Bires finished fourth, followed by Mike Wallace in fifth, pole-sitter Bobby Gerhart sixth, Michael McDowell seventh, Michael Faulk eighth, Chase Miller ninth and Dexter Bean 10th.
Montoya, who was making his stock-car debut, led for part of the race before settling for a third-place finish. Afterward, he seemed satisfied with the outcome, and ecstatic with the overall racing experience.
"I haven't had this much fun in a race for a long time," Montoya said. "I'm not saying F-1 is bad or anything. I think it is great racing as well. The cars are unbelievable. But I haven't had this much fun in a long time. I passed probably 40 cars today easily. It's outrageous."
Kimmel said he was impressed with the performance of the ARCA rookie.
"I really thought once he jumped ahead there, he would probably make it really hard on us (to win)," Kimmel said. "But thank goodness we were able to get up there and pass him. It's pretty cool to have somebody of his stature here in the ARCA Series."