Two winners emerged from Friday's running of the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. Michael Annett won the 94-lap race for his first career ARCA victory, while Frank Kimmel finished second and in the process won his record ninth series championship.
Annett held off a hard charge from Colin Braun entering the final lap, and he did so with a huge assist from Kimmel. Braun went high while going through the tri-oval entering the final lap and briefly pulled ahead of Annett. But the two cars bumped as they approached Turn 1, forcing Braun to slow down every so slightly.
At that moment, Kimmel dove low and tucked in behind Annett. The two drivers pulled away from Braun and stayed in line throughout the rest of the trip around the 2.66-mile track, giving the 21-year-old Annett a victory in only his fourth career ARCA start.
"I knew they were going to try something (on the final lap)," said Annett, who was driving in a one-race deal for Bill Davis Racing. "Colin came to the outside of me … and when we got together it slowed down his momentum. Then Frank decided to go with me, and that really helped.
"I just tried to hug that yellow line (at the bottom of the track). I kept waiting for that orange car (of Kimmel's) to pop out (to pass), and it never did. Frank raced me clean. You can't ask for more out of your competitors."
Kimmel might not have won the race, but he secured his ninth ARCA title. Kimmel entered the race 140 points ahead of ARCA rookie Michael McDowell, who was relegated to a 33rd-place finish following a late-race accident.
"It's cool to lock up our ninth championship," Kimmel said. "We had to work very, very hard. (McDowell) actually outran us most of the year. He was very quick at a lot of places. He beat us up pretty bad at times. We were just able to be a little more consistent and finish more races."
Dominick Casola finished third in Friday's race, followed by Richard Johns in fourth and Billy Venturini fifth. Braun dropped to a ninth-place finish.
Former Formula One driver Scott Speed finished seventh in his stock-car racing debut, while Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti finished 17th in his first stock-car race. Both drivers were impressed with the experience of racing at Talladega.
"It was incredible," Speed said. "There was so much going on there. It's such a contrast from what I've been use to my whole life, running in open-wheel stuff. The overall experience was fantastic.
"I'm super happy now that I've started my mission towards becoming a top NEXTEL Cup driver. It's great to have started everything. I've got so much information to digest over the next days. And now when I watch the Cup race, after I've done it myself, I'll be able to learn a lot more."
Franchitti admitted he was a bit overwhelmed at times by all the things he had to learn.
"It's just massive. Just getting use to everything and trying the high line and the low line," Franchitti said. "There was a point there where I got in the right lane every time, and then I started to get in the wrong lane every time. It's just experience.
"It was a lot of fun out there. I'm disappointed with the result, but what I've learned, I don't think you can put a price on it. I learned so much today. I'm looking at the long game. I'm looking at next year. From that point of view, I'm very happy."
But perhaps nobody was happier than Annett. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Annett did not begin racing until three years ago, and he has spent most of this year driving in the ASA Late Model Series.
"This track is pretty prestigious," a smiling Annett said. "To get your first ARCA win here is pretty cool, with all the history of this track and all the previous winners. It definitely takes a lot of patience to win at a track like this."
Children age 11 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a ticketed adult in the general admission grandstands area for the Foodland/Food Giant NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
Qualifying and the Mountain Dew 250 Craftsman Truck Series race. Tickets are still available for the UAW-Ford 500 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway which includes all the action of the Mountain Dew 250 Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday and the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday. Tickets may be ordered by calling 1-877- Go2-DEGA, by logging onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com, and are also available for purchase on-site at the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office located on Speedway Boulevard in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.