Not your typical Street Stock garage.
At Kentucky Speedway, on a warm 2007 Memorial Day weekend evening, it all finally happened. This was the Street Stocks' time to shine and show what they could do, as over 6,000 general-admission fans entered the Speedway. In a well-thought-out and planned event by both Kimmel and Kentucky Speedway, 69 of over 117 Street Stock entries took the green flag for 100 laps (150 miles) of competition. Drivers representing 17 states took advantage of the mid-afternoon, two-hour open practice before the event, with the top practice speed an astounding 133.035 mph and 40.5 seconds. After the practice session, the largest starting field in Kentucky Speedway history was ready to go racing.
Joe Williamson, the 64-year-old 2002 and 2003 Late Model track champion from Salem Speedway, said, "I came here and watched the final test. I have not raced in a few years, but my buddy had this old Louisville Speedway Sportsman car just set in the back of his garage, and he said, 'Take it if you want it.' So, in late April, I decided to give it a shot. I built my own engine, did some cutting and welding, and here I am. They went through a safety routine here that is as good as anywhere, but the cars are still Street Stocks and on a superspeedway. You couldn't ask for anything better."
Williamson loved the race, saying that it was a totally new experience. "You have to have everything as beefy as you can [get it]. With that wicker bill, it actually feels like you are pulling a boat out there. You don't feel the speed going down the straightaways around 130 mph, but in the corners you can sure feel it. There's a lot of pressure turning. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I hope it goes again, being as old as I am.
With Kentucky's big track, three-wide racing is typical throughout the field. Here, 64-yea
Springfield, Ohio's Mike South Jr. competes weekly at Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia, Ohio, and decided to make the trip. "I built this whole car, 1972 Monte Carlo, over the winter myself along with some friends in preparation for this race," says South. "The total cost came to $2,875, complete, race ready. I named the car "Spare Parts" because most of the parts used to build it were parts that I had laying around from years of racing at Kil-Kare. My wife, Roxanne, sold fundraiser candy to help get us here and we held a community cookout of $5 per plate or donation. I also got some well-needed help from the John Stroble family in Springfield, Ohio, and here we are. I just want to compete."
With an opportunity to gain recognition and respect from the racing community, the often overlooked and seldom recognized division would shine on this night. For most of these drivers, this was their Daytona 500. In a race that saw three-wide racing virtually every lap, and a lot of times four-wide, only six caution flags would fly, and one of those was for the mandatory halfway break. During that break, 37 cars where still running and only three more would drop out before the checkered flag fell. The race took just over two hours, including the 20-minute break for fuel.
Even more safety. Check out the newly bolted on retaining bars on this fuel cell.
Chuck Barnes Sr. took the lead on Lap 19 after starting 41st in the field. Barnes blazed through the field to lead a total of 77 laps, but it was the final caution, flying on Lap 89, that would set up a four-lap shootout for the win.
When the green flag dropped, Barnes hit the gas. Joe Williamson sat in Fourth, a tremendous drive after starting the race in the second-to-last row. Williamson pounced on an opportunity and sailed into Second but couldn't catch Barnes, who held on to claim the win in the first-ever Frank Kimmel Enduro Nationals. Behind Barnes and Williamson, Beau Hendrich finished Third, Pete Mayden came home Fourth, and Brian McDonald rounded out the Top 5.
"When I got the lead I thought, Yes, this car is going good," says Barnes. "Then, all at once, the other guys started gaining behind me, getting together and drafting me. At the break, my crew put four fresh tires on and adjusted the sway bar a bit. I think I could have made it on the tires, but all racers like four new tires versus used ones."
Chuck Barnes Sr. in Victory Lane with his family. His son, (left) Chuck Jr., built the win
Barnes' ride for the event came courtesy of a family member. "This whole car is a new 1988 Monte Carlo built by my son, Chuck Barnes Jr., from scratch. He started last Thanksgiving Day."
As for the race itself, Barnes was impressed: "This is unreal. The speeds where unbelievable. This is the longest track I have ever raced on. At the end, they started getting by me a bit and side by side, and I said, Well, that's it. We're going to the back. But we got a couple of breaks, traffic got in the way of a couple guys, and we lucked out." Barnes walked away with the $10,000 winner's check saying that he would take his car to Salem later in the year for some of the bigger races there.
On this day, the Street Stocks put on a strong showing for the fans and racers alike. At press time, Kimmel was still tallying the numbers from the event. He says that he would love to bring it back next year. If he does, Frank Kimmel's $10,000-to-win Street Stock spectacle could quickly become one of the nation's premier racing events.