When was the last time a racecar pulled into Bristol Motor Speedway on an open trailer? I'm not quite sure of the answer, but I'd guess a car with a full factory frame and steel body on an open trailer would probably go back three decades. How about this...when was the last time a racecar with a full cast-iron engine, block, heads, and manifolds, along with a two-barrel carburetor competed on the high banks? That answer would be a lot longer than three decades ago. For most local racers, getting to Bristol Motor Speedway in northeastern Tennessee is merely a dream. For the majority, racing at Bristol would remain a dream, until Frank Kimmel came along.
The line for practice seemed to go on forever; over 50 cars in all at Bristol.
Bristol Motor Speedway is the most sought-after ticket in NASCAR with a reputation as one of the fiercest, highest banked, half-mile tracks in the country that produces a lot of bent sheetmetal and its fair share of hurt feelings, along with some great racing. When nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series Champion Frank Kimmel floated the idea of bringing his Street Stock show to the famed half-mile to Humpy Wheeler, Wheeler listened and listened closely. It wasn't long after that conversation that the deal was done and Kimmel and company were headed to eastern Tennessee. Bristol would be the sight of the second ever Frank Kimmel Street Stock Enduro Nationals.
Fifty-four cars showed up to Kimmel's Bristol event, with 52 of those taking the green flag for what was scheduled to be 150 laps of action. Kimmel put a little of his own twist into the fray by having an Indy 500-type three abreast start, making 18 rows of three cars each. Of the 54 cars on hand, 14 states were represented including Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Iowa, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio. Canada was also represented by two racers.
One major change for the Bristol race was the mandated HANS, or similar head-and-neck restraint. Radios and mirrors were also allowed, and each team had a spotter. As with the Kentucky event, a mandatory pit stop for the entire field was in place for the halfway point at Lap 75, allowing teams to make adjustments, add fuel, and possibly change their Hoosier Comanche tires.
Street Stock pit crews must be resourceful. Nice funnel.
It's actually hard to say when the last time a racer showed up at Bristol to compete off of an open trailer, but as you walked the pit area it was clear that these low-budget racers are the backbone of the motorsports world. Each car was thoroughly inspected by a team of officials put into place by Kimmel. Headed up by Bill Kimmel, Frank's brother, the group goes over every car in an assembly line format with each official assigned a certain duty. This includes height and clearance check, and inspection of fuel cells, driver compartments, and valve covers. All this is followed by the final inspection check of weight and weight distribution. Being thorough and fair is the key to the success of the race.
In qualifying, five cars got into the 18-second bracket as Indiana native Todd Kempf set fast time with an 18.450 lap at over 100 mph. Not surprising that the top four qualifiers-Kempf, Chuck Barnes, John Collins, and Brett Hudson-all have logged many laps at Salem Speedway in Indiana. Kempf, the Salem Speedway back-to-back Super Stock Champion, took off at the drop of the green flag, holding off the charge of many racers. He endured a total of six caution flags, and some front end body damage, to capture the biggest win of his career with a $5,000 payday. This was a redemption of sorts for Kempf, as he had started 23rd at the 2007 Kimmel race at Kentucky and was leading that event by Lap 3 when he had to pit for a cut tire, ending his chance for victory. Leading all the circuits at Bristol, Kempf was passed one time by veteran racer and Kentucky winner Chuck Barnes Sr. on Lap 38 before pushing his Chevrolet Monte Carlo back to the point going into Turn 3.