The field for the second annual...
The field for the second annual Polar Bear 150 of the Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals lined up on pit road in a formation reminiscent of old Formula 1 races.
It's always satisfying when a project car lines up to take the green flag in actual competition. It's even more satisfying when a project car wins a race. And while some magazines can only dream of that happening we, here at Circle Track, have been fortunate enough to have both of those events happen on more than one occasion in each of the last two race seasons. However, and please pardon the editorializing here, I was beyond excited for the Saturday after Thanksgiving 2010. Let's face it, it's not every day that a NASCAR Champion jumps behind the wheel of a magazine project car, but that's exactly what happened on November 27.
Frank Kimmel's increasingly popular Street Stock Nationals is a traveling series, of sorts, that gives Street Stock racers the opportunity to race their cars on some of the bigger, more well known NASCAR/ARCA racetracks around the country. Kentucky Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Rockingham Speedway have all been sites of FKSSN events. This year Kimmel and Rockingham Speedway owner Andy Hillenburg jointly decided to move the date of the annual Polar Bear 150 to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The PB150 was traditionally run on January 1, but the Saturday after Turkey Day afforded spectators and racers alike better scheduling, not to mention the fact that the weather would be far more cooperative in late fall rather than the dead of winter.
How It Started
Kimmel's series has made big...
Kimmel's series has made big strides in popularity in the few years it has been in existence. The 2004 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Kurt Busch, drove Circle Track's Project Bomber in the race.
One racer in particular found the scheduling perfect to head back to his roots from his Sportsman racing days. "Originally, it was something that several of my racing buddies had discussed as a 'got-to-do,'" said Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion, and soon-to-be driver of Roger Penske's No. 22 Shell Dodge.
Rockingham General Manager Robert Ingram recounts the story of a recent Penske test at the Rock. "Myself and several of the Penske crew chiefs were leaning over a stack of tires talking when Kurt walked up. One of the crew chiefs turned to him and said, 'You want to race in the Polar Bear?' He said, 'Sure, be glad to.' It was just that simple."
Kurt Busch had raced in the Sportsman division as a kid, so the Kimmel Street Stocks brought back plenty of memories and according to Ingram, the more Busch got into the idea, the more excited he got.
Busch and his crew push Project...
Busch and his crew push Project Bomber onto Rockingham's pit road.
"Just a back to grassroots fun, no stress time, like the way it was when I first started," said Busch. "I tried to generate some interest with a couple other NASCAR drivers but none could commit the time to it. They really missed out. It was a great way to unwind after a tough season."
Busch's plans started out with another car but that would soon change. "Ingram put us in touch with Andy Hillenburg who had access to a car that we could race. It was a 1970 Chevelle," said Busch. "My guys scooped it up and brought it to our shop where we could get a closer look. It was, let's say, 'not race ready.' There were several things, as far as safety and handling, that we were worried about. It was then that we reached out to Frank Kimmel and explained we wanted to run but this car was going to take quite a bit of the fun out of it."
Kimmel didn't have to look far to find a car for Busch to race. Project Bomber was offered up. "Frank said he would gladly bring it to the October 31 test so that my guys could have time to prepare it, (seat, head rest, belts, and decals)," continued Busch. "The idea came to us: Why not run a few laps while the car is there at the test? The Cup cars were at Talladega that weekend so I had no chance to do it myself. I asked Parker Kligerman, my Penske teammate, to shake it down and give me his input. He ran very competitive lap times on old tires. He brought another level of excitement leading up to the race."
Busch got his hands dirty...
Busch got his hands dirty helping out the No. 60 car.
Climbing into the Circle Track...
Climbing into the Circle Track Street Stock is quite a bit easier than getting into the cramped quarters of his Sprint Cup car.
Frank Kimmel's Street Stockers...
Frank Kimmel's Street Stockers sport a trademark wicker bill across the roof of the car. The bill is designed to slow the cars down when they race on the bigger NASCAR tracks like Rockingham, Kentucky, and Bristol.