Next Generation Making Waves
May 11, 2007 | 12:29 P.M. EST
With drivers from 18 states and Canada entered, it's the second-generation ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers who are reeling in a majority of the headlines, and for good reason. They are, like their fathers before them, stepping up to the plate.
They are, in no particular order, Frank Kimmel, Billy Leslie, Brian Keselowski, Billy Venturini and Todd Bowsher; and they're all entered for Toledo.
Kimmel's father Bill Kimmel, Sr. won three ARCA national championship races during his career before handing the torch to his son. With that torch, Bill's son Frank has shattered nearly every record in the ARCA books, from the most championships to the most laps-led. No slouch anywhere, the next-generation Kimmel, of Clarksville, Indiana, has been especially effective at Toledo, where he's won a record nine times. In the last 10 events at Toledo, only Ken Schrader and Chuck Barnes, Jr. have separated Frank from the Toledo winner's circle. Keeping it in the family, Frank's crew chief is his brother Bill Kimmel, Jr. Frank finished third last spring at Toledo behind Schrader and Justin Allgaier, and was second in the fall race.
Leslie, of Algonac, Michigan, is the son of 1988 ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Tracy Leslie. The 19-year-old driver made sizable headlines most recently when he held off, ironically, Keselowski and Kimmel to win the May 6th Winchester ARCA 200 at Winchester Speedway. It was only his 13th career-start. The win was momentous on several accounts but certainly for the fact that it was the first time a son followed in his father's footsteps as an ARCA RE/MAX Series winner at Winchester. Billy's father spotted for him at Winchester while his uncle Lee Leslie served as his crew chief.
The same sort of scenario plays out for Keselowski, who is the son of the 1989 ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Bob Keselowski. Brian's victories at Berlin Raceway in 2006 and at Salem Speedway back on April 22nd of 2007 were newsworthy for the same reasons. Brian, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, and his father Bob became the first combo father/son ARCA RE/MAX Series winners at Berlin and Salem. Brian's crew chief is his father while his mother Kay Keselowski spots for her son. In addition, both Brian and Bob are former late model track champions at Toledo, 20 years apart. In another interesting twist, Brian's victories at Berlin and Salem also came exactly 20 years apart from his father's wins at the same tracks. Brian earned his career-first SIM Factory Pole Award last year in the fall race at Toledo and finished fifth.
Venturini, originally from Chicago, Illinois, is the son of the 1987 and 1991 ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Bill Venturini. Billy's never far from the front, particularly at Toledo where he placed third in 2005. Billy made headlines in 2006 at Salem Speedway where he fought off a late-race charge from Schrader to earn his career-first victory. Billy's father Bill serves as his crew chief while his mother Cathy Venturini is the car owner.
Bowsher, of Springfield, Ohio, is the son of stock car legend Jack Bowsher, who won consecutive ARCA national championships in 1963, ོ and ཽ. Up until his death in April of 2006, Jack served as Todd's car owner and crew chief. Although Todd's not been to victory lane yet, he's run very well at Toledo over the years with a pair of top-10 runs.
Following in your fathers' footsteps is one thing, but stepping up to the plate in the most competitive era in ARCA RE/MAX Series history is quite another. And given the series' most recent history, homeruns from ARCA's next-generation are not out of the question when the ARCA RE/MAX Series, in its 55th season, heads home to Toledo Speedway for the Sunday afternoon, May 20th Hantz Group 200 presented by Federated Car Care.
Three nights of racing are featured for the big Hantz Group 200 race weekend. It starts Friday night, May 18th with the Casite Scout and Autograph night featuring ARCA-sanctioned Sportsman cars on the half-mile with Figure-8s and Factory Stocks on the quarter-mile. The ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series 50-lap main event is the featured attraction Saturday, which follows ARCA RE/MAX Series practice and SIM Factory Pole Award Qualifying. Sunday's Hantz Group 200 presented by Federated Car Care is LIVE on SPEED at 12 noon Eastern.
In addition, the Toledo Speedway Bar & Grille is wide open day and night with food and drinks. Each and every big screen will be tuned into the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge from Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday night.