A three-wide duel for the...
A three-wide duel for the lead between Chuck Barnes on the inside, Joe Williamson in the middle, and Jason Leatherwood.
When the term Enduro is mentioned in racing circles, there is a certain image formed in the mind. You know, a small track, a bunch of junker cars, and beating and banging for a couple hundred laps with about a fourth of the field remaining at the checkered flag.
Well, that description certainly doesn't apply to the Frank Kimmel Enduro Nationals at Kentucky Speedway.
First of all, it is carried out at a genuine superspeedway, the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway, which hosts both the NASCAR Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series. That environment is quite a contrast to the participants in this event.
The racecar type is a lower-level Street Stock like the thousands that exist across the country. The quality of these cars was outstanding, though, with many carrying the look of Pavement Late Models.
There is one interesting characteristic of this event that is identical to two other famous events, namely the Little 500, a Sprint Car classic held the same day, and the Indy 500, held the next day. The similarity lies in the three-wide start. And with almost five dozen cars starting in this event, that it quite a sight.
Many enthusiasts consider the concept of running on a superspeedway with this type of car a little far-fetched. It was that mindset that ARCA legend Frank Kimmel considered when he cultivated this series.
"I knew that these guys would never have a chance to run here, and I just thought they needed the chance," Kimmel says.
To a man, all of those guys are grateful to Kimmel and his dedicated crew for giving them this chance. It also generated national interest as teams from 21 states made the trip to the Bluegrass State.
The goals of the different drivers were quite varied. Obviously, there were a number of experienced drivers with fairly high-dollar equipment. A number of other drivers had the goal of finishing the race, while others were just thrilled to be racing on a NASCAR superspeedway.
This, of course, was the second time for the event, and Kimmel explains that there were lessons learned in the first Enduro.
With the 12-second difference in lap times, he instituted an interesting qualifying technique. "We decided to have qualifying groups based on practice speeds," he says. "That way the cars would be able to draft if they wanted to. We also made some engine changes to keep things more equal."
Charles Evelyn III (99) and...
Charles Evelyn III (99) and Rick Erwin during qualifying.
Also, a manual transmission was allowed this year, replacing the earlier required automatic for the 2007 race. And finally, a 100-pound weight addition was required for engines with a displacement between 362 and 410 cubic inches.
This year's Kimmel race had the same top two qualifiers as last year, including inaugural winner Chuck Barnes Sr. and Joe Williamson Sr., both in their 60s. The two worked together throughout the yellow-filled affair. Considering the obstacles Barnes faced, his win certainly defied all logic.
Running near the front during the first 35 laps, he spun out on the backstretch and fell back far in the field. Then, some 40 laps later, he picked up some sheetmetal damage in a three-car incident. But then, with only three laps to go, Williamson, who is from Sheperdsville, Kentucky, locked on to Barnes' rear bumper and pushed him to the win.
The Louisville, Kentucky, winner explained that much of the success he had that night came from the experience he had acquired from his 2007 winning performance. He also pointed to the excellent attention he had received from his crew.
There were a number of new drivers at the event, but also a number of Top 25 finishers from last year who didn't return, but the top-five were all 2007 returnees. Most of the returnees indicated that they came back with basically the same machine.
Kyle Hadley, also from Louisville, came home Third this year after finishing 12th in 2007. The Top 5 was completed by Roger Williams of St. Paul, Indiana, in Fourth and Brett Hudson of Owensboro, Kentucky.
Williamson, left, was runner-up...
Williamson, left, was runner-up to Barnes.
The total purse of $25,000 remained the same for both 2007 and 2008. The distribution to the drivers, though, was completely different. The initial $10,000 winning share for 2007 was halved for this year's race, but that money taken off the top was used to increase the earnings down through the field, from 50th place this year, up from 25 places last year. Even 50th place brought home $150, enough to pay that driver's entry fee.
Kimmel has hopes that his Enduro concept will grow into a traveling series. Besides the two Kentucky Speedway races, there was also been a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this year. There is also a New Year's Day date in 2009 at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina.
"I have also been approached by a number of marquee tracks who are interested in having one of our events," says Kimmel. "You know, if we could just get a national sponsorship, no telling where all this could go."
The term drafting is not normally spoken in the same breath with Street Stock where most of that type of racing is done on tracks of a half-mile or less. But with this high-speed 1.5-mile track, it was certainly applicable. As previously mentioned, Joe Williamson's drafting expertise played heavily in the Chuck Barnes victory. Kimmel explained that he wasn't surprised that the drivers figured out the advantages of the draft. Also, during the group qualification technique, a number of cars were drafting to up their speeds.
Running With The Roof Spoiler
Kimmel explained that he was worried about these cars going too fast. And if he wanted to slow them down, he couldn't have come up with anything any better than that roof spoiler.
A number of drivers described it as giving a vibration to the car, described by some as "something like driving behind a semi." But some other drivers said that it made the car more drivable.
Kimmel indicated that some cars were noted with their spoilers being loose and bending back. "During the break, we told as many of them as we could to tighten them up. When they were bent back, the downforce was increased and the drag decreases. It made for an unfair advantage."
One of the best-looking machines...
One of the best-looking machines was this 1970 Dodge of Bobby East.
Driver Marty Bean of Elmore, Alabama, had run the early Enduro race at Bristol where he flipped and destroyed his racecar. Then he ran into a couple of restaurant owners (Mike Webb and Jim Looney) who told him that they knew he had destroyed his car and wanted to buy him one for this race. "We worked a couple weeks to get it all together. They even provided an old Terry Labonte trailer to get us to the track," Marty said.
It was an unbelievable situation to run into this day and age.
1. Chuck Barnes Sr., Louisville, Kentucky
2. Joe Williamson Sr., Shepherdsville, Kentucky
3. Kyle Hadley, Louisville, Kentucky
4. Roger Williams, St. Paul, Indiana
5. Brett Hudson, Owensboro, Kentucky
6. David Bates, Fair Grove, Missouri
7. Pastor Ron Laskey, Sheperdsville, Kentucky
8. Chad Hall, Orleans, Indiana
9. Rick Erwin, Brooks, Kentucky
10. Brend Tweten, Chatfield, Minnesota
11. Greg Smart, Fayetteville, Tennessee
12. Billy Ammons, Deatsville, Alabama
13. Doug Weiss, Dallas Center, Iowa
14. Beau Mitchell, Owensboro, Kentucky
15. Jim Micola, West Miffin, Pennsylvania
16. Craig Rogers, Sellersburg, Indiana
17. Donnie Sullivan, Stanford, Kentucky
18. Duke Bare, Meadowview, Virginia
19. Jamie Whitt, Wise, Virginia
20. Chad Cowan, Gering, Nebraska
21. Jay Parrish, Bowling Green, Kentucky
22. Gary Whitson, Lafayette, Indiana
23. Dennis Wollen, Markleville, Indiana
24. Rich Nicola, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
25. Wally Leatherwood, Waynesville, North Carolina