Kimmel Holds Off Busch to Claim Win at Polar Bear 150
By Hunter Thomas
Kurt Busch’s best finish at Rockingham Speedway in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was second.
Thanks to a dominating performance by Will Kimmel, Busch was not able to better that finish in the Frank Kimmel Street Stock National Polar Bear 150 at the track. Kimmel led 148 of 150 laps en route to his first victory at the track. Busch was the only other lap leader after going making the racing four wide to briefly move out front.
“It was a little intimidating to look back and see the No. 22 (Busch) in the mirror,” said Kimmel from victory lane.
But the Indiana native didn’t let the fact that he was being pursued by a former Sprint Cup champion rattle him.
“I was pretty confident in my car but at the same time it was pretty hard to keep it on the bottom where it ran the best,” said Kimmel, who started on the pole. “My guys built a great car today. It was awesome. This thing just ran awesome all day. This is great. It’s been a while since we’ve been in victory lane, so this is really cool.”
Busch had to battle back in the race’s second stanza after contact with Kimmel forced him to make a pit stop to pull the fender off the left front tire. After restarting twelfth, Busch passed both lead lap and lap-down cars and capitalized on a caution to get on Kimmel’s rear bumper over the last 40 laps. But as the laps wound down, Kimmel was able to use traffic to pull away.
“It was a blast,” said Busch, despite the contact with Kimmel. “It was just as much fun as I thought it would be. It was old school racing – toss it in sideways and drive the hell out of it. We got every ounce out it. There at the end I think we lost a cylinder. I could definitely feel the power loss.”
J.D. Frey finished third, with Chad Hall finishing fourth and Cliff Gaumond rounding out the top-five.
“It was a good day all-in-all,” said Frey, who works for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. “The car was not that great during the first half. We didn’t make a whole lot of adjustments on it, we just put a new set of tires on it and the car really came to life. I’m just happy to finish where we did.”
Chuck Barnes, the winner of the last two Polar Bear 150s, retired early after hitting the wall early in the second half.
“The car just wouldn’t go after the restart,” said Barnes, who started fourth. “I don’t really know what was wrong with it. Tried to keep up and stay out of the way and the car just got loose, and it got in the wall. It wasn’t right all day. We had to make some changes to the car before we came down here. We didn’t get enough practice in it. It’s disappointing.”
Brett Hudson, who finished second in last year’s Polar Bear, failed to make the race after his car engine blew up during practice.
The race was slowed by nine cautions for 42 laps. Ten of the fifty cars that started finished on the lead lap.
“It was as much fun as it always was,” said Busch. “There were all the lanes to choose from. We worked the low groove and the high groove. This place is so fun with the bumps and quirks. This racetrack, for sure, gets a gold star. Guys in our series (Sprint Cup) that are car guys – that are racers – should definitely be down here racing.”