Story by: Mike Neff ~ [email protected]

Rockingham, NC(November 28, 2011) — The Frank Kimmel Street Stocks took to the high banks of Rockingham Speedway Saturday and, after 150 laps of competition, it came down to .016 seconds at the finish line. Frank Kimmel II slipped up slightly coming out of turn four and Chuck Barnes Sr. took advantage, diving to the low side and winning the drag race to the checkered flag. Cliff Gaumond shook off some gremlins that hampered his qualifying run to come home in third place. Clint Watkins was the fourth car across the finish line, just ahead of Tony Conway who made a late race charge to round out the top five.

Barnes started the race from the pole position after posting a 28.695 second lap during the European style qualifying session. Ironically Kimmel started next to Barnes after posting a 28.711 second lap, .016 seconds slower than the eventual race winner. The Kimmel Street Stocks start the Polar Bear three wide so Brett Hudson took the last front row starting spot with a 28.793 second lap. The second row consisted of Watkins, Jason Leatherwood and Bryan Silas.

54 cars came to the green on a gorgeous afternoon for racing with Kimmel leading the first lap ahead of Hudson, Barnes, Watkins and Chad Hall. The discrepancy between vehicles was quickly apparent as Kimmel lapped his first car coming out of turn two on lap three. The first lead change of the 17 that occurred between Kimmel and Barnes took place on lap 14 as Barnes grabbed the top spot heading into turn one. Three laps later Jason Garver cut down a left rear tire and spun through the grass on the front straight to bring out the first caution of the day. The race went back to green on lap 25 with Barnes at the point but Kimmel was hot on his tail and dove under him in turns one and two, wrestling the lead away as they exited turn two. Not to be outdone Barnes made a similar move on the very next lap to regain the top spot. The prosperity was short lived for Barnes as Kimmel once again pried the lead away from him on lap 29. As the leaders headed through turns one and two on lap 33 the cars of Hall, Wallace Leatherwood and Joe Holp got together in front of them. Barnes spun to avoid the incident but did not sustain any damage. Under the caution Barnes came to pit lane to be checked out by his crew and returned to the end of the field.

The race went back to green on lap 39 with Kimmel leading the charge into turn one and Jason Leatherwood making his first appearance in the top five. Within one lap Barnes had charged from the back of the pack to assume the sixth position. Two laps later the car of Brandon Brown went around coming out of turn two and slid down the back straight to bring out the caution. After some extensive cleanup the race again went back to green on lap 49 and Barnes was again on the charge to the front, making it to third position by the end of the lap. As the field came back around on lap 50 there was a spin off of turn four that eventually collected the cars of Charles Hutto, Scott Aiello, Donald Lamonds, Sean Calway and Keith Bissinger. Once the cleanup from that incident was completed the race went back to green on lap 58. Within one lap Barnes was around Hudson for second and, by the time the field was back to the start/finish line on lap 60 he had completed his charge back to the front of the pack. On lap 65 Hudson got on the back bumper of Gaumond and gave him a considerable shove into second position as they entered turn one. The push nearly cause Gaumond to spin out but he was able to maintain control and took the position from Kimmel. One lap later Hall, Lee Newsome and Tab Boyd spun behind the car of Dan Avarez as he blew up in turns one and two. Boyd’s car was severely damaged and he was none too pleased with Hall, getting out of his car and hitting Hall’s with his helmet. Race officials decided to bring the field into the pits on lap 68 for the midway break while the lengthy cleanup efforts took place, even though it was seven laps early.

During the break, aside from Barnes, most of the front running cars reported being considerably loose. The sun was bright and the temperature was higher than it had been all weekend during the first half of the race which seemed to be affecting all of the cars except Barnes. The leader’s car, according to his pit crew, was very comfortable and the new tires from the break should only make him better.

The race went back to green with Barnes leading Gaumond, Kimmel, Hudson and Watkins. Within three laps Kimmel was back around Barnes for the lead of the race. Kimmel held onto the lead for eight laps as the race went through the midway point until lap 79 when Barnes once again asserted himself in the number one spot. Barnes led for eight laps before being held up by a lapped car coming out of turn four on lap 87 which gave Kimmel another chance to lead the race. Lap 91 saw the cars of Jeff Berg, Gary Davis and Billy Ammons get tangled up in turn four to bring out the caution. As the cars got rolling again Ammons gave Berg a hard shot in the door to let him realize he was not pleased. During the caution Hudson’s car stopped on track with some sort of engine issue that sidelined him for the rest of the day. The race went green again on lap 98 and Barnes immediately regained the lead from Kimmel with Gaumond following Barnes through to assume second, Leatherwood grabbed third and Watkins took over fourth as Kimmel dropped all of the way to fifth.

On lap 103 Newsome and Holp were involved in another incident in turns one and two, which turned out to be a break for Kimmel who had a right rear tire going down. During the caution Kimmel pitted and replaced the deflating tire and returned to the back of the pack. The race went green on lap 108 with Barnes pulling away from Gaumond and Watkins who battled hard for second. Lap 113 saw Nathan Peckham and Brown spin in turn three to bring out another caution. When the race went back to green on lap 117 Watkins bounced his car off of the outside wall coming off of turn two and considerably slowed his momentum. That allowed Conway and Shawn Smith to show up in the top five for the first time all day. The next lap Wallace Leatherwood spun on the back straight to bring out the caution flag yet again. As the race restarted on lap 122 Kimmel made a strong push to get back up to third position before Donald Vaughn spun off of turn two and into the inside back straight wall to cause the caution to wave again on lap 123. The race went back to green on lap 126 and Kimmel continued his move back to the front, getting around Gaumond for second as Chris Flower spun going into turn three on lap 129. Fortunately he was able to get his car straightened back out and continued without the caution flag going back in the air. Lap 130 saw Watkins get extremely loose coming out of turn two and smoked the rear tire violently before regaining control and continuing in fourth spot.

Barnes and Kimmel checked out from the rest of the leaders with Kimmel grabbing the lead back from Barnes on lap 135. While Kimmel made the pass the engine of Chris Harmon gave up the ghost. On lap 136 Sean Calway spun on the back straight to bring out the caution for the last time in the race. The green flew once again on lap 143 with Kimmel and Barnes battling hard for the point. For the next two laps they ran side-by-side around the entire track. Barnes led at the line on lap 145 by a couple of feet but Gaumond was behind Kimmel and pushed him hard into turn one to allow the two of them to clear Barnes for the top two positions. Barnes grabbed second from Gaumond on lap 147 and then set his sites on the lead. As the cars came to the white flag there was a one car length cushion between Kimmel and Barnes. The cars were nose to tail when they reached the end of the back straight. As they went through turns three and four Kimmel washed up the track slightly as they got back to the main straight. The leaders ran next to each other all of the way to the line and, in the end, Barnes nipped Kimmel by .016 seconds for the closest finish at Rockingham since Matt Kenseth beat Kasey Kahne by .010 seconds in the final Sprint Cup race at the track.

As Barnes celebrated his third win at Rockingham since the track was reopened in 2008, Kimmel sat in the Media Center shaking his head. “It was really fun for 149 and three quarter laps. Man I wanted to beat him.” Kimmel had a plan but wasn’t able to execute it, “Planned to be running second coming to the white flag and then pass him but he stayed in second so I didn’t get to do that.” When asked about what he was thinking coming to the line, Kimmel admitted wrecking was a thought, “I thought about turning down into him and doing a Ricky Craven/Kurt Busch deal (closest finish in NASCAR history from Darlington Raceway) with my tire locked down on his and hoping to slide across the line in front of him, but I wouldn’t do that. We’ve raced together too much and I respect him too much.” “I just stayed in the gas and hoped we wouldn’t wreck,” Kimmel said when he talked about running so close together through the corners with Barnes. “These cars are not stable at all. I knew he was loose and I was loose so I just stayed on it and hoped we’d make it out of the turns.”

“I knew he was in front coming to the line so I just put it on the floor and figured we’d see what happened,” Barnes said about the run to the line that give him the win by .016 seconds. “I gave it all I had all day long. You can’t sand bag at all with these cars because you’ll get left behind,” Barnes noted when questioned about letting Kimmel pull away from him at some points in the race. “It is a ball passing cars all day,” Barnes said with a grin. “It is certainly hairy when you’re coming up on cars and running 40 miles per hour faster than they are, but it is a lot of fun passing so many cars all day long.”

1. #5 Chuck Barnes — 150 Laps
2. #72 Frank Kimmel — 150
3. #361 Cliff Gaumond — 150
4. #91 Clint Watkins — 150
5. #7 Tony Conway — 150
6. #86 Shawn Smith — 150
7. #29 Jason Leatherwood — 150
8. #11 Bryan Silas — 150
9. #42 Cody Buford — 150
10. #126 Bryan Thomas — 150
11. #138 Donald Vaughn — 148
12. #15 Lee Newsome — 147
13. #40 Rodney Class — 146
14. #007 Cooper Fassenn — 146
15. #1 Chad Hall — 145
16. #26 Jeff Berg — 145
17. #64 Gary Davis — 144
18. #33 Sean Calway — 143
19. #0 Charles Hutto — 142
20. #3 David Coonfield — 141
21. #78 Joe Holp — 139
22. #170 Jeremy Gerstner — 137
23. #16 Chris Harmon — 136
24. #21 Chris Fowler — 133
25. #14 Scott LeBlanc — 132
26. #191 Joshua Sigler — 132
27. #36 W. Leather Wood — 124
28. #87 Willie Reyns — 124
29. #93 Rusty Alton — 117
30. #90 Nathan Peckham — 112
31. #06 Jeff Melton — 110
32. #71 Michael Brown — 98
33. #00 Brett Hudson — 95
34. #83 Billy Ammons — 91
35. #63 John McElrath — 90
36. #56 John Guker — 84
37. #25 Donald Lamonds — 83
38. #17 Curtis Peeples — 76
39. #8 John Wesley — 72
40. #34 Tab Boyd — 65
41. #004 Brandon Brown — 55
42. #188 Don Avarez — 54
43. #05 SCott Aiello — 51
44. #311 Keith Bissinger — 50
45. #77 Jason Drummonds — 30
46. #35 William Ashton — 28
47. #72 Jason Garver — 26
48. #115 Jay Baker — 17
49. #193 Andy Ford — 11
50. #38 Greg Grindstaff — 7
51. #51 Stephen Jones — 5
52. #97 Phillip Odom — 5
53. #43 Bobby East — 2