Eight-time and defending ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel will search for his fifth Kentucky Speedway win amidst a field filled with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup caliber power when drivers take the green flag for the "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Kimmel enters the eighth Kentucky Speedway opening weekend with the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship lead and a 40-point advantage over second-place contender Justin Allgaier. Kimmel snatched the points lead from Allgaier by taking a third-place finish in the series last race at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway May 6. Kimmel owns a total of two top-five and five top-10 finishes through six events this season. Allgaier placed 29th at Winchester and will enter the "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" with one top-five and four top-10 finishes.

Several developmental drivers carrying set-ups from prominent NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams also plan to contend for top honors in the ARCA RE/MAX Series' 14th all-time Kentucky Speedway contest.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular and Roush-Fenway Racing product Erik Darnell will make his eighth career Kentucky Speedway start and first at the track in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. He finished ninth in Kentucky's 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event and posted his track-best second-place performance in a NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series race on June 13, 2003. He owns an all-time total of two top-five and three top-10 finishes on the Kentucky Speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval. Darnell charged from the 41st starting position to post a second-place finish in his ARCA RE/MAX Series debut at Kansas Speedway on April 27.

Two-time ARCA RE/MAX Series Kentucky Speedway pole award winner Erin Crocker will attempt to better her track-best second-place series showing from July 8, 2005 when she makes her fourth career Kentucky start. Her runner-up performance is the current best finish by a female driver at the track. The Evernham Motorsports driver finished 27th in her NASCAR Craftsman Truck and ARCA RE/MAX Series appearances at the track last season, but did start the July 7 ARCA RE/MAX Series race from the pole position after turning her best of two qualifying runs at 177.340 mph (30.450 seconds). Should Crocker join Gabi DiCarlo and Michelle Theriault in the "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" field, the race will mark the first time a major series Kentucky Speedway race has featured three female competitors.

Other ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers in the field with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup connections will be Ken Butler, III in the No. 22 ESR Development Toyota from Michael Waltrip Racing, Scott Lagasse in the No. 4 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge powered by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Jesus Hernandez in the No. 36 Ginn Racing Chevrolet, Bobby Santos, III in the No. 02 Bill Davis Racing Toyota and Alex Yontz in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Lagasse is averaging a 23rd-place finish through two career ARCA RE/MAX Series starts at the track, but did take the closest win in Kentucky Speedway history on May 7, 2004 when he edged Wade Day by .014 of a second in an American Speed Association (ASA) battle.

The talents 2006 ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series champion Paul Hahn will be on display on the paved quarter-mile track during the "Kentucky 100" when he battles two-time series champion Robbin Slaughter and current championship leader Steve Cronenwett in the series fifth all-time Kentucky Speedway appearance. Cronenwett will start the race with a 10-point lead over Hahn in the series championship standings. Drivers will take the green flag at 6:00 p.m.

Opening weekend begins Saturday when gates open at 4:00 p.m., with ARCA RE/MAX Series "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" qualifying. The "Kentucky 100" follows and country music artist Josh Gracin performs his high-energy concert on the Turn 1 Concourse at 6:45 p.m. "Buckle-Up Kentucky 150" prerace ceremonies are set for 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the full day of ARCA action can be reserved through the tickets pages of this Web site, by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223) or at the speedway main ticket booth between Gates 15 and 16 up to race time.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

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