Matt Merrell Secures Top-10 Finish In Springfield Debut SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (August 24, 2009) - - It wasn't a surprise that Win-Tron Racing development driver Matt Merrell posted a solid top-10 finish in Sunday's Allen Crowe 100 at the...
Matt Merrell Secures Top-10 Finish In Springfield Debut
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (August 24, 2009) - - It wasn't a surprise that Win-Tron Racing development driver Matt Merrell posted a solid top-10 finish in Sunday's Allen Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. In fact, Merrell stepped up to the plate and surprised much of the field with his veteran like performance in his inaugural Springfield Mile dirt debut.
Getting the call from the Lakeville, Minnesota team earlier in the week to drive in Sunday's event, the Portland, Texas native was eager to climb behind the wheel especially since in his prior two ARCA finishes, the former USARacing ace had posted two consecutive runner-up finishes.
"This is going to be interesting," said Merrell when he walked into the gates of the Illinois State Fairgrounds early Sunday morning. "I've tackled a lot of different types of tracks during my racing career; but this one is right at the top. I just hope I don't disappoint the guys."
Much to his surprise but not of his Win-Tron Racing team; Merrell posted the fifth fastest lap on Sunday morning by maneuvering his No. 32 Red Line Oil Dodge around the mile-dirt in a time of 33.881 seconds or 106.254 miles per hour.
"I took it easy at the start of practice but I quickly found the groove and the car was hooked up," said Merrell after practice. "I have to hand it off to Mike (Chaffee, crew chief) and the entire Win-Tron Racing team. They never fail. Every single race this year they've brought me a fast racecar. Today is no different despite the inexperience for me on the dirt. Hopefully we can continue to head in the right direction for qualifying."
In time trials, Merrell was one of six drivers to break the facility's previous track records and had picked up the pace considerably in his Kevin Cywinski-owned machine as he was over a second faster from his fastest practice lap which ironically landed Merrell fifth in the starting lineup.
"I'm pretty happy with that," replied Merrell. "The car was good and we found some incredible speed in qualifying. I'm not real sure what to expect in the race -- but I'll give it my all behind the wheel and hope we come up with a good finish."
At the start of the Allen Crowe 100, Merrell hovered safely in the top-five and held off some early race challenges but as the laps began to settle in, the No. 32 found itself running between the sixth and eighth position.
An early race caution allowed the Win-Tron Racing team to make its mandatory trip to pit road where the team added fuel. Back into the hunt, Merrell restarted safely in the top-10 where he remained during the race's first half.
A sweltering amount of yellow flags during the event's second-half played havoc with the team's pit strategy which included another trip down pit road inside the race's final 30 laps for a minor chassis adjustment and new rubber with Merrell setting his sights back on the top-five.
On the restart, Merrell began plowing through the field and had moved back into the top-10 when the yellow flag fever began to reappear. Inside the final twenty laps, Merrell was himself in tight battle with the seventh-10th place cars and when the final yellow flag waived inside the last five laps -- the field was set for a green-white-checkered finish.
Despite trying to charge and outsmart his competition on the restart, Merrell would have to settle for a 10th place finish.
"I'm happy with a top-10 but I know the team would have liked a little better run. The car was good but man you have to baby your tires a lot. I learned a bunch. I mean I bunch. The car was sliding around a lot at the end of the race and that might have cost us a better finish. If I was bound and determined to get these guys a top-10 finish and we accomplished that. I just want to thank the team, Kevin (Cywinski) and Nate (Thiesse) for the opportunity to race here on the dirt."
With his run on Sunday, Merrell posted his sixth top-10 finish of the year in nine starts. Merrell has yet to finish outside the top-20 during the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series season.
Next up for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is a stop in the "Windy City" at Chicagoland Speedway. The Ansell Cut Protection 150 is the 15th event of the season and is set for Friday, August 28th set to launch at 5:30 p.m.