Salem II: Matt Merrell race report

Merrell battles problems under the hood, bounces back to 13th at Salem Matt Merrell battled early obstacles on the Salem Speedway short track on Saturday night but perseverance allowed the 24-year-old racer to bounce back to a top 15 finish...

Merrell battles problems under the hood, bounces back to 13th at Salem

Matt Merrell battled early obstacles on the Salem Speedway short track on Saturday night but perseverance allowed the 24-year-old racer to bounce back to a top 15 finish in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic.

Merrell showed early that he would be a threat throughout the 200-lap race behind the wheel of the No. 32 Red Line Oil Dodge, by running eighth quickest in practice. He backed up the effort, laying down a qualifying lap good enough for the seventh starting position.

Unfortunately, soon after the green flag dropped just as the sun set on the Salem short track, Merrell's No. 32 machine began smoking. Still under power and maintaining speed, Merrell remained on the racetrack. Unfortunately, a black flag was shown to Merrell due to the ongoing smoke billowing from his Dodge.

Merrell obeyed the flag, dropping down pitroad to the attention of his crew. The team worked under the hood and discovered a loose oil line. After making repairs on pitroad, Merrell's Win-Tron Racing team sent their driver back on track.

"It was smoking for a while and we had to come in. It's tough. It's bad for the whole team. We did a nut and bolt check and everything. One of the guys put a wrench on every fitting under the hood. We were excited because we knew that we had a good car going in to the race but we didn't know it was that good," Merrell said of the team's misfortune.

Looking to make the best of the night, by lap 50, though numerous laps down due to the trouble under the hood, Merrell was running midpack, in the 23rd spot. As the race hit the halfway mark, crew chief Mike Chaffee guided Merrell down pitroad in order for the crew to bolt fresh tires on the No. 32 machine.

The tires helped Merrell pick up as many positions as he could and prove that he would have been a top contender had the oil line not worked its way loose, as he clicked off lap times faster than the leader. By the time the race fell under caution on lap 168, he was running in 15th.

Two more caution flags dropped in the closing laps with Merrell moving into 13th at the finish, just outside of the top 10.

"13th isn't bad. Some people didn't finish. It was a crazy night. A lot happened. We had such a good car. I wish we could have just stayed out there," he added.

The Salem race was only Merrell's 10th start this season for Win-Tron Racing in ARCA RE/MAX Series competition. He's impressed many during his short stint behind the wheel of the No. 32 Dodge by tallying two runner-up showings and five top five and six top-10 finishes.

With just two races remaining in the season, Merrell says he isn't sure when his next race might be but the team is hoping to end the season on a high note.

"We weren't planning on Salem and we ended up racing. We'll see what happens. We're all hoping that my next race is at Rockingham and we're working on next year."

-credit: wtr

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Matt Merrell