Salem: Matt Merrell race report

Matt Merrell Collects Career Best ARCA RE/MAX Series Finish At Salem SALEM, Indiana (April 7, 2009) - - Matt Merrell made his fourth career ARCA RE/MAX Series (ARS) start on Sunday afternoon in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 by Federated Car...

Matt Merrell Collects Career Best ARCA RE/MAX Series Finish At Salem

SALEM, Indiana (April 7, 2009) - - Matt Merrell made his fourth career ARCA RE/MAX Series (ARS) start on Sunday afternoon in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 by Federated Car Care and in all respects, Merrell's efforts were commendable.

The team entered the weekend looking to keep their winning streak alive as nearly eight weeks prior to the second race of the season, the Win-Tron Racing team drafted its way to it's biggest victory of it's inception by capturing the win in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona.

With Merrell being a great candidate to keep the tradition alive, the team was anxious for practice Saturday afternoon. In the only session of the weekend, the Portland, Texas native proved they were coming fully armed after posting the second fastest time of the session.

"Our ColinsHope.org-Merrell Lease Service Dodge is really good," said Merrell. "I really can't complain. We came here and tested and I think what we learned and what we applied in practice paid off big time. I'm just proud to be driving this thing."

Looking for the same type of results in qualifying, Merrell was looking for his first career ARCA pole. Mounting a lap of 17.396 seconds at 114.854 miles per hour, Merrell found himself eighth on the starting grid, a personal best.

"It wasn't what I was hoping for," explained Merrell. "We had a good car and still do, it just didn't stick like I wanted it to. There were a lot of guys that lost some ground from practice and unfortunately, we were one of them too."

Arriving on Sunday with sheer optimism, Merrell and company were looking forward to the race. With Mother Nature looking to spoil the event with heavy rain, ARCA officials opted to start the race 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

At the start of the event, Merrell found his groove and found himself flirting with the top-five.

Holding steady in the top-seven, Merrell was riding and waiting for the final 100 laps before marching towards the front. His plan though would be side railed when the No. 28 of Mike Koch spun while leading which set off a chain-reaction causing damage to the No. 32 Dodge Charger entry on lap 73.

Merrell brought his machine to the attention of his Win-Tron Racing team led by crew chief Mike Chaffee where damage control was assessed. The team was able to stay on the lead lap and send it's development driver back into competition.

On the restart, Merrell still found himself hugging a top-10 run but throughout the second half of the race, the handling began to deteriorate which saw Merrell's lap time fall but still solider on to cross the line 11th.

The finish was a career best for Merrell beating his prior personal best at Toledo Speedway in 2007.

"We just didn't have any grip," said Merrell after the race. "I hate it for the Win-Tron bunch because we had a good car. The car would be tight then it would be loose and you just can't manhandle a car like that at Salem. It's tough. We'll take the 11th and move on to Rockingham and hope to put this team back into the top-10."

Team Manager Nate Thiesse was encouraged by Merrell's performance. "Matt did a great job for us. He was in the right position for much of the race and got shoved into an incident not of his own doing. Still, he battled back from adversity including overheating and finished 11th. On to Rockingham."

The team is also gearing towards another weekend of recognition and bringing further attentiveness to Colin's Hope.

Colin's Hope is a nonprofit organization that creates and supports programs that aid in preventing children from drowning. Despite numerous sources for water safety, the number of children who drown per year is staggering. Colin's Hope of saving children from drowning is being achieved through improved water safety awareness and standards throughout communities.

With the finish, Win-Tron Racing sits fourth in the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series car owner point standings entering the series third race of the season at Rockingham Speedway next Sunday.

From Salem, the team is off to Talladega Superspeedway where the team will participate in a two-day test at the 2.66-mile superspeedway where newcomer Bradley Riethmeyer will test in preparation for his speedway debut later this month. Daytona ARCA winner James Buescher will also be on-hand to assist the Lakeville, Minnesota based team and their new protege.

-credit: wtr

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers James Buescher , Matt Merrell