Matt Merrell Answers Berlin Debut With Career Best Finish MARNE, Michigan (July 27, 2009) - - Matt Merrell a development driver for Win-Tron Racing answered his Berlin Raceway debut Saturday night with a career best second place finish in the ...
Matt Merrell Answers Berlin Debut With Career Best Finish
MARNE, Michigan (July 27, 2009) - - Matt Merrell a development driver for Win-Tron Racing answered his Berlin Raceway debut Saturday night with a career best second place finish in the Wolverine Power Systems 200 presented by Generac.
The finish was a nice rebound for the Portland, Texas native after being denied a top-five finish in his most recent ARCA RE/MAX Series event at Iowa Speedway earlier this month. The finish also reeled the Win-Tron Racing team towards moving back into the hunt for the ARCA RE/MAX Series car owner's title. The former USARacing Series star entered the 12th race of the season without a single lap around the interesting .4-mile short track. In fact, Merrell gazed at the track for the first time Saturday morning when the garage opened.
Despite the new surroundings, Merrell nor the Mike Chaffee-led team were worried. Time after time again including several times this season, Merrell has shown that he has been able to tackle and handle new tracks with little or no track time. Berlin would prove to be no different.
The weekend started off extremely well for the No. 32 Colin's Hope Dodge Charger with Merrell sailing to the second fastest time during the lone practice session Saturday afternoon. Merrell's lap of 17.334 seconds at 90.966 miles per hour was just over one-tenth of a second slower than the fastest lap posted by Justin Lofton.
"Our Colin's Hope Dodge is good; real good," said Merrell. "The boys have really worked hard getting this car ready. We have a little fire underneath us from what happened at Iowa. We're back showing that we're on top of our game and we're planning to be a factor tonight."
Pulling a mid-qualifying draw Saturday morning, Merrell had intentions of grabbing his first career ARCA pole based on actual qualifying speeds and not a rain-out. For a while, it appeared Merrell's dream would become a reality. During his two lap hustle, Merrell delivered a time of 17.089 seconds or 92.270 miles per hour which at the time became the fastest lap time on the track. Runs by Justin Lofton and Chad Finley would slide the Lakeville, Minnesota based team to the third position when qualifying was all said and done. Happy with the lap, Merrell was really hope for the pole.
"We'll take third, but we were really hoping for the number one spot," offered Merrell. "The best part is we have a good car for the race. I think it's a potentially race winning car."
Indeed, a potential winning-car the team had under their belts.
From the drop of the green flag it was evident that if Merrell wanted to notch his first win he would have to outmaneuver the No. 6 of Justin Lofton.
Throughout the race's first half, Merrell remained a car hovering inside the top-four. While not able to pass the No. 6 of Lofton, Merrell did keep the leader in his sights ready to take advantage of any of his mishaps.
The first scheduled pit stop allowed the No. 32 team to take on four tires and fuel with no major chassis adjustment since Merrell was happy with the performance of his Kevin Cywinski owed machine.
Keeping his machine inside the top-five for a majority of the night, Merrell kept a quite but timid pace studying his prey as a vicious predator. Having battled a strong field most of the night which also included an amazing four-car breakaway; two rows deep for the lead during the event's second half, the yellow flag would fall with five laps remaining which would set up for a green-white-checkered and one more opportunity for the year-old driver one final attempt at getting by Lofton.
On the restart, Merrell remained locked on his bumper and despite a gallant charge on the backstretch and in turns three and four on the final lap, Merrell would come up short crossing the start finish line second and putting Win-Tron Racing back into the top-five since a fourth place finish at Michigan International Speedway in June.
For Merrell, the finish bettered his previous career best finish of third at Rockingham Speedway in April. In seven starts this year, Merrell has finished in the top-five for four of the seven races this year with a second, third and two top-fives at Toledo and Pocono respectively.
"I was trying everything I could but we came up a little short," said Merrell. "We had a great car, I can't complain one bit. We're so close to getting that first win. It's around the corner, I know that for sure. Congratulations to Justin Lofton. It was a fun race tonight. My guys did a great job on pit road and to bring home a runner-up finish for Colin's Hope is real big to me. Pocono's next week and we had a real good run there in June. Hopefully, we can up the ante by one spot next Saturday."
Next up for the ARCA RE/MAX Series is a return trip to Pocono Raceway for the running of the Pennsylvania 200 on Saturday, August 1. The event is round 13 of 21 on the 2009 agenda.