ARCA - Matt Merrell Keen On Prevailing In Road Course Debut
MILLVILLE, May 18, 2011: After cleverly mastering his fourth consecutive top-10 finish of the season last weekend at Toledo Speedway, Matt Merrell will tackle some unfamiliar turf as the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards treks to New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) for Sunday’s ModSpace 150.
The Portland, Texas native has endured several different types of race tracks during his young career. From short tracks, to intermediate tracks and even the intimidating superspeedways of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway but this weekend the opportunity to strengthen his resume by competing at a road course is an opportunity and not a hindrance.
“I’m more than ready,” said Merrell. “You have to approach tracks that you have never been to before with optimism. Who knows, I might even surprise myself this weekend. The biggest thing for me this weekend is not to break what we’ve already built so far in 2011 including moving up to second in points. A good run will help keep us in this championship chase.”
And that platform that Merrell has built in 2011 has been impressive. With a third place outing at Daytona, a ninth at Talladega, a fifth at Salem (Ind.) Speedway and a third in the most recent adventure at Toledo Speedway, the possibilities of keeping his streak alive remain at an all-time high.
“I cannot boast enough about this Win-Tron Racing team,” added the 26-year old protégé. “Nate, Kevin, Mike (Chafee, crew chief), Mike (Resop, car chief) and the rest of the guys are some of the best in the business. They know what they are doing even when it comes to road course racing, so I’m just eager to get behind the wheel of our No. 32 Champion Brands Dodge Charger.”
To help prepare the former USARacing Pro Cup Series star for his first tango with NJMP, Merrell recently attended the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at Firebird Raceway. Merrell spent four days under grueling testing conditions which included three days of testing in a Chevrolet Corvette C6 Grand Sport and spent his last day in a Formula 1200 open-wheel car.
“I learned a lot at the school,” Merrell mentioned. “You learn the typical dos and don’ts, but you also get to experience some of what could happen first-hand for yourself. I know that even tough I wasn’t in a stock car, the techniques will no question help me on Sunday.”
An added bonus for Merrell is that he has developed a bond with former Win-Tron Racing pilot Justin Marks who erupted with his first career ARCA victory win at Palm Beach (Fla.) International Raceway with the Lakeville, Minnesota based team last February.
“Being able to lean on Justin the past couple weeks has been a huge bonus,” sounded Merrell. “He has told me what to be prepared for this weekend at New Jersey. He’s told me what to expect, what could happen and how to setup and make a move on the competition, that all helps. I’ve taken a lot of input in from him and it’s planted into my mind. I know that if I need to, I can also pick up the phone and call him this weekend too.”
Nate Thiesse, co-owner of Win-Tron Racing isn’t worried about his driver’s inexperience heading into the fifth race of the year. “Matt will be fine. One of his brightest abilities is how well he is able to adapt quickly to new surroundings and New Jersey this weekend will be the perfect scenario. I think with the help of the Bob Bondurant School and talking with Justin (Marks), we won’t see anything less that what Matt has delivered all year long.”
The lone road racing contest of the year signifies the fourth race that Champion Brands will heed the role as the primary sponsor for the Lakeville, Minnesota-based team. Headquartered in Clinton, Missouri Champion Brands LLC produces and blends more than 300 products including fuel, oil and engine additives and lubricants for the automotive, heavy truck, agricultural and specialty markets.
Entering New Jersey, Merrell is second in the ARCA Racing Series championship standings 95 points behind leader Ty Dillon and five markers ahead of nine-time champion Frank Kimmel in third. Currently, the Win-Tron Racing team holds the reins with Kimmel Racing as the only two teams to finish inside the top-10 in all four races thus far in 2011.
Merrell will make his 18th career start in the ARCA Racing Series presented Menards at NJMP this weekend. In his previous 17 outings, Merrell has eight top-fives including runner-up finishes of second at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (August) in 2009 and 10 top-10s. His best start position for Win-Tron Racing occurred at the tricky triangle of Pocono (Pa.) Raceway where he qualified his No. 32 CollinsHope.org Dodge Charger second in June of 2009.
The ModSpace 150 (67 laps / 150 miles) is the fifth of 19 events on the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. The fourth ever ARCA event held at New Jersey Motorsports Park is a two-day show. Practice begins Saturday, May 21 with an hour and a half practice session planned from 11:15 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. A final “happy hour” session has been etched in from 1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Menards Pole by Ansell qualifying is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. The field will take the green flag on Sunday May 22 shortly after 1:00 p.m. The race will not be televised but event coverage including live timing and scoring throughout the weekend will be available through the ARCA Racing Network (ARN) online at arcaracing.com presented by ARCANation.com.