LONG POND, Pennsylvania (June 13, 2011) – – Matt Merrell and Win-Tron Racing produced their fifth top-10 performance of the season Saturday afternoon at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. However, Merrell’s return to the Pocono (Pa.) Raceway didn’t come without its challenges.
Excited to return to the track of his career-best finish in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, Merrell along with his Lakeville, Minnesota based team armed themselves with a strong No. 32 Champion Oil Toyota Camry for the seventh race of the season.
The team’s weekend though took a dramatic turn just two laps into practice on Saturday morning. After maneuvering the 13th fastest lap his lone lap of practice, Merrell’s machine broke loose in the tunnel turn and slapped the inside retaining wall forcing the team to pull out the No. 32 Champion Oil Dodge Charger as a back-up.
The Chrysler nameplate though was a solid piece as it was the same machine that guided Merrell to a third place finish at Toledo Speedway last month.
With no practice in the backup car, Merrell’s first lap in the No. 32 Champion Oil Dodge Charger would occur during Menards Pole by Ansell qualifying where Merrell negotiated a lap of 57.008 seconds or 157.873 miles per hour landing Merrell a very respectable 14th on the starting grid. However, the team would be forced to relinquish their starting position as they opted to use the backup machine for the Pocono ARCA 200.
Mother Nature has played havoc with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards for much of the season and Saturday proved to be no different. With a light mist in the air, the drop of the green flag for the seventh race of the season would waive shortly before 2:00 p.m.
Merrell in the No. 32 Champion Oil Dodge Charger appeared to be shot out of a canon as he quickly found himself solidly in the top-20 by the completion of lap one.
By lap five, Merrell had muscled his way into the 15th position and quickly closed on the competition ahead of him. By lap 10, the Portland, Texas native had maneuvered into the 14th position. When the first caution flag waived on lap 18, Merrell found himself in the 13th position. Routine pit stops occurred on lap 19 with Merrell on the rear-bumpers of the lead pack.
With light rain falling and fog present, the caution period extended over the next 12 laps, and initially, ARCA officials decided to drop the green flag on lap 32. After restarts to begin laps 32 and 33 were aborted, officials instructed drivers to drive down pit road to close lap 35 where the red flag would be issued as everyone waited for the fog to lift.
A short time later, the cars would be re-fired and moved from pit road. The green flag would fly on lap 38. Merrell would maintain a spot inside the top-12 until the caution flag would waive on lap 50.
Lap 53 offered the final trip to pit road where a superb pit stop by the Mike Chaffee-led team would soar Merrell into the top-10.
Restarting the event on lap 57, Merrell would defend his position from a hard charging Sean Corr before a caution flag waived two laps later for dense fog again around the facility. Red flag conditions would again adorn the field but ultimately the fog would force ARCA officials to consider the race complete on lap 59 with Merrell scored in the 10th position.
“We definitely had our ups and downs this weekend, but we persevered with a top-10 finish,” said Merrell. “I (still) feel really bad about what happened in practice. She just broke loose. The guys did a great job getting the backup together and even though the backup wasn’t as strong as the primary we made the best out of the situation. It really was a champion-like performance this weekend.”
Nate Thiesse, co-owner of Win-Tron Racing offered his thoughts on the weekend at Pocono. “We made the best of the situation. We pulled together and overcame some adversity and finished in the top-10. I feel if we could have completed all 80 laps, we could have had a little better finish. We’ll take this though and march on to Michigan.”
Merrell occupies sixth in the championship standings, just 60 points from fifth place competitor Chad McCumbee and 65 from fourth held by Chris Buescher.
Next up for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards is round eight of nine on the 2011 schedule. The RainEater Wiper Blades 200 from the two-mile oval of Michigan International Speedway is set for Friday, June 17th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern live on SPEED. Merrell will make his inaugural debut at the track nestled in the “Irish Hills.” Merrell made his 20th career start in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards at Pocono Raceway. In those 20 outings, Merrell has eight top-fives including runner-up finishes of second at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (August) in 2009 and 11 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. Further information including driver opportunities with Win-Tron Racing is available by visiting win-tronracing.com or contacting Nate Thiesse at 952.469.1839.
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