DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (February 8, 2011) – – The last time that Portland, Texas native Matt Merrell sat behind the wheel of a Win-Tron Racing race car he finished 13th at Salem (Ind.) Speedway in the fall of 2009. The race ended a stretch of four races which included two career-best runner-up finishes at Berlin (Mich.) Raceway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway which was followed by a 10th place outing on the dirt at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.
It’s been a little more than a year since the former USARacing Pro Cup Series driver has been with the Lakeville, Minnesota-based team but the two are reuniting in hopes of rekindling the magic and success they achieved in 2009 at the “World Center of Racing” for Saturday’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona.
Win-Tron Racing, arguably noted as one of the most competitive teams in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will have to try and shield the rookie stripe of Merrell who despite his 13 career starts has yet to neither conquer nor tackle a restrictor plate track.
Leaning on their No. 32 Red Line Oil Toyota Camry and the experience of Win-Tron wizard crew chief Mike Chaffee, the group is hoping to find themselves in the lead draft when the season-opener draws to a close at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“I cannot begin to describe how excited I am about returning to Win-Tron Racing,” said Merrell, who in 13 contests has accumulated five top-fives and six top-10 finishes. “To get the call from Nate (Thiesse, Win-Tron Racing co car-owner) and Kevin (Cywinski, Win-Tron Racing co car-owner) to drive their piece in what undoubtedly will be the biggest race of my career is not only humbling but an honor.”
Despite a multi-million dollar re-pavement to the 2.5-mile superspeedway, the Win-Tron Racing team declined to participate in an open three-day open test session last month.
“It really doesn’t bother me that we didn’t test,” offered Merrell. “I guess the biggest thing I will be lacking is drafting, but I’m assuming I’ll be able to do that in the two practice sessions leading up to the race. I know to some I’ll be fresh meat in the draft but I’m hoping that the respect that the Win-Tron Racing team has earned will off-set some of that lack of experience.”
For Thiesse, the decision to put Merrell back in the driver’s seat wasn’t hard.
“Matt showed in 2009 that he could get the job done,” sounded Thiesse. “He is an incredible kid with a lot of talent. When the seat became available, it wasn’t difficult to pin-point who we really wanted to put in the Red Line Oil Toyota. We feel that Matt will pick up right where he left off.”
The piece that Win-Tron Racing will sport in Saturday’s season-opener will have all the intentions of giving Merrell the prime opportunity to push his career to the next level. The team has elected to bring back the same Toyota Camry that their 2010 driver Justin Marks sat on the inside of row number two (third), hovered in the top-10 for the entire race before settling for ninth at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last April.
“As always, the Win-Tron Racing team is giving me a car capable of winning,” offered Merrell. “As it stands right now, we’re only partnered for Daytona, so I would most definitely like to deliver them a good finish that will allow us or someone else to pick up the momentum in Talladega a short time later.”
Thiesse concluded by saying, “We’ve shown that we’re competitive and we can win with one driver or a multitude of drivers. We’re a development team for a reason and hopefully we’ll get the chance to continue that presence in 2011. While, we’re trying to nail down a more productive schedule with Matt, the seat is open following Daytona to breed the newest talent in one of the most diverse racing series available.”
Further information including driver opportunities with Win-Tron Racing is available by visiting win-tronracing.com or contacting Nate Thiesse at 952.469.1839.
The Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona (80 laps / 200 miles) is the first of 19 events on the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards schedule. The 48th ARCA race held at Daytona is a three-day show. Practice begins Thursday, February 10 with a four hour practice session planned from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Menards pole qualifying presented by Ansell is set for Friday, February 11 slated to begin at 2:00 p.m. A forty-five minute final practice session is etched in on Saturday, February 12th from 10:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. The event will take the green flag later that day shortly after 4:30 p.m. The race will be televised live on SPEED with additional race coverage including live timing and scoring and radio broadcast through the ARCA Racing Network (ARN) online at arcaracing.com. All times are local.