Wreckers To Checkers: Matt Merry Captures First Career NEMA Win At Lee USA; Jake Trainor Tops Lites

(Press Release from Northeastern Midget Association)
Matt Merry (Photo: Norm Marx/NEMA)

In a “wreckers to checkers” storybook ending, Matt Merry left Claremont Speedway last fall on a “double hook” with a badly damaged race car, and last weekend returned to LEE USA Speedway to capture his first ever feature event victory.  In the Lites division, Jake Trainor drove the Seymour 29 to an impressive victory over the field, winning by nearly 3 seconds.  

In NEMA’s first combined event of the season, 27 cars filled the pit area at LEE on a beautiful Spring weekend.  The club conducted a moment of silence at its driver’s meeting in memory of Norm Wrenn III, who unexpectedly passed away last Winter.  

In the heat races, teammates Todd Bertrand and Randy Cabral took down the wins.  In the Lites, Cabral won the first heat, and Paul Scally won heat 2.  

When the checkered flag flew in the NEMA feature, pole sitter Matt Merry jumped out into the lead.  For the first ten circuits, he was hotly pursued by multi time NEMA champion Ben Seitz in the Bertrand 47.  At the halfway point, Randy Cabral would overtake Seitz for second, and set his sights on Merry.  Cabral got within a carlength of Merry with eight laps to go, but by the five to go sign, it was all Merry.  Merry poured on the power in the remaining laps to take down an impressive victory over Cabral, Seitz, Nathan Byrd in the Bertrand 17, Todd Bertrand, Jake Trainor, John Zych, Avery Stoehr, Doug Cleveland, and Andy Lunt.

“After the wreck I felt defeated, discouraged, and hurt emotionally. Hurt emotionally because of all the effort I put in to try to be able to win. I do 90% of the work to the car in between races and in the off season. The little help I have is usually only at the track, and don’t get me wrong that is a huge help. At the start of the race I just kept telling myself I was going to finish up front. I was expecting top five but never thought I could be in the top three, never mind winning. Once the green came out I just gave it all I could while being comfortable. If I could have seen a car challenging me I still feel like I could have definitely pushed it harder,” said Merry.

“I have to thank all my sponsors who support me Bill Bartlett landscaping, Atkinson Electric, Walsh Truck and Auto, Tri C Mfg, Bradford Finishing, Bump and Grind, Peabody Landscaping, and Rockingham Candy and Gifts. My family is also a huge support system as well for putting up with my dreams. I also can’t thank Bertrand family for all the help and support as well as Seymour Performance for helping me get my car together last minute while I was sick with COVID and being there for everything I needed,” he said.

In the Lites feature, Avery Stoehr in the Scrivani 21 jumped out into the lead on lap two.  Stoehr would set the pace over the first half of the event, as Randy Cabral moved from the fourth position into second by lap three.

Behind the leaders, PJ Stergios was charging through the field from the 10th starting position and Jake Trainor in the Seymour 29 had charge from seventh to third.  On lap seventeen, Trainor would made a bid for the lead and on lap nineteen, Stergios would advance into second. 

Trainor, unlike the majority of the field, began clicking off his fastest laps in the last five circuits, running laps in the 14.2/14.3 range, as Stergios, who had run 14.3’s earlier in the event, slipped to the 14.6 range at the end of the race.

Trainor would go on to take down the victory over Stergios, Paul Scally, who came from deep in the pack, Avery Stoehr, Kyle Valeri, Randy Cabral, Michael Pernesiglio, Chris Vose, Dylan Cotu and Tiana Kibbe.

“I have to thank the Seymour family for providing me a great ride.  We were conserving tires the first half of the race, and it really paid off at the end.  We were getting faster as everyone else was slowing down a bit due to tire wear”, said Trainor. 

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