CALLAWAY, VA :: Many new names have shown up at Franklin County Speedway and on Sunday, the U-CAR division will see another new competitor. However, this rookie driver isn’t an unfamiliar face to the area. Viewers of Roanoke’s NBC affiliate, WSLS, know Jonathan Merryman for his sports reporting and now race fans will know him as a driver as well.
Merryman, who has visited Franklin County Speedway twice as a reporter in 2014 to file feature stories about the track, took his first laps as a driver on Wednesday to practice ahead of his debut as a driver in Sunday afternoon’s Industrial Floor Systems Spring Sizzler.
“The first time I was out there, I kind of took it slow but it’s still nerve-racking,” Merryman said after taking laps. “It doesn’t look very fast when you’re outside the car but once you get in there, 60 mph feels a lot faster when you’re sliding around this place. The first run out, I was pretty conservative. They kind of loosened the reins on me the second run. They told me to drive it in harder. I took their advice and they told me I ran an 18.5 but I was pretty sideways when I was doing it. It’s not what I was expecting out of a front wheel drive car.
“It’s wild. I’m a little nervous about the race. I don’t know how I feel about getting sideways with someone to my inside or my outside. Nevertheless, we’re going to go out there and give it a shot and we’ll just have to bring it home with the fenders on it and we’ll be okay.”
18.5 is a solid lap for a rookie driver in their first effort. Merryman hopes he can lay down solid laps on a consistent basis on Sunday.
“My problem is I only did one of them,” Merryman explained. “I need to back that up. I don’t know how long the races are here but I would say I’d need to duplicate those laps a little more and if I can do that and stay clean, we’ll be okay. I just want to finish, that’s the only thing.”
Merryman is an avid racing fan. When he first came to Franklin County Speedway in March, you can say it was love at first sight.
“How can you not have fun here,” Merryman stated. “Number one, you’re at a racetrack. Number two, this place is straight out of the 70s which you don’t find a lot anymore. It’s old school and it’s fun.”
Merryman took laps in a U-CAR prepared by Eric Winslow and Winslow Motorsports. He will compete in five races in 2014 while Austin Milam.
“He was good for his first time there,” Winslow remarked. “Franklin County can be a little tricky. It’s different on both ends. He drove in there and did what he needed to do. When he gets practice, gets laps and gets cars around him on the track, he’ll fall in place and be pretty solid. I think he’ll become a normal weekly racer as much fun as he’s having. He loves getting in these cars and he’s got natural ability so I think he’s going to be pretty decent if he keeps the wheels on it.”
Merryman’s debut will come in the 25-lap U-CAR feature in Sunday’s Industrial Floor Systems Spring Sizzler. Other divisions racing will include the debut of the Moonshine Modifieds as well as the Late Model Stock Cars, East Coast Flathead Ford Racing Association, Mini-Stocks, TunerZ and the Mini Cups. Qualifying begins at 1:30pm and the green flag will wave on the second race of the 45th racing season at Franklin County Speedway at 3pm. Tickets are $25 for a carload, $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6-12 and kids five and under admitted free.