Photos Courtesy of Larry Jeffers Race Cars
When you’re the co-owner of a race track, it makes sense that you need something pretty unique to race. Randy Merick, who runs Jeffers Motorsports Park in conjunction with Larry Jeffers, and who also owns Twin Lakes Hunting Ranch and Merick Farms, recently commissioned his business partner and noted chassis builder to put together an eye-catching new car.
Merick, who is based out of southeastern Missouri, decided he needed a new Pro Mod and tasked Larry Jeffers Race Cars to make his idea a reality after getting the “go ahead” from his wife, Susan. He chose to base the build around a ’79 C3 Corvette body which he purchased from Andy McCoy Race Cars in December of 2017. “I don’t like having what everyone else has and nobody else has one of these. Nobody liked that body originally, but now once they see it on the car they love it,” explained Merick of his decision which was somewhat controversial at first. “This is the first in the United States, and there are two in Australia but they’re a little different since we changed things up quite a bit.”
Jeffers and his crew, including Ed Briggs, were instrumental in making Merick’s vision come to fruition and work commenced in mid-January of 2018. The team put together the state-of-the-art chassis, set up the four-link rear end, and got the entire project buttoned up in just three and a half short months.
Meanwhile, Merick worked with Todd Tutterow to put together the fun part: a 521 ci Brad Anderson Enterprises Hemi engine was topped with a PSI screw blower and then paired it with a TyDrive and four-speed Lenco transmission along with a Neal Chance lock-up torque converter. “I’ve been using superchargers my whole life, so I stuck with that power adder,” said Merick, who has been racing Pro Mods for the past two decades and knows what he likes.
“It’s got Penske shocks on the back, Strange struts on the front, and the rest was spec’d by Larry and Todd to exactly how they wanted it,” Merick noted of the top-tier collaborative effort. Strange also supplied the carbon fiber brakes, and a set of Hoosier tires help the classic Corvette to hook up and haul ass.
Tutterow was also retained by Merick to tune the mechanically-injected blown alcohol combination, and the team headed out to put the first-ever runs on Merick’s project at the Throw Down in T-Town race at Tulsa Raceway Park in early May.
“First hit, right off the trailer with no testing or anything, and the car went 3.85 at 203 mph,” laughed Merick, who wasn’t surprised at all by the performance as he expected nothing but the best from what his peers had produced. “Then we had to work out the new-car kinks… it blew a fuel line off, so we fixed that. Then, it broke a rear end and when it did that it locked up and broke a shaft in the transmission so we had a couple little repairs there as well.”
A glitch in the car’s electronics also had the guys scrambling to chase a non-existent boost issue and wound up hurting a few pistons in the process as they were unintentionally running higher pressures than expected. Merick wound up qualified seventh for the weekend with a best hit of 3.830 at 202.45 mph but wasn’t able to continue through eliminations.
Next, he headed over to St. Louis for the PSCA Heads-Up Hootenanny and once again found himself as the number seven qualified driver, this time going 3.779 at 200.47 mph. “We had some issues in Tulsa where it wanted to jump out of gear, and we found the problem in St. Louis. There was a gear cut wrong,” explained Merick, who was still happy with how well the car performed given the fact that it’s basically brand-new.
“The data we’re getting from everything is very good, and [Todd] Tutterow is impressed. The downforce is working really well. We’ve got a few small bugs to work on, but that’s expected. Without Larry [Jeffers] and Tutterow’s help, it never would have gotten done. Everything is right in this car, and it drives better than anything I’ve ever been in in my life,” added Merick, who will bounce between the NMCA and Mid-West Pro Mod Series for the remainder of the 2018 season.