Merrill Schrimscher doesn’t subscribe to the theory that bigger is always better.
Instead, the veteran racer from Lake Mary, Fla., found his quick success racing after switching to a smaller engine. He changed out the 396-cubic inch motor in his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro to a 350-cubic inch motor. And, it’s hard to argue with the results.
Schrimscher won the first race of the season in the Stock class in the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Summit Sportsman National Championship at Immokalee, Fla., and has remained at the top of the point standings ever since.
“I drove a friend of mine’s car for six and a half years,” he said. “This car was in my warehouse on jack stands for almost seven years. I knew one day I would get it out and start running it again. I ran it with a 396 that it had in it six years ago, but I put the 350 in it and found it was great going from F to G.”
While Schrimscher holds a 54-point lead in the Summit Sportsman National Championship standings at this stage of the season, he points out it’s not as easy as it looks. Many of the races are settled by mere thousandths of a second. It has brought out the best in Schrimscher, who had a perfect light and a near-perfect run in his win at Darlington.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate, but there is a lot of good competition out there,” he said. “These guys keep you on your toes. There’s a portion of luck to it, but you have to be at the right place at the right time. One round at Darlington, the total overall win was less than one-thousandth. These guys aren’t going to give it to you.”
Schrimscher, who at 61 has a thriving automotive repair business, loves the setup of the IHRA Summit Sportsman National Championship and how fits into the grassroots racers’ schedules.
“It’s a great idea they came up,” he said. “When it was announced, there was going to be a different program, we didn’t know what to expect. It’s proven to be racer-friendly. I’ve talked to other guys and it doesn’t only work for me, it works for them.”
He also appreciates how accessible that IHRA President Mike Dunn has been to the Sportsman racers and has listened to their input.
It’s easy to see why Dunn and others have been a fan of the good, close racing and the innovative thinking which the Summit Sportsman National Championship has produced. For Schrimscher, it has given him a chance to compete in two classes, also racing a Chevy II in Super Stock, while maintaining a very busy schedule with his auto repair shop where he works on both import and domestic vehicles.
“As long as I enjoy doing it and my health’s good, I’ll keep going,” he said. “I’ve been drag racing since 1977, and had cars for bracket racing and class racing throughout the ’80s. I’ve gone through the ranks, have paid my dues. I’m going after the championship this year but I can’t let up or these guys will bring me down in a heartbeat.”