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Merchant Steam Rolls Through the Field


Magnolia, Mississippi (July 14, 2001) - Kenny Merchant claimed his second O’Reilly SUPR Late Model feature of the year and the ninth of his career in dominating fashion at Pike County Speedway.  Merchant drove his J.D. Caver/Goddard Performance backed Kuntz powered Ford Mustang Warrior to the front from his 3rd row starting position.  Merchant chased down GRT Top Qualifier David Ashley and used lapped traffic to slide underneath Ashley to grab the lead on lap 18.  Merchant pulled a way to sizeable lead lapping all but the top eight cars in the process. A pair of late race cautions bunched the field back up but Merchant was never challenged as he had managed to build a cushion of several lap cars between himself and Ashley.

“We snuck up on Ashley, I don’t even think Ashley knew we was there, caught him in lapped traffic and just boxed him on some lapped cars and got by him.  I just felt like once we got into the lapped cars I could maneuver around on the racetrack a lot better than he could.  I felt like we had a pretty neutral race car.”

Merchant felt he had a good car last weekend in Jackson and went with the same setup and tires this week.  “We ran the same tires last weekend up at Jackson and I told (crew chief) Davis (Taylor) we’re going to run the same four tires because they worked pretty good at Jackson so we dug them out and kind of buffed them off.  I need to thank Jim Kuntz, Harold Eatmon, J.D. Caver and Cameron Branch with J&J.”

David Ashley earned the GRT Top Qualifier award giving him the pole position to start the feature and he used the spot to shot into the lead from the drop of the green.  A pair of early race cautions did little to slow Ashley’s progress as he pulled out to a solid lead over Dwight Falcon.  By lap 14 Ashley began to navigate lapped traffic and this allowed Merchant to close in once he worked by Falcon on lap 8.  Ashley continue to lead but soon Merchant was able to close in and when Ashley looked to the highside of Donald Watson, Merchant took the low line through turns 1 and 2 to grab the lead.  Ashley’s car remained strong but he was unable to keep pace with Merchant.  Still, Ashley’s performance coupled with Jay Blair’s early exit was enough to see the O’Reilly SUPR Championship lead change hands once again as Ashley now leads Blair by 18 points.

Ashley was driving his Ashley Brothers/Ace Pallet and Storage American Made Pontiac Grand Prix for the final time, as he’ll be switching to a Larry Shaw.  “I was tickled to death with it.  Just to have the luck to finish a race and not have problems and run good we were tickled.  I’d like to thank Ronnie Rogers and David Burkhalter for their motors they build us, American Made for a good car, J&J Motorsports and Ace Pallet and Storage.”

Ashley, who has struggled to finish races the last few weeks was surprised when he found out he had retaken the point lead.  “It didn’t even cross my mind.  I figured Jay was right there with us, on a track like that.  He’s always coming you can’t never rule him out.  And Kenny, when (the track) gets black you got to look for Kenny from anywhere.”

Marlon Wild steadily worked his way forward in his trusty old red Lloyd Wild Jr. Logging Chevy Monte Carlo Warrior passing 9 cars en route to a 3rd place finish.  Rob Litton, once again showed that he can storm his way through a field as well as anyone as he passed 11 cars to grab 4th place at the checkers ahead of Bubba Mullins, Bill Avant, Scott Slay, who spun out of 4th place with just 4 laps to go and Dave Siegert, who himself worked past 11 cars.

32 Late Models were on hand. Dwight Falcon, Ashley, Kennith Crowe and Bubba Mullins claimed heat wins while Donald Watson and Larry Ritter claimed the Last Chance victories.  Ryan Plaisance earned the Lloyd Wild Jr. Logging Hard Charger award by starting from the rear and passing 11 cars to finish 11th.

David Ashley now leads Marlon Wild by just 1 point in the 2001 Magnolia State Championship series with one race to go.  The final leg of the Magnolia State Championship will be held August 11 at Pike County Speedway.

Mike Boland was on hand but broke a motor in hot laps and was on the trailer before the heat races began.  Dave Burkhalter escaped serious injury when he made hard contact with the outside wall in turn 4 during his heat race.

For further information regarding the 2001 O’Reilly SUPR Series contact Greg Holmes at 225-275-5040 or e-mail us at gholmes@suprracing.com.

 

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