Kenny Merchant Slices and Dices Through Field
McComb, Mississippi (August 25, 2001) - Kenny Merchant claimed his second O’Reilly SUPR win in as many races at Pike County Speedway as he was able to storm through the field on 2 separate occasions. Merchant started 19th in his J.D. Caver/J&J Motorsports-backed Warrior with Kuntz power and climbed as high as 3rd by the halfway mark and then slowed on the track on lap 28 with a hot motor. Merchant jumped in to the pits and his crew opened some shields on the nose of his car and returned at the rear of the field behind 14 cars and he once again worked his way to the front, this time all the way to the front as he passed Donald Watson exiting turn 4 as the 2 to go signal was given and he went on to claim his 3rd O'Reilly SUPR victory of the year.
An understated Merchant summed it up afterwards, “We was pretty good tonight.” As for the decision to pit on lap 28 Merchant stated, “We started running hot on about lap 20 and I asked my crew, I was motioning for him how many laps we had to go and he kept motioning about 22 or 25 I couldn’t really tell. So I say there ain’t no way I’m going to make it to the end of the race I’ve got to come in and pull the shields off the front of my nose.” Once Merchant came back on to the track, he faced the task of once again working his way up through the field. I never dreamed at that point that I’d come back and win the race. I mean I know we had a good car, a winning car but with laps as short as they were, I never dreamed that we’d come from the back again. We were just fortunate enough to stay out of everybody’s way and miss the wrecks.”
There were 4 lead changes amongst 3 drivers in the 50-lap feature. Donald Watson earned the GRT Top Qualifier award and started on the pole alongside Kevin Watts, winner the night before in weekly competition at Baton Rouge Raceway. Watson grabbed the lead from the start before Watts took over the lead following the first caution on lap 5. The first 5 laps were run without a caution and featured 2 and 3 way racing throughout the field. Unfortunately at that point the cautions started waving freely as the race was slowed by 9 cautions.
Watts and Watson were the class of the field in the early stages of the event as they pulled clear of the field after each restart. Watts was leading by several car lengths when he suddenly turned on to pit road while leading on lap 20. Watson resumed the lead at this point and he appeared to be in control of the race but his power steering went out with 15 laps to go. Watson held on to the lead but he struggled to keep his rhythm and Merchant was able to chase him down and take the win.
As Watson explained it, “Right when that caution come out (lap 35) I lost power steering. When I started the race over, I got in a rhythm with it and I was all right and then they had another with a few laps to go I never was able to get in the rhythm because the ram on the rack had broke loose from the assist and you couldn’t get it to go at a certain time in the corner and you couldn’t use your throttle, so I was out of synch. Not to say that Merchant didn’t deserve to win it but without the breakage I don’t think we would have had any problem.”
Dave Siegert powered his Rocket as high as 2nd place after starting 21st but his motor also began to overheat and he elected to nurse his car around to the finish and his decision paid off as he was able to record a 3rd place finish. Siegert’s performance earned him the Lloyd Wild Jr. Logging Hard Charger award as he passed 18 cars in the final rundown. Merchant also passed 18 cars in the feature but he started higher in the running order and therefore the Hard Charger award went to Siegert.
Marlon Wild claimed the 2001 Magnolia State Championship by virtue of his 4th place finish. Wild recorded a pair of 3rd place finishes paired with tonight’s 4th place to claim the 2001 Magnolia State Championship with the best overall finish in the 3-race series at Pike County. Wild is guaranteed a starting spot in the 2001 Jambalaya 100 at Pike County Speedway on October 12-13.
31 O'Reilly SUPR Late Models were on hand. Donald Watson started the night off by claiming the first heat race. Kevin Watts David Knight and Marlon Wild recorded the remaining heat race wins. Rob Litton and Dennis Duncan then claimed the Last Chance races to transfer to the feature.
For further information regarding the 2001 OReilly SUPR Series contact Greg Holmes at 225-275-5040 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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