Monroe Motor Speedway
Merchant gets second SUPR victory on concrete
By Bryan WimberleyDirtonDirt.com correspondent
MONROE, La. (July 11) — Kenny Merchant of West Monroe, La., withstood a stiff late-race challenge from fellow former series champion David Ashley of Zachary, La., at Monroe Motor Speedway to remain as the only winner of an O'Reilly Southern United Professional Racing event on a paved surface.
Merchant, who also won at the 3/8-mile concrete oval on May 29, earned $2,500 for Saturday's 40-lap victory, his SUPR-leading 49th of his career and series-leading fifth of the season.
The polesitting Merchant got the jump on fellow front-row starter Mark Andrews of Marion, La., at the outset and built a three-second lead near the midpoint as he lapped slower competitors. Ashley got past Andrews for second on the 21st lap and began catching the leading, drawing up on his rear deck with six laps remaining.
Ashley pulled alongside on the 37th lap, briefly edging ahead on the backstretch, but Merchant held on amid traffic in the final laps. Ashley settled for second, two lengths back, while his son Alex Ashley finished third. Andrews was fourth and Waylon Morris Jr. of Bienville, La., rounded out the top five.
Merchant's victory in the double-points event moved him into the series points lead as Allen Tippen of Minden, La., who entered the race leading the series, retired with radiator problems and finished last in the 13-car field. He dropped to third in SUPR points behind Merchant and Rob Litton of Alexandria, La., who finished seventh.
Notes: Merchant's Trak-Star Chassis has a Wall 2 Wall engine and sponsorship from J.D. Caver & Company, Bayou Fabricators, J&J Motorsports and Cypress Bend Apartments. ... The checkered flag waved on the 19-minute feature at 11:13 p.m. ... Jody Mayne of Grand Saline, Texas, skipped the SUPR event after breaking his car's driveshaft housing and drive shaft in Friday's practice. ... The eight-division program drew 85 total race cars. ... Mark Underwood, Jr. of West Monroe, La., won the track's regular Late Model feature; Merchant finished third. ... The first caution in the SUPR feature waved on the sixth lap for contact between Allen Tippen and Donald Watson. Tippen broke a radiator support, causing the fan to damage the radiator and forcing him out of the race. ... A lap-seven caution appeared when the hood on Trey Beene's car flew up, obstructing his vision; track workers replaced the hood and he continued, finishing ninth. ... The event drew former SUPR regular Eddie Taylor of West Monroe. He started in the fourth row and finished sixth. ... On hand at MMS was legendary NASCAR driver Bobby Allison, who signed autographers, met with fans and took a few laps in the Corvette pace car (with famed fisherman Roland Martin behind the wheel). ... After a few weekends off, SUPR drivers return to action July 31-Aug. 1 with a doubleheader weekend at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Ark.
SUPR @ Monroe: (1) Kenny Merchant, (2) David Ashley, Jr., (3) Alex Ashley, (4) Mark Andrews, (5) Waylon Morris, Jr., (6) Eddie Taylor, (7) Rob Litton, (8) Nicholas Brown, (9) Trey Beene, (10) Donald Watson, (11) Brent McGee, (12) Joey Couvillion, (13) Allen Tippen. Heat race winners (among 13 cars): Andrews, Merchant.