Moore edges Merchant at USA Speedway
By Bryan WimberleyDirtonDirt.com correspondent
STERLINGTON, La. (Sept. 3) — Making his debut at the new USA Speedway, front-row starter Ray Moore of Haughton, La., outdueled Kenny Merchant of West Monroe, La., on Friday for a $2,000 victory on the O'Reilly Southern United Professional Racing tour. Moore and the fourth-starting Merchant battled most of the 40-lapper before Moore made a late-race pass for a four-length victory in a showdown with the reigning series champion.
Robbie Starnes of Baytown, Texas, finished third followed by David Ashley of Zachary, La., and 11th-starting Allen Tippen of Minden, La.
Moore led the first 12 laps, but Merchant slipped by amid traffic, leaving Moore to look for a way to regain the lead the rest of the way.
"It never seemed that nothing was falling my way," Moore said. "Lapped cars were moving over OK for him and with a few to go I got a run on Merchant and was able to get to his door. I was praying she was going to stick, luckily we got back by him there. It would have been a lot better if he (Merchant) wouldn't passed us early in lapped traffic. It would have been a lot less stressful race."
The race reminded Moore of a July 16 battle at Boothill Speedway near Shreveport, La., when Merchant overtook Moore amid traffic.
"I knew once I caught lapped traffic, that I knew he was behind me and was going to be good," Moore said. "When he went by , I was thinking it was deja vu all over again, but this time we was able to come back by him and get the win."
Merchant said he was fortunate to get into the lead.
"At the start of the race, he was better," Merchant said. "We just snookered him in lapped traffic and got the lead. We held on for 25 laps or so. ... I ask for every track to be good enough for the best car to win the race, and the best car won the race tonight. He was better than and he deserved to win.
"Moore was good in hot laps, he was good in the heat, he was better than us all night on the stopwatch, so we knew. Besides, Ray runs good at the short tracks in our area, so before getting here, we knew he was going to be a main car to beat even though he had never been here — it didn't matter."
The race required two starts after a Kyle Cummings-Donald Watson skirmish spoiled the first one, and Moore jumped into the lead with Watson, Ashley and Merchant in pursuit. Merchant moved up to second, but spun between turns three and four after contact from the series-founding Watson, who was black-flagged for rough driving.
The final 37 laps went green with Moore and Merchant battling most of the way. Moore edged away before the frontrunners faced slower cars, but Merchant pulled side-by-side with the leader on lap 11 and nosed ahead the next lap.
Moore continued to work on Merchant's weak spots on the track, moving within a car's length on lap 23. The two drivers had a five-second cushion over third-running Starnes, providing an exciting battle up front.
The battle entered the late stages with Moore right on Merchant's rear deck on lap 36. The frontrunners rubbed and Moore dipped low to gain the lead with three laps remaining. Merchant tried to answer the move on the next lap, but Moore stayed off of striking distance the rest of the way for the victory in front of a capacity crowd.
Notes: Moore's MasterSbilt by Mars Race Car is powered by Jay Dickens Racing Engines and sponsored by Moore Wireline, J & J Motorsports, tic Tools International and Hoosier Tires. ... The checkers flew on the 23-minute feature at 12:08 a.m. ... Eight cars finished on the lead lap. ... In three sanctioned Late Model events in Sterlington, Kenny Merchant is the only driver in the top five each time. ... Ronny Adams of Blanchard, La., who won the first SUPR event at USA, finished a lap down in ninth. ... Rob Litton increased his points lead a bit over Kyle Cummings, who started on the tail of the feature after his first-lap scrape with Donald Watson. Litton was seventh, one spot ahead of Cummings. ... Jeff Chanler of Minden, La., who stood third in SUPR points coming into the event at USA Speedway, took a provisional in his brother's no. 117c race car and climbed nine spots to finish 12th in the feature. ... Drivers not making the feature: Wesley Chanler, Paul Joyner, Jason Polite and Eddie Taylor.
SUPR @ USA: (1) Ray Moore, (2) Kenny Merchant, (3) Robbie Starnes, (4) David Ashley, (5) Allen Tippen, (6) Josh Danzy, (7) Rob Litton, (8) Kyle Cummings, (9) Ronny Adams, (10) Robbie Stuart, (11) Timothy Culp, (12) Jeff Chanler, (13) Chris Holley, (14) Clay Fisher, (15) Darin Patrick, (16) Mark Andrews, (17) Brock Williams, (18) Jim Bryant, (19) Morgan Bagley, (20) Alex Ashley, (21) Donald Watson. Heat race winners (among 25 cars): Moore, Cummings, Watson. Consolation winner: Holley. Provisional starter: J. Chanler.