Merchant scares up a victory at Spooky 50 over Moore
CHATHAM, La. (Oct. 30) - Kenny Merchant of West Monroe, La., outpaced Ray Moore of Haughton, in a late race, lead-swapping duel to capture $2,500 and the 9th annual Spooky 50 at Jones Motor Speedway. Merchant started 13th and chased down Moore en route to a one second victory in the 50-lap O'Reilly Auto Parts Southern United Professional Racing tour event. It was the series first visit to the quarter-mile speedway in over three years.
The sixth-starting Moore, who earned $5,000 for an unsanctioned victory at Chatham two weeks earlier, settled for second. Kyle Cummings of Sibley, La., gained ground in the points chase heading into the final race, with his third place effort. Morgan Bagley of Longview, Tex., cemented one of his best late model series finishes in his young career, in fourth, while Jeff Chanler of Minden, La., rounded out the top five.
Polesitter Heath Culp of McKinney, Tex., lead the first lap over front-row starter Clay Fisher of DeWitt, Ark., with Allen Tippen, Bagley and Moore trailing. Fisher gained the lead while Moore quickly gained a spot on Bagley for fourth on the next lap. Second-running, Culp spun in turn two on lap three to bring out the race's first yellow.
On the restart, Moore wasted no time charging into second, by Tippen and soon pressured Fisher for the point. Fisher lost the lead when he also fell victim to a single-car spin, although his did not warrant a caution -he continued on and would finish one lap down in 14th.
Inheriting the lead, Moore raced out to three-car advantage over eighth-starting Kyle Cummings on lap 6, who shuffled back Tippen, Bagley, Chanler and Nicholas Brown to claim the runner-up position. Moore began negotiating lapped cars three laps later. While running third, Jeff Chanler got pushed to the infield on the thirteenth circuit and never checked up, minimizing his losses.
Cummings peeked under Moore for first on lap 16 and led for four laps, until Moore regained the lead. Merchant made his presence know into the top three, getting around Bagley and Tippen on lap 18. The second caution appeared when Rob Litton of Alexandria, La., spun in the middle of turns three/four, bunching up the cars just before the halfway mark.
A three-car breakaway ensued with Moore, Cummings and Merchant, with Bagley a distant fourth. Cummings was able to hold off Merchant's onslaught for second for 18 laps, but would succumb the position on lap 32. Merchant then used the high side to reel in Moore and take his first shot at the race lead, falling 1/2-car short on lap 34. Merchant tasted the lead by a nose the next lap, but three laps later Moore vaulted back in front. The pair raced side-by-side to gain the threshold of the lead. Merchant would emerged in front in the back-and-forth duel and would contend with heavy traffic. Merchant would go on to grab the exciting win, in front of the frenzied crowd on this chilly, Halloween eve.
"You know, when you race with Ray (Moore) -it is some of these guys you can race with and some of them you can't- once you get up beside Ray, he is going to give you your space and not once did he try to crowd me up. We are already on a tight racetrack to start with, he held his line and we held ours, making it a heck of a battle. We probably swapped the lead between the two of us six or eight times there and sometimes it wasn't even swapping at the flagstand. It would change down the backstretch a couple times, he would be leading, then we would. It was just a good race, we started thirteenth and got to third. Under caution we were looking at some moisture in turn one, we were already trying to run the outside in three & four, then I seen something that looked pretty good to me in turns one & two. We finally pulled to the outside there and I just said -we don't have anything to lose here and we came to win- so we gave it our all!" Merchant said.
Merchant went on to explain the track comparison between his winning run at the Spooky, compared to his run at the Deuces Wild event on October 16th at the 23-year old track.
"A couple weeks ago when we came here, there was an embankment down on the bottom and you could get down there because of it. This time we came here, he dug the infield out and there is a foot drop off now. So in turn what that did, since it was wet, we could actually stick our left side off in it and it would work kind of like a slot car. It would whoop you around the bottom of the racetrack, it's like you was sticking the left side in the cushion and it would allow you to rotate and roll down there. It made it pretty good and turned out to be quite a race."
Both drivers, Merchant and Moore, have claimed the last two Spooky 50 races at Chatham.
Moore also gave his version of the wild Spooky feature,"At the start when we first took off, I knew we had a good car. We finally got the lead, running around the bottom and just waited on somebody to kind of challenge me. I felt like the track was going to be pretty racy, but I was able to hold the lead on the bottom, so I was going to just stay there until somebody challenged me. I actually slipped up and let Kyle (Cummings) go by, so then I knew we have to do something different. I wasn't going to be able to pass him back on the bottom, so we hopped up top and pass him (Cummings). We had a caution and my crew was telling me to go back to the bottom, so that is what we did and held them off to extend it to a decent lead. I was looking up the track and it seemed like there was another groove there. I wanted to try it, but we were just holding our own and leading where we was at. Then I hear this motor pull up beside me, I look over and knew it was Kenny (Merchant) and I couldn't move up now because he was there. I picked the pace up and was doing all I could do on the bottom and actually got he back. We started changing the lead and later got into some heavy, heavy traffic with a handful of laps remaining. We got into it with a lapped car pretty good and it let him pull away. By the time I got clear of lapped car, it was too late to do anything. It was another lap traffic deal, I think our two cars were pretty equal, but you can't win 'em all."
"It always seems that second place is the best place to be in the house when it rolls down to the last five laps to go in a race like that. You just get to see more of what is going on (from second), then when you are out front leading. It makes you a sitting duck in first place at that stage cause you don't know where you need to be moving around. Merchant did a good job, ain't nothing wrong with second and we will go to the next one. We have had an awesome month and a half! Jimmy Mars and Brian Birkhofer, so our three cars are rolling really strong right now and is hitting on something. We went and tested with them this week, they spent the week with us and we tested at ArkLaTex Speedway (in Vivian, Louisiana). It was definitely a treat getting to hang out with them all week long. I think we learned quite a few things from testing and I am going to try to apply it to Greenville (MS) at the Gumbo Nationals this coming weekend, hopefully in doing so, we can come out of there with a win," Moore said.
Notes: Merchant's Trak Star race car is powered by Wall 2 Wall Performance Engines and sponsored by J.D. Caver & Company, J&J Motorsports, Cypress Bend Apartments, Bayou Fabricators, Henry's Auto Salvage and X-Treme Graphics.
The victory is Merchant's 57th career series win and also his second consecutive Spooky 50 victory at Chatham -last year's event was unsanctioned.
The checkered flag flew on the 36-minute feature at 1:10 am, with nine cars finishing on the lead lap and the race slowed by three cautions.
Other big movers finishing in the top ten included, David Ashley of Zachary, La. (19th-to-seventh), Ronny Adams of Diana, Tex. (16th-to-sixth) and Eric Turner of Hermitage, Mo. (18th-to-ninth). Adams won the last SUPR series event held at the Chatham track in September 2007 -then Fast Trax Speedway.
Drivers not making the feature: Troy Berdan, Jim Bryant, Wesley Chanler, Timothy Culp, Bobby Litton, Wayman McMillan, Charles Nash, Skip O'Neal, Chad Patterson, Butch Patton, Kevin Ray, Keith Strother, Robbie Stuart, Raymond Taylor
Current SUPR points leader, Rob Litton, exited his heat race after his second spinout, landing him in the rear of a consy. Litton advanced four positions in the consolation race, but fell short of transferring into the feature. Litton took a provisional and started 21st, he rallied to a 12th place finish.
A double-points race at the Jambalaya 100 in two weeks, has made the points title for the series championship and Rookie of the Year honors, come down to the season finale.
Rob Litton is trying to obtain the title for the second time since 2004 and holds the advantage over second generation driver, Kyle Cummings.
Cummings was strong early on, he talked about his Spooky race,
"Well in the beginning, I know we must have went on a softer tire than what most drivers did. The reason being, we started eighth and I had to make up some spots. We made up some ground on some cars in front of us pretty quick and got into second behind Ray (Moore), then got into some lapped traffic. We winded up getting around Ray and got some room in front of us. I don't know if Ray stayed right on my tail, but as soon as we caught more traffic, he (Moore) got back around us on the high side. His car was set up to work, he was a whole lot snugger, whole lot tighter than I was. He could run the set of the track better than us, I knew I was committed to the bottom being on softer tires and the way I set the car up -I had to stay down there!"
Cummings added, "The longer the race went on, the better their (Merchant & Moore) cars got, especially on harder compounds. It wasn't because of equipment that we wasn't there in the end, I don't think we hurt anything tonight and my tires still looked good too. I tell ya, I don't know where Kenny (Merchant) came from, he had a good run!"
Alex Ashley of Zachary, La., holds a slim lead on Josh Danzy of Heflin, La., for the SUPR Rookie of the Year.
Robbie Staurt of DeRidder, La., broke a power steering coupler and missed the call for his consolation race, in making repairs.
Jones Motor Speedway had over (150) cars in the pits from five different divisions of racing, including SUPR late models, Modifieds, Limited modifieds, Street stocks and Cruisers.
Brandon Ball of Farmerville, La., won the $4,000 Limited modified feature over Billy Melton of Longview, Texas -a total of (39) limited modified competed in the two-day event.
The O'Reilly Auto Parts SUPR Series wraps up its season on November 12th-13th at Pike County Speedway in Magnolia, Mississippi. The $5,000-to-win event is the only double-points series race of the year.
Spooky 50 @ Jones: (1) Kenny Merchant, (2) Ray Moore, (3) Kyle Cummings, (4) Morgan Bagley, (5) Jeff Chanler, (6) Ronny Adams, (7) David Ashley, (8) Bubba Mullins, (9) Eric Turner, (10) Allen Tippen, (11) B.J. Robinson, (12) Rob Litton, (13) Jon Mitchell, (14) Clay Fisher, (15) Heath Culp, (16) Gary Chrisitan, (17) Alex Ashley, (18) Nicholas Brown, (19) Donald Watson, (20) Josh Danzy, (21) Mark Andrews, (22) Doug Begnaud
Heat race winners (among 36 cars): Bagley, Moore, J. Chanler, H. Culp
Consolation race winners: Mitchell, Turner
Provisional starters: Litton, Danzy
O'Reilly SUPR Series points
(Through Oct. 30)
SUPR winners at Chatham
2007) - Ronny Adams
© Baton Rouge Raceway, 1998-2010. All rights reserved.
Designed and Developed by Internet Advantage
Maintained by Weakside Productions