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Rookie Merrell takes Second USRA SLM Win

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For Immediate Release – August 20, 2006

Contact: Nick Holt, USRA Media Director

(210) 690-8564 (office)

(210) 415-1251 (cell)



Rookie Matt Merrell Takes Second USRA Super Late Model Win


By Nick Holt and JM Hallas


San Antonio, TX (August 20, 2006) - United States Racing Association (USRA) rookie Matt Merrell proved that his first Super Late Model win last month at Thunder Hill Raceway was no fluke by winning the “TexasSpeedZone.Com Triple Threat Challenge” at San Antonio Speedway (SAS) Saturday night, August 19, 2006.


Merrell, who drove more like a seasoned veteran than a raw rookie during the 125-lap shootout that boasted six lead changes, played a patient waiting game for most of the race, used a late race caution to change right-side tires and then battled three of the most successful Super Late Model drivers in the Southwest – Greg Davidson, Chris Davidson (Greg Davidson’s son) and Brandon Bendele – for the win.


After the draw for the top six starting positions, Greg Davidson started on the pole next to Casey Smith. Merrell lined up third with Chris Davidson fourth, Tommy Grimes fifth and Bendele sixth.


At the start Smith jumped out to three car-length lead as the rest of the field bunched up behind Greg Davidson, who had to gather his car back up after almost losing it coming off the fourth turn as the green flag flew.


However, before a lap was completed, Tuffy Hudson and Tom Grothues got together going into the third turn, sending Hudson hard into the wall and destroying his car. Hudson was able to walk away from his wrecked racer while Grothues managed to drive his badly damaged car back to the pits.


On the second start, Smith again was able to win the drag race with Greg Davidson down the front straight with Matt Merrell and Chris Davidson door-to-door for third.


For the first five laps it looked as if Smith was going to run away and hide as he did in the first two USRA SLM races of the season, but, as fate would have it, Smith slowed on the sixth lap with his second broken axle in as many races and coasted into the pits.


Greg Davidson, a former ROMCO SLM champion, then showed the way and started to stretch out a lead over Merrell, Grimes, Chris Davidson Bendele and Jason Young.


Bendele picked off fourth from Chris Davidson on the eighth lap, while Grimes, who finished second in the last USRA SLM event at SAS, began to put some heat on Merrell for second.


The pressure soon faded, however, as Grimes’ mount began to loose its handling.


Bendele was able to get by Grimes for third on lap 23 as they ran down the back straight and it wasn’t long before Chris Davidson and Young were able to catch Grimes as well and start a three-car battle for fourth. Unfortunately, Grimes’ shot at a top five ended on lap 35 when he pitted with a vibration in the drive train.


By now Greg Davidson had built a half-straightaway lead over Merrell, who held about the same margin over Bendele.


As the crossed flags were shown it was still Greg Davidson, by almost four seconds over Merrell, Bendele, Chris Davidson and Young, who started showing some smoke from his ride.


Young was about to be checked for possible fluid by USRA officials after two drivers complained about oil on the track, but race-leader Greg Davidson said the track was "perfect" and the race continued on without a black flag for Young.


Greg Davidson continued to stretch his lead over Merrell over the next several laps and things were looking good for him to pick up a long-overdue win.


Young was finally given a black flag on lap 76 at the same time Greg Davis was spinning in turn 3 to bring out the second caution of the race - a caution that changed the whole complexion of the race.


During the yellow Bendele and Chris Davidson, running third and fourth, elected to pit for right side tires. Greg Davidson and Merrell pitted on the next lap in what looked to be bad strategy for both since they would have to rejoin the field behind Bendele and Chris Davidson.


On the restart, Bendele, who had asked his crew to tighten the car’s handling during the pit stop, pushed up in the second turn giving Chris Davidson a chance to duck under for the lead. Merrell followed the younger Davidson into second.


Greg Davidson’s string of terrible racing luck continued as the upper right A-arm mount on his ride suddenly broke away from the frame just as he was challenging Bendele for third, causing Davidson to spin in the first turn.


Back under green with 28 laps remaining, Merrell looked inside a loose Chris Davidson for the lead as the top three raced within inches of each other. Davidson was able to close the door this time, but Merrell was able to snag the top spot a lap later as he got a great bite coming off the second turn and cleanly passed the leader going down the back straight.


Meanwhile, Bendele worked his way past Chris Davidson for second.


With 25 laps remaining, Merrell had a four-car edge on Bendele, while Davidson began to fall back. The margin between the top two would come and go as Merrell looked to be better off the corners with Bendele making up ground going in.


As the laps wound down Bendele inched ever closer to get within a car length with two laps remaining.


It was now a battle between Merrell, the rookie, and the multi-time SAS track champion and former ROMCO Super Late Model titlist, Bendele, for the win. As the white flag waved, Bendele was on Merrell's bumper trying to shake the young gun. Merrell, in the Merrell Lease Service, McGunegill Engine-powered, Port City Chassis, held steady, however, and took a well-deserved victory by less than a car length.


Davidson, whose ride seemed to be only running on seven cylinders, held on for third, the only other car on the lead lap.


"It feels real good to come out here and run with the best of them and win," Merrell said from victory circle. “Running with Chris and Greg Davidson, Tommy Grimes and Brandon Bendele, It was awesome.”


“I thought we made a mistake,” Merrell continued. “Our plan was to pit with everyone. I couldn't

hear my radio good and I misunderstood (Crew Chief) Chris (Saathoff). I thought he wanted me to pit when Greg (Davidson) did. Then they (Chris Davidson and Brandon Bendele) came in and I was passing the pits. My crew chief was wondering why I didn't, I told him it was my fault and I'd come in next lap. I knew we were going to have to work to get by Bendele and Chris. Luckily our car was handling better than there's and I got by them. After I got the lead I was just coasting in so I could get a good exit. I knew if I could get off and hold a good line that Brandon couldn't get back by me."


“Matt did a really good, professional job driving,” Bendele said after the race. “I couldn’t get around him. I’m pretty pumped up for those guys. They definitely earned it. They did an awesome job. When we pitted for tires I asked the crew to tighten the car up a bit even though we were running right there in the lead pack. We just went a bit too far.”


When asked why he faded at the end, Chris Davidson said, “I came in and got tires and thought we were good. But when I got under Brandon to pass him, I got in the throttle and the motor stumbled. It apparently lost a cylinder or something so I started driving twice as hard as I should have been and burnt the tires right off of it. I had a third place car at the end and finished third.”


The next event for the USRA Super Late Models is at San Antonio Speedway’s annual “OktoberFAST” on October 8, 2006.


USRA Super Late Model TexasSpeedZone.Com Triple Threat Challenge” results at San Antonio Speedway, August 19, 2006


Finish, Car Number, Driver, Hometown, Qualifying Time, Laps Completed


1. (03) Matt Merrell, Portland, TX, 18.211, 125 Laps

2. (81) Brandon Bendele, San Antonio, TX, 18.205, 125

3. (41) Chris Davidson, Pearland, TX, 18.319, 125

4. (36) Jonathan Beason, Broken Arrow, OK, 19.684, 122

5. (5) Josh Trees, Waxahachie, TX, 20.142, 121

6. (35) Greg Davis, Waxahachie, TX, 19.217, 114

7. (96) Greg Davidson, Pearland, TX, 18.388, 91

8. (27) Jason Young, Houston, TX, 18.687, 76

9. (13) Tommy Grimes, San Antonio, TX, 18.382, 34

10. (9) Casey Smith, Austin, TX, 18.383, 5

11. (11) Tommy Grothues, San Antonio, TX, 18.714, 0

12. (7) Tuffy Hudson, Ingleside, TX, 18.873, 0

13. (29) Thad Felton, The Woodlands, TX, NT, DNS

14. (54) Todd McLemore, Austin, TX, NT, DNS


Lap Leaders: Smith led 1-5; G. Davidson led 6-79; Merrell led 80; Bendele led 81-86;

C. Davidson led 87-97; Merrell led 98-125



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