Oklahoma native Damon Merchant earned his first career Street Outlaws No Prep Kings invitational win Saturday evening at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as he defeated Larry Larson in the final round at the 9th of 15 races on the season tour.
Merchant, appearing his third career final round — all during the 2023 season — got a slight jump out of the gate on Larson and was never headed, opening up early a two-car length margin at the finish line to seal the deal. With the victory, Merchant, who is now 26-14 on the season, gave his Jay Boddie-led team a boost in the team standings, where they now sit third, 190 points back of Kye Kelley’s squad, and 70 back of second-place Daddy Dave Comstock and his team.
Merchant began his march to victory with an opening round defeat of a strong-running David Gates, then won another titanic match in round two with Jim Howe. The quarterfinals, undoubtedly his biggest round of the weekend, saw him tip the score against season-long rival Kye Kelley, driving away from the dominant blown Buick Regal to punch his way into the semifinals. That final-four matchup didn’t get any easier, as Merchant and his big-block Chevrolet-powered Camaro had to defeat another heavy-hitter in Nate Sayler.
“To come out here after struggling the last couple of weeks, get our shit together and make it here again, third time’s a charm, baby!” said Merchant after his win.
The final round appearance was a bright spot on an otherwise challenging season for Larson, who made the switch this season to a centrifugal supercharger combination in his popular Cadillac. Larson entered the Las Vegas event with just five round wins on the season, but nearly doubled that total in one evening. His Disco Dean Karns-led team, however, remains mired in last place, with fewer than half the total points of the top teams.
Shawn “Murder Nova” Ellington scored a popular victory in Friday’s Great 8, his first victory in the six-year history of the No Prep Kings series. Ellington secured a huge upset win in round one when he muscled his way past Kye Kelley, the runaway Great 8 points leader, to send him packing in round one. He then defeated Kayla Morton in the semifinals and Sayler in the finale. Kelley, with an impressive five Great 8 wins on the year, leads the Great 8 points by 20, or nearly as many points as second and third place drivers Giuseppe Gentile and Larry “Axman” Roach have combined.
The No Prep King series returns to action next weekend, 2,131 miles to the East at Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio.