Damon Merchant seemingly came out of nowhere to take season 6 of Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings by storm. Driving Rogue, his 1968 Camaro, Merchant finished first in Invitational points in his rookie season, making it to five Invitational finals and winning two of them. He also won a Great 8 event in two final-round appearances. After the conclusion of a breakout debut season, the “people’s champ” sat down with No Prep Racing to reflect on both his accomplishments and his future plans.
After a grueling season, how are you making the most of a much-needed winter break?
Once we finished up in Ennis – and we tore up a lot of stuff – the car was tired. We were beat up and tired from working our asses off. The last couple months [of the season] had been this obsession of racing week after week. We just needed a little time to collect our thoughts and get our stuff together; not really shut down, but put it all on the backburner. I had to get a little time with the family, and wrestling season started so the kiddo’s doing that now. So I’m just putting in some time with them.
You had arguably the best season of any rookie in NPK history – what are some of your biggest takeaways from this season?
Going into it, I didn’t spend all this time and money and effort to not be competitive. That was my whole goal – come in, be fast right out of the gate, and do something nobody else had done prior to this season, which was wreak havoc on the competition. Once we had success early in the season, it became, ‘How long can we sustain this?’ After those first two points races going to back-to-back finals, we had a taste of what it was like to know that we belonged there. It’s no secret that I didn’t have a backup motor or transmission; I feel like it was a bit harder for us to make it week after week. It’s pretty taxing to do it that way, but I think it showed our determination and skill. It was cool to show that we could compete on this scale.
While you finished first in Invitational points, you did not win the Individual points championship. Was that a difficult situation, knowing that in any other season you would’ve been crowned champ?
We knew where the points were, and we knew where the money was going to be presented. The thing is, you had to race hard both days – Friday for the individual points, and Saturday to stay in [the Great 8] the next week. I was under no illusion that I was going to be awarded the championship by staying the Invitational points leader. I raced hard both days. I wasn’t trying to focus on one or the other. But I’ve been pretty open that we had never traveled and raced like this, ever. With our new combination, I feel like we took what we knew and tried to do the best we could on Friday learning what made the car happy. And then you would see us on Saturdays go rounds every weekend. We were right there on Friday nights, but we just fell short a little bit.
Would you like to see the format – either with the Great 8 or team championship – altered for season 7?
I’m not a fan of the five-man team. I’m not a fan of the Great 8 being the individual championship. I would like to see it go back to the individual in the main event be the champion, just like it’s been in years past. Not because I’ve done it, but because that’s what seems right. That’s why it’s been that way for so long. I get why production does what they do – they’ve got to do something different. It’s going to be different all the time. That’s what’s cool about Street Outlaws. It’s not just one thing, because people get bored with that. But I would like to see it go back. And I’m not really against the team thing, I just don’t like teams of five. You can always see cliques of 2-3 guys, and I think that would be the most genuine. I don’t feel like you’re gonna get what people really want to say when there’s four other people in the room. But you might get it with a buddy or two. And let it naturally evolve. That would make for some interesting TV.
What are your plans heading into season 7? Any big changes or upgrades coming for Rogue?
We came into this season heavy for the combination we picked. My initial idea was to get weight out of the car. Now, as fast as we were, and as many people bitching and griping, I’m hesitant to do that. It costs a lot of money for carbon and titanium, so I’ll probably put Rogue’s diet on the backburner until I find out about the weight issue. Also, we learned a lot about this engine combination while racing. We didn’t have a whole lot of time testing before the season started. So we found little things throughout the season that we want to change on the engine, and see how fast we can really make this combination go. But I don’t see myself changing a lot on the car. It works really well. We feel like we’ve got a lot to prove. And when this thing’s healthy, she’s hard to beat. I’m going to be just as aggressive on the light as I was this season and give ‘em hell. I want to prove that last season was no fluke, and I’m going to show up with the same determination in season 7. I feel like we’re going to be a big problem for a lot of people.
PHOTO CREDITS: RICHARD ROWE, DEAN IMAGES, MILISSA MARTINI
Special Thanks to Russell Thompson of Dean Images for capturing all of the great shots for the season -Damon Merchant
Fans can watch the brand new season of Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings beginning Monday, January 8 on Discovery Channel.
The post Damon Merchant: Rogue driver goes from street scene to The No Prep King appeared first on No Prep Racing.