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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monett Speedway to use race to help Joplin residents

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jockeying for position. Rex Merritt, left, and Shane Essary battle for track position coming out of turn two at Monett Speedway earlier this month. On Sunday, both drivers will be in action at the speedway in the 11th annual Tony Roper Memorial race. The Convoy of Hope will be at the Monett Speedway collecting donations for the tornado victims in Joplin. [Times Photo by Jared Lankford]
The MARS Dirt Series headlines the 11th Annual Tony Roper Memorial this Sunday at the Monett Speedway. Tony Roper was a NASCAR driver from Fair Grove.

"Tony cut his teeth on the dirt at Monett," said track owner Randy Mooneyham. "He won his first feature race here. He was a good kid."

Growing up, Roper and his family were heavily involved in auto racing. Roper started racing in 1986. For the next six years, Roper raced in IMCA Modifieds and Late Models on dirt and asphalt tracks across the midwest.

In 1992, he finished in second place for the American Speed Association Rookie of the Year award. He started racing in the Craftsman Truck Series in 1995 and the Busch Series in 1999.

On Oct. 13, 2000, Roper was racing in the O'Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway when he attempted to pass Steve Grissom. Another truck veered up the racetrack in the tri-oval, forcing Roper to evade, turning him into Grissom's front bumper. The contact caused Roper's #26 Ford to take a sudden hard-right turn, which then caused the truck to slam head on into the concrete wall of the tri-oval. Roper died the next day as the result of the injuries he sustained from the crash.

"We named this race as way to honor Tony's memory," said Mooneyham. "His impact on local racing will never be forgotten."

Six-time MARS champion Terry Phillips, of Springfield, won last year's event and will lead a strong contingent of racers into action, including Jesse Stovall, of Galena, Tony Jackson Jr. of Lebanon, Jeremy Payne, of Springfield, RC Whitwell, of Tucson, Ariz., Brandon McCormick, of Lebanon, Leroy Johnson, of Springfield, Eric Turner, of Springfield, Justin Wells, of Aurora, Ken Essary, of Cape Fair, Darrell Mooneyham, of Verona, MO, Gary Christian, of Broken Bow, Okla., Jack Sullivan, of Greenbrier, Ark., Shane Essary, of Aurora, and Justin Asplin, of Birch Tree.

The event will also feature A-Mods, Sport Mods, Midwest Modz, Legends and Pure Stocks. Pit passes for this event will be $35. Grandstand admission will be $20 for adults, $5 kids age 12-15 and free for those 11 and under. Grandstands will open at 5 p.m. and Pit gates for this event will open at 3 p.m. Hot laps begin at 7 p.m. and racing is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

Convoy of Hope

The Monett Speedway is raising money and collecting donations to benefit the Convoy of Hope Disaster Response Fund. All fans and drivers are encouraged to bring canned food items to support friends and families in Joplin that were recently affected by the devastating tornado.

Representatives from the Convoy of Hope will be at the Monett Speedway from 4:30--7 p.m. to assist with donations and answer any questions.

"Our hearts go out to all of the residents of Joplin," said Mooneyham. "We knew we couldn't sit idly and not try to help. We have several racers and fans (from Joplin) who have supported us for years. This is the least we could do for those individuals. If we all pitch in, we can make a difference."

Moneyham explained that non-perishable food items, toiletries and money are what is needed most.

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