By Steven Young
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Nov. 14, 2020) – Ricky Thornton, Jr., Zane DeVilbiss, and Austen Becerra won their first Duel in the Desert championships Saturday night at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Jason Wolla, Thornton, and DJ Shannon led the field to the green flag in the Modified feature, with Wolla beating the field to the first turn.
Wolla led the opening lap as Thornton and Shannon went side-by-side into turns one and two.
Thornton then used the cushion to perfection to move around Wolla and into the top spot in the running order at the end of lap two.
Cody Laney then began to hunt down Wolla for the runner up spot, taking the spot at the conclusion of the third circuit. With five laps complete, Thornton had built a two second lead over Laney.
Wolla and Laney continued to wage war for second, as Wolla ran low, and Laney rode around the cushion.
With a dozen laps in the books, Thornton caught up to the rear of the field, but a cushion saved Thornton from having to work lapped traffic.
Wolla moved back to second, using the top of the half-mile to gain the spot, bringing five-time Duel champ Jeremy Payne with him.
Laney moved back onto the podium just past the halfway point, and remained there until the final caution with eleven to go.
Laney regained the second spot on the restart, as Collen Winebarger moved into third.
Ethan Dotson was the next driver to occupy the third spot, improving to the position with nine to go. Dotson remained third for the duration of the race, despite jumping the cushion in turns three and four with eight remaining.
Thornton continued on to a three second win over Laney, Thornton’s first Duel crown. Dotson, Winebarger, and Jesse Sobbing completed the top five.
“We practiced really good, and I actually loosened the car a bunch for the first night. We were good, and I just kinda left it,” Thornton said in victory lane post race. “The track was good, DJ [Shannon] kinda rolled me through the middle in three and four, so I knew I could move up a bit for a little while, and I was able to do that and get by Jason [Wolla].”
In the Stock Car feature, Jeffrey Abbey, Sobbing, and Dan Mackenthun led the field to the stripe at the start, but it was fourth starting Dallon Murty that rocketed around the bottom to the lead down the backstretch.
Colby Deming moved to the runner-up spot down the backstretch on the second circuit, as Murty built a two-and-a-half second lead by the end of lap three.
Mackenthun, Deming, and Abbey went three-wide at the conclusion of the fourth round before the only caution of the race, as Michael Jaennette’s engine released a ball of flames. He was uninjured.
On the ensuing restart, Mackenthun improved to second, as Zane DeVilbiss completed the top three.
DeVilbiss continued to charge, taking the second spot with six in, and moving past Murty to the lead the following lap.
At the halfway mark, DeVilbiss had already built a two second lead, while a four car battle for third commenced between Mackenthun, Jack Sullivan, Deming, and Jordan Grabouski.
Deming fell out of the battle a few laps later, but the remaining trio went three wide coming to the white flag.
DeVilbiss continued on to win by five seconds over Murty, Mackenthun, Sullivan, and Grabouski.
“We’re on cloud nine, this is freakin’ awesome!” An excited DeVilbiss said in victory lane. “We definitely had a fire underneath us after that,” DeVilbiss said of his DNF while leading earlier in the week.
In the SportMod feature, Jake Sachau, Johnathan Logue, and Austin Manzella led the field on the initial start, though it took three attempts to get one lap in the books.
Sachau and Logue made contact entering turn three on the first attempt, releasing the air from the right front tire of Sachau’s mount.
Austen Becerra replaced Sachau on the pole on attempt number two, but the pace once again slowed after another caution.
Logue and Manzella broke away from the rest of the field down the backstretch on attempt number three, with Manzella completing the lap as the leader, as he made it back to the line before the third caution of the race.
Logue and Manzella went door-to-door on the restart, but it was Logue with the lead at the end of lap two.
Becerra improved to second on the backstretch, and took the lead at the completion of the third round.
Manzella and Ty Rogers swapped the third spot in the handful of laps, as they became the best battle on the speedway.
Becerra built a three-and-a-half second lead at the halfway point, as Cody Thompson moved into third.
Becerra continued on to a four second win over Logue, Thompson, Rogers, and Jorddon Braaten.
“Leading that thing the other night and blowing a motor was pretty disappointing,” Becerra said following his first Duel victory, the third of the night. “But we had to keep our heads up. We changed the motor, stayed up late, went out and won our heat race, won the qualifier, and here we are winning this deal. Twenty-four hours from home, home built car I built in my garage over the winter with a couple buddies, and it’s pretty awesome to be standing here. This is tougher than the Boone Supernationals to get in. This is the biggest win of my career. It’s awesome.”
Eight special races followed the Duel championship events. The Wild West Modified Tour concluded their season, with Dillion Lawrence winning in the Stock Cars, Cory Sample in the Modifieds, and Danny Concelman in the SportMods.
Christy Barnett went back-to-back in the Legends feature, while Arkansas’ Ashton Wilkey won the Young Guns feature.
Three ‘Best Appearing’ races concluded the week, with each car qualifying for the race if their wraps had a charity theme. Over twenty-one thousand dollars was raised for charity during the week.
Levi Card won the Stock Car feature, with Chase Alves winning in the SportMods, and Nevin Kennemore winning in the Modifieds.