David Murray Jr. of Oberlin, Kans., won the 11th annual Duel in the Desert tonight at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While it is true that Murray pretty much dominated the event, the pace behind him was furious and frantic as cars often raced three-and-four-wide around the 12-year-old half-mile dirt oval.
Murray, the 2003 winner of this race, started the 28-car, 40-lap feature from the pole position, flanked on the front row by Paul Stone. The green flag flew and the fracas began, with the field racing four-wide out of Turn 4 to wrestle for the lead of the first lap. Stacey Mills charged from fourth place and grabbed the lead just as the first lap was recorded. He led the field for a handful of laps until he jumped the cushion on the back straightaway and relinquished the lead to Murray.
A car spun in Turn 2 and as the caution flag flew, four cars piled up in Turn 3. The race restarted with Murray in the lead, followed by Ed Martin and Mills. Martin and Murray battled side-by-side for a pair of laps until Murray was able to assume command on lap 10. Ricky Alvarado found speed at the top of the three-groove track and challenged Martin for second on lap 12 as Murray pulled away from the field.
The caution flag flew again on lap 14 for a spin by Travis Metz. Murray led the pack on the ensuing restart followed again by Martin and Alvarado. The first three cars ran the high side of the track as Murray motored away from his competition. On lap 19, Alvarado tried the lower groove and began racing side-by-side with Martin for second. The thrilling battle was short-lived, however, as disaster struck in the form of an expired engine on Alvarado’s car and he wound up sitting backwards on the track at the exit of Turn 2 with the field bearing down on him. Everyone managed to miss Alvarado – who had raced an extra 20 laps tonight by competing in the Wild West Modified Shootout – and his disabled car was towed to the pits.
The race resumed on lap 20 and so did Murray’s romp. Meanwhile, Martin, who won the 2007 Duel in Desert, had his hands full with Brad Pounds as the pair raced close to the retaining wall. With 10 laps remaining, Reese Coffee, Johnny “The Jet” Saathoff and Jeremy Mills joined the battle for second place. Murray left the five-car battle for second place in his wake as he negotiated lapped traffic and Saathoff passed Martin and Pounds to take second place on lap 38.
Murray went on to win his second Duel in the Desert and $5,000 paycheck while Saathoff claimed second and Pounds finished third. Martin, who held second place for most of the event, was forced to settle for fourth place. Mills, who started fourth, finished fifth.
40-lap IMCA Modified Duel in the Desert feature: 1. David Murray Jr., 2. Johnny Saathoff, 3. Brad Pounds, 4. Ed Martin, 5. Jeremy Mills, 6. Reese Coffee, 7. Stacey Mills, 8. Will Brack, 9. Chris Abelson, 10. Scott Drake, 11. Alan Sharpensteen, 12. Jeff Taylor, 13. Ronnie Wallace, 14. Justin Yeager, 15. Robby Haines, 16. Paul Stone, 17. Richard Papenhausen, 18. David Mayhew, 19. Monte Bolton, 20. Bryan Burnes, 21. Jeremy Frenier, 22. Randy Havlik, 23. Travis Metz, 24. Ricky Alvarado, 25. Mike Hansen, 26. Jason Hughes, 27. Jason Murray, 28. Steve Arpin.
12 -lap IMCA Modified Last-Chance Races (winners transferred to the A-Feature)
First: Reese Coffee (Hinton, Iowa)
Second: Steve Arpin (Ft. Frances, Ont., Canada)
Third: Richard Papenhausen (Chico, Calif.)
Fourth: Jason Murray (Hartford, Iowa)
Fifth: Justin Yeager (Green River, Wyo.)
Sixth: Ronnie Wallace (McCook, Neb.)
Seventh: Bryan Burnes (Lemoore, Calif.)
Eighth: David Mayhem (Bakersfield, Calif.)
Ninth: Scott Drake (Garden City, Kans.)
10th: Robby Hines (Benkelman, Neb.)
11th: Travis Metz (Blackfoot, Ida.)
12th: Jason Hughes (Watts, Okla.)
IMCA Stock Cars: IMCA Stock Car heats were won by Kevin Opheim (Mason City, Iowa) and Jeremy Geittler (Derr, Iowa). Geitler also won the 20-lap feature.
Legends Cars: Legends Cars heats were won by Jonathan Barcena (El Paso, Tex.) and Troy Speten (Wilton, N. Dakota). Nathan Speten of Wilton, N. Dakota won the 15-lap feature.
Bombers: Billy Bob Grasser won the 25-lap Bomber finale. The Wild West Modified Top 20 Shootout was won by Justin Yeager of Green River, Wyo. Donnie Berger won the 20-lap Nevada Coupes feature.