Whitwell hits IMCA Modified jackpot with Duel In the Desert checkers

R.C. Whitwell was the $7,777 IMCA Modified winner at the Duel In The Desert. (Photo by Tom Macht, www.photofinishphotos.com)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Nov. 16) – R.C. Whitwell put a big checkmark on his IMCA Modified bucket list Saturday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. 

Whitwell led the last 11 of 40 laps in the Duel In The Desert main event, holding off fellow Tucson, Ariz., ace Jake O’Neil following a restart with four circuits left.

The Duel win paid $7,777 and put Whitwell on the 2020 Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot. More than 300 cars, including an event record 102 Karl Kustoms Northern SportMods, saw action at the biggest event of the season in IMCA’s Shaw Race Cars Western Region.

Whitwell had chased Tom Berry Jr. the first 29 times around the half-mile dirt oval before the leader got caught up with a lapped car and got turned around.

“The car has been great since we unloaded,” said Whitwell, a second and a half ahead of O’Neil at the checkers. “It was kind of nerve wracking during the last caution, knowing the zero car (O’Neil) was back there, but I figured if he was able to go around me on the outside, he deserved it.”

Cody Laney, Tim Ward and defending race winner Jason Hughes completed the top five.

Berry and Whitwell had both won opening night qualifying features on Thursday. Berry started from the pole with Whitwell lined up right behind him in the main event.

The front pair got out to a half straightaway lead over the rest of the 28-car field just eight laps in. Berry led by the width of his bumper when lap 11 was scored, then moved to a lower line and was able to put some distance on Whitwell. 

Whitwell reeled Berry back in, then took over the front spot after the leader tangled with the lapped car on the back straight.

“We’ve come close here before. It feels good to get one here,” said Whitwell, third at Duels in 2014 and 2015. “There’s an awesome caliber of drivers here and I was excited to go up against them. There was a lot of talent out there.” 

Cody Thompson also started third, ran second much of the way and then finished first in the Northern SportMod 25-lapper.

Thompson stayed committed to the higher line and motored by race-long leader Michael Johnson with seven laps to go.

“I knew he would get out there a ways but we had a pretty decent car to reel him in,” said Thompson, runner-up to Johnson in their Thursday qualifier after starting deep in the field. “This win ranks up with the best of them, especially being able to race up top.”

Thompson took the $1,777 win ahead of Johnson, Brandon Schmitt and Kevin Johnson. Matt Looft raced from 12th starting to fifth.

With an event record 102 entries on hand, Cody Thompson topped the Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod main event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Duel In The Desert. (Photo by Tom Macht, www.photofinishphotos.com

Dylan Thornton led the last eight of 10 laps in the Young Guns feature for IMCA Modifieds while Christy Barnett led the last 10 of 12 circuits in the IMCA Modified Legends race. 

Zane DeVilbiss started last and finished first in the 15-lap Wild West Modified Showdown. Casey Delp and Michael hale completed the top three. 

And Slade Pitt was in, out and back in the lead at the finish of the 10-lap Wild West Northern SportMod Showdown, besting Rex Higgins and Kendra Vollmer in what became a tightly contested three-car battle. 

Feature Results

Modifieds – 1. R.C Whitwell, Tucson, Ariz.; 2. Jake O’Neil, Tucson, Ariz.; 3. Cody Laney, Torrance, Calif.; 4. Tim Ward, Chandler, Ariz.; 5. Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.; 6. Chaz Baca, Mesa, Ariz.; 7. Ethan Braaksma, Newton, Iowa; 8. Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo.; 9. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 10. Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls, Iowa; 11. Kyle Heckman, Bakersfield, Calif.; 12. Jason Beaulieu, Campbell River, B.C.; 13. Johnny Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb.; 14. Jacob Hobscheidt, Plattsmouth, Neb.; 15. Scott Drake, Diamond, Mo.; 16. Andy Obertello, Hollister, Calif.; 17. Zane DeVilbiss, Farmington, N.M.; 18. Ethan Dotson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 19. Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.; 20. Tanner Black, Otis, Kan.; 21. Jeremy Payne, Buckeye, Ariz.; 22. Tom Berry Jr., Newburg, N.D.; 23. Collen Winebarger, Corbett, Ore.; 24. Austin Arneson, Fargo, N.D.; 25. Shane DeVolder, Pacifica, Calif.; 26. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 27. Benji LaCrosse, Green Bay, Wis.; 28. Lance Mari, El Centro, Calif. 

Northern SportMods – 1. Cody Thompson, Sioux City, Iowa; 2. Michael Johnson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 3. Brandon Schmitt, Sun Prairie, Wis.; 4. Kevin Johnson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 5. Matt Looft, Swea City, Iowa; 6. Guy Ahlwardt, Antioch, Calif.; 7. Tom Fraser, Antioch, Calif.; 8. Garrett Jernagan, Bakersfield, Calif.; 9. Joe Docekal, Dysart, Iowa; 10. Arie Schouten, Omaha, Neb.; 11. Nick Spainhoward, Bakersfield, Calif.; 12. Jason George, Laveen, Ariz.; 13. Jake Sachau, Denison, Iowa; 14. Jorddon Braaten, Central Point, Ore.; 15. Les Friend, Galt, Calif.; 16. Matt Micheli, Live Oak, Calif.; 17. Brylon Holder, Bakersfield, Calif.; 18. Randy Miller, San Jose, Calif.; 19. Shawn Harker, Nebraska City, Neb.; 20. Jason Nation, Bakersfield, Calif.; 21. Kelly Henderson, Minot, N.D.; 22. Fred Ryland, Brentwood, Calif.; 23. Chris McKellar, Bakersfield, Calif.; 24. Cory Hemphill, Yuma, Ariz.

Legends – 1. Christy Barnett, El Paso, Texas; 2. Robert Miller, Gardnerville; 3. Scott Brown, Meriden, Kan.; 4. Steve Noland, Terra Bella, Calif.; 5. Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls, Iowa; 6. Bill Brack, Mead, Colo.; 7. Bob Moore, Sioux City, Iowa; 8. Derek Nance, Merced, Calif.; 9. Chris Clark, Jackson, Wyo.; 10. Roger Bonneville, Calgary, Alb.; 11. Rick Durica, Las Vegas; 12. Mickey Stubbings, Helper, Utah; 13. Danny Meier, Dumore, Alb.; 14. Stephen Streeter, Madera, Calif.; 15. William Miller, Yuma, Ariz.; 16. Lawrence O’Connor, Port Hardy, B.C.

Young Guns –1. Dylan Thornton, Orcutt, Calif.; 2. Jerry Flippo, Bakersfield, Calif.; 3. Kollin Hibdon, Pahrump; 4. Jake Pike, Pahrump; 5. Buddy Kniss, Antioch, Calif.; 6. Sean Stacy, Kearny, Ariz.; 7. Jaxon Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb.; 8. Braxton Yeager, Green River, Wyo.; 9. Taylor Kuehl, Cave Creek, Ariz.; 10. Dann Perry III, Laughlin; 11. Ethan Braaksma, Newton, Iowa.

Wild West Modified Showdown – 1. Zane DeVilbiss, Farmington, N.M.; 2. Casey Delp, Rock Spring, Wyo.; 3. Michael Hale, West Valley City, Utah; 4. Daniel Cleveland, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 5. Kenny Vollmer, Idaho Falls, Idaho; 6. Bryan Wordelman, Salt Lake City, Utah; 7. Wade Taylor, Spring Creek; 8. Regan Tafoya, Farmington, N.M.; 9. Shawn LaRocque, Winnemucca; 10. Jake Donnelly, Idaho Falls, Idaho; 11. Richard Anderson, Idaho Falls, Idaho; 12. Matthew Ratzlaff, Monte Vista, Colo.; 13. Bert Beech, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 14. Braxton Yeager, Green River, Wyo.; 15. Heath Denney, Erda, Utah.

Wild West Northern SportMod Showdown – 1. Slade Pitt, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 2. Rex Higgins, Bloomfield, N.M.; 3. Kendra Vollmer, Idaho Falls, Idaho; 4. Cody Malcom, Shelley, Idaho; 5. B.J. Haslam, Shelley, Idaho; 6. David Pitt, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 7. Christina Ratzlaff, Monte Vista, Colo.; 8. Matt Ruf, Grand Junction, Colo.; 9. Chuck Delp, Rock Springs, Wyo.