By Steven Young
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Nov. 13) – Collen Winebarger and former IMCA Modified national champion Jason Wolla earned the final qualifying victories at the 23rd annual Duel In The Desert at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Friday night.
Tom Berry Jr. and Eddie Belec led the field to the green in qualifier number one, with Winebarger and Belec making significant contact entering the first pair of turns. Winebarger took the lead until a caution on the second lap. Belec moved back to second on the ensuing restart, bringing Kyle Brown with him to third.
Another caution with six complete failed to disrupt the running order, as Winebarger continued to lead over Belec. The top three pulled away from the rest of the field by three seconds, as Belec remained within a car length with 10 to go.
Brown took a peek to Belec’s inside with seven remaining, but the lead duo remained the same into the waning laps, as Winebarger continued on to victory over Belec.
In qualifier number two, Sean Stacy and Wolla were the first to the green but the initial start was called back due to a jump by Casey Skyberg. Wolla took the point on the restart, as B.J. Wild went from fifth into a three-wide battle with Skyberg and Jordan Grabouski. Wolla and Grabouski ran one-two through a caution on the eighth round.
Wild once again took second on the restart, while Skyberg moved into third.
Another caution with eight to go saw a brief return to second for Wild, though Grabouski would take the spot back two laps later. Grabouski cut Wolla’s two second advantage in half with four laps remaining, but Wolla was able to continue on to victory, despite a late caution, and into Saturday’s Duel finale.
In the IMCA Sunoco Stock Car division, Aaron Spangler and Colton Arends moved on to Saturday’s Duel with their final qualifying night qualifying victories.
Spangler and Loren Pesicka Jr. paced the field to the line to start the first qualifying feature, with Spangler leading through the first set of turns while Modified qualifier winner Winebarger improved to second on the opening circuit.
Chase Alves moved into the second spot with five laps complete, and began reeling in Spangler for the lead shortly thereafter. The top four began to lap around the half-mile oval nose-to-tail, with Pesicka moving back to third with six remaining.
Alves made contact with the leader but remained in the same order with four circuits remaining.
Alves and Spangler made more contact a lap later, while Alves and Winebarger got together in three and four, ending both their bids to make the Duel finale.
Spangler continued on to win over Pesicka.
In Stock Car qualifier two, Jesse Sobbing and Grabouski traded their Modifieds for their Stock Cars and led the field to the stripe at the start.
Grabouski used the cushion to take the lead after a caution on the initial start. Sobbing ran low as Grabouski remained on the cushion through three laps. Colton Arends improved to second following a lap five restart. Arends ran low, with Sobbing taking to the cushion as the pair went door-to-door for the second spot.
The pair swapped second, while remaining less than a second behind Grabouski.
With eight remaining, Arends peeked to the inside of Grabouski, taking the lead into turn three, while also bringing Sobbing with him into second. Sobbing took the top spot with seven to go, but the new lead duo remained door-to-door, this time for the top spot, before the final caution with six to go.
Arends regained the lead on the restart, as 18th starting Shelby Williams and Jeremy Christians made brief attempts to move into the top three.
Williams jumped the cushion coming to the two to go sign, giving Grabouski the third spot back. Arends continued on to win over Sobbing.
In the Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod division, Phillip Shelby and Jorddon Braaten became the final qualifying winners of the evening, earning their places in Saturday’s Duel.
Shelby and Cody Williams led the field to the first turn to start, as they remained door-to-door through one lap. Shelby took the lead from there and built a one second lead by the end of lap two, and by five seconds as he began to work traffic at the halfway point.
Garrett Jernagan moved past Cale Richards to third with five to go, and began to hunt down Williams for the final Duel transfer spot while Shelby worked heavy traffic with two to go.
Jernagan dove inside of Williams on the final trip through turns one and two, earning his Duel spot with the victorious Shelby.
In the final qualifier of the 23rd Duel, Tommy Fraser and Luke Krogh brought the field to the start. Fraser led the opening circuit as Braaten improved to second.
The top two pulled away by three and a half seconds before a lap five yellow.
Braaten took the lead on the sixth round as Keegan Nordquist reeled Fraser in for the final Duel transfer. Nordquist eventually became part of a pileup on a restart with seven laps complete.
Dakota Girard took third from J.J. McCarty Jr. on the next restart, as the lead duo pulled away.
Two final cautions with four remaining brought to the time limit as Braaten continued onto victory over Girard, as one final caution ended the race. Girard took second from Fraser on the final restart.
The 23rd annual Duel In The Desert concludes on Saturday night. Catch all the action on racexr.com.