Thornton, DeVilbiss, Becerra capture first IMCA Duel In The Desert crowns

Ricky Thornton Jr. became a first time IMCA Modified winner at the Duel In The Desert, taking home $10,000 for his Saturday night checkers. (Photo by Melissa Coker, Melissa’s Out On A Limb Photography)

By Steven Young

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Nov. 14) – Three already accomplished IMCA drivers raced to career first championships Saturday night at the 23rd annual Duel In The Desert.

Ricky Thornton Jr. topped the $10,000 to win main event for IMCA Modifieds while Zane DeVil­biss and Austen Becerra left the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track with $5,000 each after winning IMCA Sunoco Stock Car and Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod features, respectively. 

Jason Wolla led the opening lap. Thornton 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 took over second on lap three. With a dozen laps in the books, Thornton had caught up to the rear of the field but a cushion saved him from having to work lapped traffic.

Wolla moved back to second, bringing five-time Duel winner Jeremy Payne with him. Laney re­gained the second spot following a lap 11 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. 

Thornton continued on to a three second win over Laney, Dotson, Winebarger and Jesse Sob­bing.

“We practiced really good and I actually loosened the car a bunch for the first night. We were good and I just kind of left it,” Thornton said from victory lane. “The track was good. D.J. [Shan­non] kind of 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].”

Already on the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot, Thornton’s best Duel finish in four previous starts was third, in 2018.

In the Stock Car feature, it was fourth-starting Dallon Murty who rocketed around the bottom and into the lead. Colby Deming moved to the runner-up spot as Murty built an early 2-1/2 second advantage.

Dan Mackenthun moved to second as DeVilbiss completed the top three following the only cau­tion of the contest on lap four.

DeVilbiss continued to charge, taking the second spot with six laps in and moving past Murty to the lead the following lap. At halfway, DeVilbiss had 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 awesome,” DeVilbiss said. “We definitely had a fire underneath us after that,” referring to a DNF while leading earlier in the week.

Three early cautions slowed the start of the SportMod feature. Johnathon Logue and Austin Man­zella went door-to-door on the third restart and 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 third as they became the best battle on the speedway. 

Becerra built a 3-1/2 second lead at the halfway point as Cody Thompson moved into third. He 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 Duel victory. “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, with a 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 the biggest win of my ca­reer.”

Eight special races followed the Duel championship events. The 1st Class Chassis Wild West Modi­fied Tour concluded its season, with Cory Sample winning in the Modifieds, Dillion Lawrence in the Stock Cars 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. More than $21,000 was raised for charity during the week. 

Nevin Kennemore won in the Modifieds, Levi Card in the Stock Cars and Chase Alves in the SportMods. 

Feature Results 

Modifieds – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 2. Cody Laney, Torrance, Calif.; 3. Ethan Dotson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 4. Collen Winebarger, Corbett, Ore.; 5. Jesse Sobbing, Malvern, Iowa; 6. Jor­dan Grabouski, Beatrice, Neb.; 7. Kyle Brown, Madrid, Iowa; 8. Ken Schrader, Dittmer, Mo.; 9. Troy Foulger, Oakley, Calif.; 10. Zane DeVilbiss, Farmington, N.M.; 11. Tanner Black, Otis, Kan.; 12. Ethan Braaksma, Newton, Iowa; 13. Eddie Belec, Arvada, Colo.; 14. Chaz Baca, Mesa, Ariz.; 15. Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.; 16. Bobby Hogge IV, Salinas, Calif.; 17. Tim Ward, Chandler, Ariz.; 18. P.J. Egbert, Copperas Cove, Texas; 19. Johnny Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb.; 20. Clay Money, Penokee, Kan.; 21. Chris Nieman, Quincy, Calif.; 22. Jason Wolla, Ray, N.D.; 23. Casey Delp, Rock Springs, Wy.; 24. Robert Sanders, Bakersfield, Calif.; 25. D.J. Shannon, Merced, Calif.; 26. Ryan Ruter, Clear Lake, Iowa; 27. Jeremy Payne, Buckeye, Ariz.; 28. Shane DeMey, Denison, Iowa; 29. Ryan McDaniel, Olivehurst, Calif.; 30. Tom Berry Jr., Des Moines, Iowa; 31. Dylan Thornton, Santa Maria, Calif.

Stock Cars – 1. Zane DeVilbiss, Farmington, N.M.; 2. Dallon Murty, Chelsea, Iowa; 3. Dan Macken­thun, Hamburg, Minn.; 4. Jack Sullivan, Greenbrier, Ark.; 5. Jordan Grabouski, Beatrice, Neb.; 6. Benji Legg, Beatrice, Neb.; 7. Colby Deming, Hobbs, N.M.; 8. Kyle Pfeifer, Hill City, Kan.; 9. Jeffrey Abbey, Comanche, Texas; 10. Tyler Iverson, Albion, Neb.; 11. Dillion Lawrence, Sandy, Utah; 12. Jason Rogers, Selden, Kan.; 13. Mike Nichols, Harlan, Iowa; 14. Scott Brown, Meriden, Kan.; 15. Chase Alves, Casa Grande, Ariz.; 16. Aaron Spangler, Dove Creek, Colo.; 17. Mike Petersilie, Hoisington, Kan.; 18. Loren Pesicka Jr., Burt, Iowa; 19. Mike Stapleton, Denison, Iowa; 20. Colton Arends, Luverne, Minn.; 21. Jesse Sobbing, Malvern, Iowa; 22. Eric Bartels, Plymouth, Neb.; 23. Jeremy Christians, Horicon, Wis.; 24. Westin Abbey, Comanche, Texas; 25. Michael Jaennette, Kellogg, Iowa.

Northern SportMods – 1. Austen Becerra, Carthage, Ill.; 2. Johnathon Logue, Boone, Iowa; 3. Cody Thompson, Sioux City, Iowa; 4. Ty Rogers, Somerton, Ariz.; 5. Jorddon Braaten, Central Point, Ore.; 6. Joe Docekal, Dysart, Iowa; 7. Ryan Peery, Yreka, Calif.; 8. Jason Nation, Bakers­field, Calif.; 9. Tyler Blankenship, Bakersfield, Calif.; 10. Jason Bannister, Bakersfield, Calif.; 11. Kevin Johnson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 12. Austin Manzella, Bakersfield, Calif.; 13. Taylor Kuehl, Cave Creek, Ariz.; 14. Brian Baker, Bakersfield, Calif.; 15. Cody Williams, Minneapolis, Kan.; 16. Justin Erickson, Glendale, Ariz.; 17. Dakota Girard, Moberly, Mo.; 18. Tommy Fraser, Antioch, Calif.; 19. Nick Spainhoward, Bakersfield, Calif.; 20. Jake Sachau, Manning, Iowa; 21. Chris Toth, Holtville, Calif.; 22. John Piker, Bakersfield, Calif.; 23. Garrett Jernagan, Bakersfield, Calif.; 24. Phillip Shelby, Olivehurst, Calif.; 25. Brett Berry, Hays, Kan.