Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!!

Thank you Mike VanGenderen. Why do I start off with that, you may ask. I start off with that thank you because Mike VanGenderen invited me go to to Las Vegas for the IMCA Duel in the Desert. Mike was given the opportunity to take his car out when a spot became available in the Bob Moore hauler. Side note - thank you to Bob and Denny Moore as well! It was nice meeting you both.

Mike had three crew members on board along with me, and there were some others that were in the hauler prior to us meeting up with them. We arrived in Las Vegas early Sunday afternoon and spent the first part of the week exploring Las Vegas and The Strip. Mike, Jimmy, Mike, CJ, and I walked up and down the strip Sunday and Monday before getting a rental vehicle on Tuesday. Tuesday and Wednesday we explored more of the town before heading to the track for practice.

Upon arrival at the track cars were already lined up for pre-tech. We unloaded both modifieds and the crew went to work on making sure everything was in tact. Cars were able to take as many practice sessions as they wanted Wednesday.

Thursday rolled around and the atmosphere got much more serious. Roughly 240 modifieds were on hand to take their best shot at taking the opening night checkers. Twenty heat races and ten B-mains were held, and qualifying drivers advanced into one of two feature events for the night.

The first A-main saw Darin Duffy take the early lead from the pole position. Duffy opened up a straight away lead and appeared to be on his way to the dominating victory, but his car slowed entering turn one on lap ten to end his night. From there Dylan Smith and Terry Phillips engaged in a heated battle for the top spot. Smith was able to fend off Phillips to record the win while Justin Yeager and Jacob Murray also advanced into Saturday's main event.

The second A-main again saw the pole sitter, Dominic Ursetta, jet out to a commanding lead. While the rest of the field duked it out, Ursetta blew away the competition on his way to the win. John Hansen, Randy Hall, and Bobby Hogge also advanced to Saturday's big show.

Friday night saw the same format used for the IMCA modifieds, while the IMCA sportmods were added to the card. Both Northern and Southern sportmods were allowed to race at this unique event. Sixteen sportmods showed up and Matt Mueller took home the win on Friday night. Jesse Sobbing had taken control of the race at the halfway point after starting tenth, but a flat left rear tire changed the outcome of the race. Mueller took the win ahead of Shane Helton, Jason Mallicoat, Matt Ruf, and Wayne Dotson.

In the first modified feature Justin O'Brien marched to the front of the field early on with Matt Brack giving chase. O'Brien was able to keep all challengers behind him as he took home the victory. Matt Brack finished second, Justin Radcliff was third, and Kevin Stoa rounded out the qualifiers.

Mike Jergens took the early lead in the second feature after starting on the pole. His time up front soon ended when he suffered a flat tire. That handed the race lead over to Ryan McDaniel. During a caution flag on lap seven, McDaniel would also suffer a flat tire and handed the reigns over to Ricky Alvarado. Several guys would experience flat tires from the rough terrain, but Ricky Alvarado managed his tires well enough to take the win. Jason Pike finished second, Jeff Taylor was third, and Will Brack rounded out the night's qualifiers.

Saturday finally arrived and people were eager to see what the outcome would be later on that night. The format to get the remainder of the field were be twelve last chance races, with the winner only moving on to the show. That meant a lot of high caliber race teams would be watching from the sidelines.

Before the main event, a few other races would be held. The first feature to hit the track was the Wild West Modified Tour North/South shootout. Cory Sample took the checkers in that event followed by Ryan Cottrell.

The Young Gun Shootout would follow. This race was for those drivers were are younger then 18. Fifteen drivers participated and Riley Emmel from Canada emerged victorious ahead of Riley Simmons.

A Senior Shootout was then held for the older generation of drivers. Robert Heffer took the checkered flag first in that event.

The finale for the IMCA sportmods were next to hit the track. Again sixteen cars made the call with Matt Mueller taking the lead after starting on the pole. Two early cautions kept the excitement level down, but it soon picked up around the halfway point when Jesse Sobbing drove to the outside and passed Mueller for the lead. From that point on Sobbing pulled away and collected his 55th feature win of the season. Mueller, Friday night's winner, finished second ahead of Kenneth Graves, Jason Mallicoat, and Josh Modde. Sobbing collected $777 for his efforts.

The stage was now set for the twenty-eight car field of IMCA modifieds. Outside front row starter Ricky Alvarado took the lead at the start with Dylan Smith and Dominic Ursetta following in his tire tracks. Caution flags on lap two and five kept the pace down, but action picked up on the restart. Ursetta worked under Smith to wrestle the second position away while deeper in the field Darin Duffy was on the prowl. After starting twenty-third, Duffy found himself up to eleventh at the completion of lap thirteen. Meanwhile up front Terry Phillips found another groove above where everybody else was running and began to work his way forward. Phillips passed Smith and Ursetta before setting his sights on the leader Alvarado.

Just passed the halfway point a caution flag waved. Upon the restart Phillips used his outside line to pass Alvarado for the lead while Ursetta received heavy pressure from Matt Brack for the third spot. Ursetta would fall back to fourth before being passed on the outside by Jeff Taylor. Alvarado would push up in turn four and tag the concrete wall, ending his hopes of a strong run.

With eleven laps remaining, the front of the field consisted of Phillips, Brack, Ursetta, Taylor, and Smith. Ursetta ducked to the inside of Brack to take over the second position. Brack would lose another spot to Taylor as the Arkansas driver advanced into the third spot. A bit further back in the field Duffy continued his impressive run as he worked his way into the sixth spot with eight laps remaining. Phillips and Ursetta raced door to door the last couple of laps with Ursetta edging out front in turn three. Phillips used the momentum off the top side to win the drag race to the line and pocked his second Duel in the Desert title in as many years. Ursetta finished a close second, Dylan Smith was third, Jeff Taylor fourth, and Darin Duffy completed the top five.

All in all it was a very enjoyable time out in Las Vegas. While I'm not accustomed to the casinos and big city life, I must say I enjoyed walking on The Strip and the other activities in which we participated. Once again, I must thank Mike VanGenderen for inviting me!

There is another person, or group of people, I must thank as well. That would be Brett Root and the folks at IMCA. Brett asked me if I would help out by doing facebook updates for IMCA. I agreed and arrangements were made accordingly. Once Thursday rolled around, however, plans had changed. It was decided that facebook updates would not be used as it would "blow up" people's pages. Instead of facebook, Modfury.com held a live chat update throughout the night and the entire weekend. I was asked to help out with that among a few other people. While it prevented me from watching some of the racing action, it was a lot of fun being able to inform those unable to attend. It also opened my eyes to everything that goes on behind the scenes in the "control tower" during a race as well as all the preparation that goes on in organizing an event of this size. Once again, thank you Brett Root and all the IMCA staff that made me feel welcome up in the tower!!

I arrived home at 8:30AM Monday morning. We opted to drive home following the races Saturday night and decided to drive through the "short route" into Wyoming. Gusty winds blowing snow off the mountains along with icy road conditions slowed our trip, but we made it home in good shape.

- Racing may be a hobby, but it's DEFINITELY addictive!!

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