By Bill Martin
Two drivers who already knew the way to victory lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway returned there on opening night of the 19th Annual IMCA Duel In The Desert.
Defending Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modified race winner Lucas Schott topped Thursday's first qualifying feature, ahead of Bobby Hogge IV, three-time Duel winner Terry Phillips and two-time winner Johnny Saathoff.
Sobbing, winner of the Northern SportMod headliner at the half-mile Dirt Track, topped the second qualifier, with Ricky Thornton Jr., Lance Mari and Chris Abelson next across the stripe.
Each Modified qualifier paid $777 to win and sent the top four to Saturday's $7,777 to win main event.
The total car count for opening night was 256. Drivers from 22 states and three Canadian provinces competed at LVMS, and 17 states and two provinces were represented in Thursday's Modified qualifiers.
Schott drew the pole start for the first qualifier and held off Benji LaCrosse before Hogge moved into the fray halfway through the 25-lapper.
Coming up to traffic, Hogge passed Schott for the lead with four circuits left. The front pair ran side-by-side before Schott returned the favor and held off Hogge for the win.
Phillips started 14th and finished third, while Saathoff qualified out of his "B," started 22nd and ended in fourth. Jason Beaulieu battled a broken front end, was unable to hold off Saathoff and was fifth.
Scott Drake led early in the second qualifier before dropping out with mechanical woes and handing the lead to Mari. Sobbing joined Mari in pulling away from the pack and took over the front spot on lap 12, while the 22nd-position starting Thornton, Abelson and Jordan Grabouski tussled for third.
Thornton got to second with eight laps left, but couldn't reel in Sobbing and finished two car lengths off the pace. Mari hung on for third, and Abelson got the best of four-time Duel winner Jeremy Payne in the race for the final transfer spot.
Shawn Harker started 11th and finished first in the $500 to win qualifying feature for Northern SportMods.
Two yellows slowed the 20-lapper. Robbie Conway led eight circuits before giving way to Harker and finished second.
The rest of the top six advancing to Saturday's $1,777 to win main event were Doug Smith, Chris Toth, Rick Diaz and Michael Johnson.
The Duel In The Desert is broadcast by IMCA.TV; Friday's race program begins at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. The Saturday Modified main event is a qualifier for the 2017 Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot.
First Modified qualifier
- Lucas Schott, Chatfield, Minn.; 2. Bobby Hogge IV, Salinas, Calif.; 3. Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.; 4. Johnny Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb.; 5. Jason Beaulieu, Campbell River, B.C.; 6. Kyle Strickler, Mooresville, N.C.; 7. Brad Pounds, Bakersfield, Calif.; 8. Benji LaCrosse, Green Bay, Wis.; 9. Tim Ward, Chandler, Ariz.; 10. Alex Stanford, Chowchilla, Calif.; 11. Ryan McDaniel, Olivehurst, Calif.; 12. Todd Shute, Des Moines, Iowa; 13. Scott Brown, Meriden, Kan.; 14. Russell Allen, Brawley, Calif.; 15. Eddie Belec, Arvada, Colo.; 16. Peyton Taylor, Batesville, Ark.; 17. James Thibodeaux, Tonopah; 18. A.J. Sharpensteen, Amarillo, Texas; 19. Grey Ferrando, Stayton, Ore.; 20. Bland Bohannon, Williston, N.D.; 21. Chester Kniss, Antioch, Calif.; 22. Chaz Baca, Mesa, Ariz.; 23. Mike Villanueva, Atwater, Calif.; 24. Johnny Scott, Cameron, Mo.; 25. Jason Noll, Peoria, Ariz.; 26. Rodney Sanders, Happy, Texas; 27. Josh Most, Red Oak, Iowa; 28. Chase Allen, Midlothian, Texas; 29. Rex Merritt, Billings, Mo.; 30. Stormy Scott, Cameron, Mo.
Second Modified qualifier
- Jesse Sobbing, Malvern, Iowa; 2. Ricky Thornton Jr., Chandler, Ariz.; 3. Lance Mari, Imperial, Calif.; 4. Chris Abelson, Sioux City, Iowa; 5. Jeremy Payne, Springfield, Mo.; 6. Cody Laney, Torrance, Calif.; 7. Jordan Grabouski, Beatrice, Neb.; 8. Kyle Brown, Madrid, Iowa; 9. Regan Tafoya, Farmington, N.M.; 10. Ricky Childress, Bakersfield, Calif.; 11. John Hansen, Brush, Colo.; 12. Ricky Alvarado, Grand Junction, Colo.; 13. Ethan Dotson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 14. Logan Drake, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; 15. Joey Galloway, Manor, Sask.; 16. Troy Cordes, Dunkerton, Iowa; 17. Joshua Vogt, Santa Maria, Calif.; 18. Justin O'Brien, West Union, Iowa; 19. Paul Stone, Winton, Calif.; 20. Kevin Irwin, Bakersfield, Calif.; 21. Billy Griffin, Buena Park, Calif.; 22. Justen Yeager, Green River, Wyo.; 23. Mike Wedelstadt, Fremont, Wis.; 24. Mark Elliott, Webster City, Iowa; 25. Chris Nieman, Quincy, Calif.; 26. Jack Sullivan, Greenbrier, Ark.; 27. Dominic Ursetta, Arvada, Colo.; 28. Robby Sawyer, Bakersfield, Calif.; 29. Billy Vogel, West Fargo, N.D.; 30. Scott Drake, Joplin, Mo.
Northern SportMod qualifier
- Shawn Harker, Nebraska City, Neb.; 2. Robbie Conway, Westhope, N.D.; 3. Doug Smith, Lanesboro, Iowa; 4. Chris Toth, Holtville, Calif.; 5. Rick Diaz, Los Banos, Calif.; 6. Michael Johnson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 7. Lee Jensen, Bakersfield, Calif.; 8. Nick Spainhoward, Bakersfield, Calif.; 9. Gary Dutton, Bakersfield, Calif.; 10. Arie Schouten, Blair, Neb.; 11. Johnathon Logue, Boone, Iowa; 12. Miles Morris, Yuma, Ariz.; 13. Curtis Van Der Wal, Oskaloosa, Iowa; 14. Matthew Hagio, Prunedale, Calif.; 15. Brylon Holder, Bakersfield, Calif.; 16. Luke Krogh, Dickinson, N.D.; 17. Chris McKellar, Bakersfield, Calif.; 18. Mike Tanner, Smithville, Mo.; 19. Jason George, Laveen, Ariz.; 20. Ron Tex Jr., Papillion, Neb.; 21. Fred Ryland, Brentwood, Calif.; 22. Wayne Dotson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 23. Brian Cooper, Yuba City, Calif.; 24. Lance Borgman, Beatrice, Neb.