By Bill Martin
Jeremy Payne extended his Duel in the Desert record to five career championships Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Payne completed his charge from the 10th starting position to the lead just before midway in the 40-lap main event for Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modifieds on the half-mile Dirt Track, then ran away from a succession of challengers for the $7,777.77 payday.
The new Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot qualifier was chased across the stripe by Tim Ward, Johnny Saathoff, Johnny Scott and Peyton Taylor. Ward had started 12th and Saathoff 13th, while Scott came out of a last-chance race and made the top four all the way from starting 27th.
Defending race winner and pole sitter Lucas Schott was the early leader, with Ricky Thornton Jr. and Bobby Hogge IV right behind. Thornton used the low line to take the front spot away on lap 11, then got together with Hogge during a three-wide battle to stay in the lead.
Hogge exited with a flat tire, Thornton was sent to the pits for questionable driving and Schott got the lead back, with Payne restarting second.
Quick to challenge, Payne peaked inside Schott while Jordan Grabouski loomed in third. A bobble by Schott in the first set of turns proved to be the lap-19 opportunity Payne was looking for, and he was first when the next circuit was scored.
Grabouski also caught Schott and was reeling in Payne before being sidelined with a broken front end. Ward was a couple car lengths off the pace before a lap 31 caution. Payne pulled away from that point, winning by a full straightaway.
His first four Duel in the Desert crowns came from 2005-06 and 2012-13.
A caution with five trips around the track remaining in the Northern SportMod main event opened the door for Shawn Harker. Harker had started the 25-lapper from the pole, but lost the lead from outside row-one starter and fellow qualifying feature winner Curtis Van Der Wal on lap three.
Van Der Wal got some distance on Harker before back-to-back cautions on lap seven. The race stayed green until lap 20, and both Harker and Doug Smith slipped underneath Van Der Wal on the ensuing re-start.
While he was able to catch Smith for second on the next circuit, Van Der Wal couldn't get closer than 10 car lengths behind Harker in the $1,777-to-win event.
Smith, Robert Elliott and Michael Johnson completed the top five.
Checkers flew for Chaz Baca in the 10-lap Young Guns feature for Modified drivers 19 and under.
Baca and Ethan Dotson passed Kelsie Foley following an early re-start. Baca had half-a-straightaway advantage over Dotson before a lap-seven caution.
He held off Dotson to get the win, while Foley raced her way back to third.
Bill Brack checked out on the rest of the field from the get-go in winning the 10-lap Legends feature for Modified drivers age 55 and over. Christy Barnett motored from an eighth-row start to finish a distant second, while Kevin Wright was third.
More than 250 drivers from 22 states and three Canadian provinces competed in the Duel, making the 19th annual special the biggest IMCA-sanctioned event in the Larry Shaw Racing Western Region again this year.
Northern SportMods feature
Young Guns feature