Timing was everything for Tom Berry Jr. and R.C. Whitwell in their IMCA Modified qualifiers on a record-setting opening night at the Duel In The Desert.

More than 300 cars, including 200-plus IMCA Modifieds and an event record 102 Karl Kustoms Northern SportMods saw action Thursday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. 

Berry and Whitwell both raced from ninth starting spots to win qualifying features and $777.

Berry passed four-time race winner Terry Phillips for the front spot midway through the first 25-lap qualifier. Phillips and first-time Duel contestant Jeff Aikey chased the leader into lapped traffic but neither could make a bid when the race ended green, white, checkered. 

"I tried some other stuff I haven't tried all year," Berry said from victory lane. "I came up on some stuff at the end of the year but haven't had the track to test it on. I went with my gut and it seemed like it worked out."

Ethan Braaksma slipped past Jeff Taylor in the late going to nail down the fourth and final transfer spot.

Mechanical issues slowed early leader Zane DeVilbiss, who brought out the caution flag 12 laps into the second qualifier. Whitwell drove from third to first following the restart and was still in front when the generator powering the back straight lights went out.  

The race was declared official, with Chaz Baca, Benji LaCrosse and Ricky Thornton Jr. rounding out the top four. 

"The track was really racy. I could run high, I could run low," said Whitwell, who like Berry made the most of the fast line coming out of turn two. "I had real good times in the heat race. We made some changes to the car and they all worked out. I got passed early but I passed those guys back and I knew I could get to the front."

Thornton withdrew his finish in hopes of getting a better starting spot in Friday qualifying, promoting 2004 and 2009 race winner Johnny Saathoff to Saturday's main event field. 

Michael Johnson was the Northern SportMod winner, dominating early in racing from 10th starting to the $500 checkers.

Cody Thompson, Guy Ahlwardt, Jason George, Brandon Schmitt and Shawn Harker rounded out the six transfer positions.

Racing starts at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Duel In The Desert is broadcast by www.IMCA.TV


Qualifying Feature Results

First Modified feature
1. Tom Berry Jr., Newburg, N.D.; 2. Terry Phillips, Springfield, Mo.; 3. Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls, Iowa; 4. Ethan Braaksma, Newton, Iowa; 5. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 6. Robert Hellebust, Minot, N.D.; 7. Shane DeVolder, Pacifica, Calif.; 8. Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.; 9. Jeremy Frenier, Fort Morgan, Colo.; 10. Casey Skyberg, Rapid City, S.D.; 11. Kyle Heckmann, Bakersfield, Calif.; 12. Lance Mari, El Centro, Calif.; 13. Tanner Black, Otis, Kan.; 14. Scott Brown, Meriden, Kan.; 15. Paul Stone, Winton, Calif.; 16. Grey Ferrando, Stayton, Ore.; 17. Logan Drake, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; 18. Austin Arneson, Fargo, N.D.; 19. Andy Obertello, Hollister, Calif.; 20. Albert Gill, Central Point, Ore.; 21. Russell Allen, Brawley, Calif.; 22. Sean Stacy, Kearny, Ariz.; 23. Wade Kennemore, Susanville, Calif.; 24. Dustin Grabowski, Upland, Calif.; 25. Kody Scholpp, Estevan, Sask.; 26. Nick DeCarlo, Martinez, Calif.; 27. Jimmy Reeves, Albert, Kan.; 28. Justen Yeager, Green River, Wyo.; 29. Shane DeMey, Denison, Iowa; 30. Steve Noland, Terra Bella, Calif.

Second Modified feature
1. R.C. Whitwell, Tucson, Ariz.; 2. Chaz Baca, Mesa, Ariz.; 3. Benji LaCrosse, Green Bay, Wis.; 4. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 5. Johnny Saathoff, Beatrice, Neb.; 6. Jake O'Neil, Tucson, Ariz.; 7. Ethan Dotson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 8. Scott Drake, Diamond, Mo.; 9. Jacob Hobscheidt, Plattsmouth, Neb.; 10. Jesse Sobbing, Malvern, Iowa; 11. Cody Laney, Torrance, Calif.; 12. Christy Barnett, El Paso, Texas; 13. Kyle Brown, Madrid, Iowa; 14. D.J. Shannon, Merced, Calif.; 15. Daniel Drury, Eldora, Iowa; 16. Wade Taylor, Spring Creek; 17. Alex Stanford, Chowchilla, Calif.; 18. Casey Delp, Rock Springs, Wyo.; 19. Collen Winebarger, Corbett, Ore.; 20. Eddie Belec, Arvada, Colo.; 21. Braxton Yeager, Green River, Wyo.; 22. Bobby Hogge IV, Salinas, Calif.; 23. Jason Beaulieu, Campbell River, B.C.; 24. Dominic Ursetta, Arvada, Colo.; 25. Steven Bowers Jr., Topeka, Kan.; 26. Zane DeVilbiss, Farmington, N.M.; 27. Jeremy Richey, Medford, Ore.; 28. Bryan Wulfenstein, Pahrump; 29. Tripp Gaylord, Lakewood, Colo.; 30. Zack VanderBeek, New Sharon, Iowa.

Northern SportMod feature
1. Michael Johnson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 2. Cody Thompson, Sioux City, Iowa; 3. Guy Ahlwardt, Antioch, Calif.; 4. Jason George, Laveen, Ariz.; 5. Brandon Schmitt, Sun Prairie, Wyo.; 6. Shawn Harker. Nebraska City, Neb.; 7. Matt Looft, Swea City, Iowa; 8. Jason Nation, Bakersfield, Calif.; 9. Luke Krogh, Dickinson, N.D.; 10. Kevin Johnson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 11. Arie Schouten, Omaha, Neb.; 12. Billy Simkins, Bakersfield, Calif.; 13. Kelly Henderson, Minot, N.D.; 14. Robert Elliott, Clinton, Okla.; 15. Ricky Childress Jr., Bakersfield, Calif.; 16. Randy Miller, San Jose, Calif.; 17. Jorddon Braaten, Central Point, Ore.; 18. Cory Hemphill, Yuma, Ariz.; 19. Doff Cooksey, Brentwood, Calif.; 20. Brylon Holder, Bakersfield, Calif.; 21. Joe Docekal, Dysart, Iowa; 22. Darin Center, Mesa, Ariz.; 23. Chris McKellar, Bakersfield, Calif.; 24. Cody Olsen, Omaha, Neb.; 25. Brady Bjella, Williston, N.D.; 26. Nick Spainhoward, Bakersfield, Calif.; 27. Andy Clower, Laveen, Ariz.; 28. Jake Sachau, Denison, Iowa; 29. Chuck Weir, Merced, Calif.; 30. Les Friend, Galt, Calif.