Johnny "The Jet" Saathoff of Beatrice, Neb., won the 12th annual Duel in the Desert late Saturday night at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Saathoff, who also won the event in 2004, collected the $7,777.77 winner’s check on a chilly, breezy desert evening.
Ricky Alvarado took the lead on lap 2 when polesitter Chris Abelson slid high in Turn 2. At the halfway point (lap 20), it was Alvarado in first place, closely followed by Johnny "The Jet" Saathoff and Terry Phillips.
The first caution flag of the race flew on lap 21 when Kellen Chadwick’s car came to a stop in Turn 4. On the restart, Alvarado and Saathoff pulled away from the field. Their battle cooled off temporarily as the second caution flag appeared on lap 27 when three cars spun in Turn 2. The green flag flew for the restart and immediately was replaced by the yellow as five cars crashed in Turn 1. No one was injured and the car of Zane DeVilbiss took the worst of the damage.
The second restart with just 13 laps remaining saw Alvarado lead Saathoff and Phillips into Turn 1. Disaster struck in Turn 3 for Alvarado in Turn 3 as he slid high on the track and allowed Saathoff to slip past and grab the lead. Phillips also took advantage of the opportunity and took second place.
Saathoff immediately set sail and left the competition in his wake, leaving Phillips and Alvarado to fight for second place.
Saathoff, who started eighth, went on to win the event, followed by Phillips and Alvarado.
"We won a race here (2004) on a rubbered-up set-up," said Saathoff. "We’ve been dealing with this thing all week and it (the track) rubbered-up and we went right back to where we were a couple of weeks ago (a set-up used at another track with similar conditions). I was saving the right rear. There was a little bit of mud out there in Turn 3 and the front end skated. Ricky’s took off and mine took off and I held mine down and she was good. I wanted to get him (Alvarado) to wear his right-rear tire out. I wanted him to know he couldn’t coast – he needed to go a little faster. I just kept bangin’ on him."
Saathoff was quizzed about his $7,777.77 payday – the biggest of the 2009 IMCA season.
"You know, business is slow, so this is really gonna help," Saathoff explained.
Twelve 15-lap Last-Chance Races were run at the beginning of the evening. Only the winner advanced to the A-Feature and competition for the lone qualifying position was fierce. Last-Chance Races were won by: Derek Klima, Justen Yeager, Dylan Smith, Zane DeVilbiss, Kellen Chadwick, Jeremy Payne, Shane Stutzman, Grant Younghans, Jay Noteboom, Brad Pounds, Brandon Carley and Sonny Wahl.
Ricky Alvarado won the IMCA Modified Pole Dash and Wild West Modified Tour Shootout.
The 2009 edition of the Duel in the Desert boasted a record IMCA Modified entry list of 264 cars (from 24 states and four Canadian provinces). The previous record for entries – 219 – was set in 2008. LVMS officials announced a contract has been signed with IMCA to continue the Duel in the Desert to 2013 and next year’s A-Feature will pay $777 to start (up from $500 this year).
Bryan Gerald won the 20-lap Bomber feature.
Trent Murphy of Jefferson, Iowa, took the lead from Kevin Opheim in Turn 4 on the final lap to claim the 20-lap IMCA Stock Car feature.
The Legends Cars exhibition race was won by Jeremiah Wagner.
Go to LVMS.com for complete results.