Laughlin Desert: Day one report

LAUGHLIN, Nev.-Locked in a classic desert duel, Dale Dondel, Troy Herbst, and Steve Sourapas find themselves separated by a mere two minutes, 24 seconds heading into Sunday's final day of the 8th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, being held...

LAUGHLIN, Nev.-Locked in a classic desert duel, Dale Dondel, Troy Herbst, and Steve Sourapas find themselves separated by a mere two minutes, 24 seconds heading into Sunday's final day of the 8th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, being held along the banks of the Colorado river adjacent to the growing Southern Nevada resort destination of Laughlin.

Racing in the unlimited Class 1, the talented trio are leading a field of 123 entries in the first major motorsports race of the year-the opening round of the six-race 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series, America's foremost desert racing series. Racers have come from 12 states, Mexico and Japan to launch the new racing season during the unique, four-day SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, which included Thursday's pre-race $25,000 Laughlin Leap and Pit Crew Showdown.

Driving a Chevy-powered Nye Frank open-wheel desert race car, Dondel, of Hemet, Calif., covered the 52 miles in 45 minutes, 25 seconds with an impressive average speed of 68.70 miles per hour. Herbst, the Las Vegas racer who drives a Ford-powered Smithbuilt, trails Dondel by 1:36, while Sourapas, last year's overall winner in the event, is third in a Chevy-powered Jimco, 48 seconds behind Herbst and 2:24 behind Dondel.

Split into two days of racing with 17 classes for desert race cars and exotic race trucks divided into seven groups for seven separate races each day. From sunrise to sunset, racers cover the 13-mile loop course in multiple lap races with time limits of 75 or 85 minutes each. The event finishing order, by class, will be based on the combined two-day elapsed time of each racer.

In the marquee SCORE Trophy-Truck division, Jerry Welchel, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., gave his driver of record teammate Mark Post, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., a 51-second first day lead in the Riviera Racing Ford F-150. Jason Baldwin has his driver of record younger brother Josh Baldwin in second after the first four laps, 55 seconds behind the leaders.

With 11 vehicles, third in the class is the Enduro Racing team of Dan Smith/David Ashley, of Riverside, Calif., in another Ford F-150. Last year's SCORE Trophy-Truck season champs, the Smith/Ashley duo is 32 seconds behind the Baldwins. Fourth is Las Vegas' Brian Collins in his Collins Motorsports Chevy Silverado, 50 seconds back of Smith/Ashley.

In the heated Class 1 battle, Dondel led from the start, but Herbst turned in the fastest lap of the day, when he powered to an 11:16 time on his second lap. The extremely consistent Dondel turned his four laps in times of 11:25, 11:19, 11:19 and 11:22.

Leading a 14-vehicle field in Protruck is Steve Barlow, Temecula, Calif., in a Ford F-150. Midway through the race, Barlow, the defending Laughlin Protruck champion, leads two more Ford F-150s driven by Scott Steinberger, Cypress, Calif., and Las Vegas' Steve Olliges. Barlow, with a time of 51:22 (60.74mph), leads Steinberger, who is also racing in SCORE Trophy-Truck where he sits in seventh place, by just 19 seconds and Olliges by 3:36.

The start/finish line area is at the Laughlin Events Park at Edison Drive and Bruce Woodbury Way. In front of grandstands, a vendor's village and food court, the stadium-style course includes the Laughlin Leep, switchback turns, mini-jumps and moguls, helping to give spectators the rare opportunity to cheer their favorite desert racers up-close.

Other class leaders Saturday included: Rick Ellison, Selma, Calif. (Class 10-Chenowth); Craig Turner, Yorba Linda, Calif. (Class 7-Ford Ranger); Doug Siewert, Oceanside, Calif./Cory Susag, Dana Point, Calif. (Class 7S-Chevy S-10); Shad Kennedy, Hemet, Calif. (SCORE Lite-Raceco); Nick Vanderway, Buckeye, Ariz. (Class 8-Chevy Silverado); Ernie Castro, Aliso Viejo, Calif. (Class 1-2/1600-Chenowth); George Seeley Jr., Glendale, Calif. (Class 5-VW Baja Bug) Dr. Macrae Glass, Kingman, Ariz. (Stock Mini-Ford Ranger); and Dave Sykes, Del Mar, Calif. (Stock Full-Ford F-150).

Race weekend festivities started with the extremely popular $25,000 Laughlin Leap and Pit Crew Showdown on Thursday. In the Laughlin Leap, Dondel was the overall winner with a leap of 130 feet, 11 inches. Doug Siewert, Oceanside, Calif./Cory Susag, Dana Point, Calif., won the Small Truck division with a leap of 95'2"in a Ford Ranger and Las Vegas' Ed and Tim Herbst won the Big Truck division in a Ford F-150 (124'3").

In the Pit Crew Showdown, the SCORE Lite team of Vic Bruckmann, Lemon Grove, Calif., was the overall and open wheel division winner with a time of one minute, 7.89 seconds. The Protruck crew of Rick Johnson, Barstow, Calif., won the truck division in 1:05.12.

All of the Laughlin Leap and Pit Crew Showdown winners earned $3,000 each.

The 8th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge is sponsored by the Laughlin Tourism Committee, the Laughlin Visitors Bureau, a division of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Las Vegas Events.

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Series Score
Drivers Jason Baldwin , Aliso Viejo , Mark Post , Troy Herbst