Laughlin Desert: Event report

Dan Smith Wins SCORE Trophy-Truck Dondel Brothers Outlast Troy Herbst to Capture Class 1, Overall Victories at SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge 114 Racers Open 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series LAUGHLIN, Nev.-Southern California racing brothers...

Dan Smith Wins SCORE Trophy-Truck
Dondel Brothers Outlast Troy Herbst to Capture Class 1, Overall Victories at SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge

114 Racers Open 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series

LAUGHLIN, Nev.-Southern California racing brothers Dale and Mike Dondel held off a comeback charge by Las Vegas' Troy Herbst to claim the overall victory Sundayat the 8th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, 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 Dondels beat a field of 114 racers 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 came 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.

Dan Smith, driving both halves of the two-day event while his driving partner Dave Ashley was sidelined with a stomach ailment, came from behind to win the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division in his Enduro Racing Ford F-150.

Driving a Chevy-powered Nye Frank open-wheel desert race car, the Dondels, of Hemet, Calif., covered the 104 mile race run as eight laps over a 13-mile course in a total elapsed time of one hour, 33 minutes, 28 seconds with an impressive average speed of 66.76 miles per hour. Dale Dondel drove Saturday and Mike Dondel fnished up Sunday. Herbst, the Las Vegas racer who drives a Ford-powered Smithbuilt, finished one minute, 35 minutes behind the Dondels despite finishing Sunday's second half of the race in the front, one second faster than the Dondels.

The event was 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 covered the 13-mile loop course in multiple lap races with time limits of 75 or 85 minutes each. The event finishing order, by class, was based on the combined two-day elapsed time of each racer.

"My big brother did all the set up work for me on this one by giving me a big lead to start the day with," said Mike Dondel, 25, about his older brother Dale, 37. "I had the opportunity to play it safe and win or do something foolish and lose and I think I worked it well enough to stay ahead of Troy and everybody else."

In the marquee SCORE Trophy-Truck division, the top two first-day leaders Mark Post, San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Jerry Welchel, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., and brothers Josh and Jason Baldwin had problems Sunday, falling far back in the field.

With 11 vehicles competing, Smith was third in the class through Saturday's first half of the race-1:53 behind Post/Welchel and 1:02 behind the Baldwins. Moving up to finish second for the race after being fifth after Saturday was Damen Jefferies, Oak Hills, Calif., in the Herman Motorsports Ford F-150, just 45 seconds behind Smith. A three-time SCORE class champion in three different classes, the race was the first for Jefferies in the SCORE Trophy-Truck division.

In the heated Class 1 battle, the extremely consistent Dondel turned his four laps in times of 11:25, 11:19, 11:19 and 11:22 on Saturday and backed it up on Sunday with times of 12:08, 12:02, 11:54 and 11:59. Finishing third behind the Dondels and Herbst in Class 1 was the team of Wayne Lugo, Ontario, Calif./Craig Stewart, Santee, Calif., with a total time of 1:36:32 in a Ford-powered Stewart's buggy.

Capturing the win in a 14-vehicle field in Protruck was Steve Barlow, Temecula, Calif., in a Ford F-150. In winning his class in this race for the second straight year, Barlow beat two more Ford F-150s driven by Rick Johnson, Barstow, Calif., and Al Hogan, Columbus, Mont.. Barlow, with a time of 1:51:55 (55.76mph), defeated Johnson by just under two minutes and Hogan by3:11.

Veteran George Seeley Jr., Glendale, Calif., continued his Class 5 winning ways in Laughlin as he cruised to his fourth straight win in the race and his fifth in the last six years in the class for unlimited VW Baja Bugs. Seeley became the first driver to earn five class wins in this race.

Other class winners included: Dennis Kordonowy, Carson City, Nev.. (Class 10-Homebuilt); Craig Turner, Yorba Linda, Calif. (Class 7-Ford Ranger); Doug Siewert, Oceanside, Calif./Cory Susag, Dana Point, Calif. (Class 7S-Chevy S-10); Vic Bruckmann, Lemon Grove, Calif. (SCORE Lite-Jimco); Joe Patelli, Romoland, Calif. (Class 8-Chevy Blazer); Mitch Griffin, Newbury Park, Calif. (Class 1-2/1600-Lothringer); Allan Gregory, Alpine, Calif. (Class 5/1600-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. Siewert/ Susag, 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, 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 was sponsored by the Laughlin Tourism Committee, the Laughlin Visitors Bureau, a division of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Las Vegas Events.

Round 2 of the 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series will be the 15th Annual Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 in Baja California, Mexico.

For more information, contact SCORE International at its Los Angeles headquarters at (818) 225-8402 or visit the official Duralast SCORE Desert Series website at


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Series Score
Drivers Jason Baldwin , Damen Jefferies , Mark Post , Tim Herbst , Troy Herbst