Goodguys CPP AutoCross Series Duel in the Desert Champions Crowned at the 25th Speedway Motors Southwest Nationals
Goodguys CPP AutoCross Series racers faced a new format for competition in Scottsdale this year, with five 8-car Duel in the Desert shootouts – one for each competitive class (PRO-X, PRO, Street Machine, Sports Car, Truck). With some racers already pre-qualified for the shootouts based off season-ending points standings and others looking to race in based on qualifying times, it made for a frenetic Friday and fast Saturday morning of racing to get the shootout ladders established.
A total of 80 racers filled the pits early Friday morning and throughout the day a “make or break” line was strategically set allowing those race-in drivers who had a fighting chance more track time to make it in to one of the 8-car Duel in the Desert shootout fields. There were another three hours of track time on Saturday morning for a last-chance effort to make a Duel in the Desert field before the ladders were set and the shootouts began at 11am.
When the Saturday shootouts were complete, the winners were Jared Leisinger in the Speedtech Performance PRO-X class; Eric Sheely in the Summit Racing PRO class; Ryan Mathews in the Gearstar Sports Car class; Bill Graves Sr. in the Forgeline Street Machine class; and Dustin Reed in the LMC Truck class. And here is how they got there.
The Speedtech Performance PRO-X class kicked things off and the Leisinger brothers claimed the top two qualifying positions with Jared getting the top spot and Josh falling right behind in number two – a perfect scenario for the Summit Racing Corvette drivers to setup a final round match up. Claiming the number three spot was Team Speedway driver Robby Unser followed by David Carroll in his LS-powered Datsun. Rounding out the bottom half of the field was Mike Maier in the number five spot, Wes Drelleshak in the six spot, the second Team Speedway driver Al Unser Jr. claiming seventh and Dan Gagnon finishing the field in the number eight spot.
Jared Leisinger defeated Gagnon in the opening round with a 34.014 to a 36.116, Carroll beat Maier with a 34.501 to a 34.727, Josh Leisinger advanced past Al Unser Jr. with a fast 33.745 to a 35.348, and Robby Unser beat Drelleshak with a 34.455 to a 35.792. The action tightened up in the quarterfinals, but it was the Leisinger brothers both advancing to the final round. Jared beat Carroll with a 33.319 to a 34.008 and Josh beat R. Unser with a 33.374 to a 33.884. The final round was a true shootout between the brothers with a margin of victory of just .031-seconds – advantage going to Jared with a 33.029 to Josh’s loosing 33.060!
In the Summit Racing PRO class Chris Smith claimed the top qualifying spot in his second-gen Camaro followed by Ron Scott Jr. in his ’63 Corvette. Eric Sheely claimed the number three spot while Bob Bertelsen rounded out the top half in number four. Harrison Beach was seated five, Keith Corrigan in six, Brian Martin sat seventh, and Karen Leisinger claimed the number eight spot. There was only one upset win in the opening round and that was when Beach (5) beat Bertelsen (4) with a 36.375 to a 37.872. Other than that, the higher qualified car advanced which included Smith over Karen Leisinger (36.108 | 36.859), Scott Jr. over Martin (35.775 | 36.329), and Sheely over Corrigan in a CLOSE race (35.043 | 35.065)!
Up until this point in the PRO class the 34-second zone had yet to be broken, but the battle between Scott Jr. and Sheely brought out the best of both – Sheely was quicker and advanced to the final round with a 34.969 to Scott Jr.’s 34.974 – a MOV of just 5-thousandths of a second! On the other side of the ladder Smith beat Beach with a 35.537 to a 35.918 to claim the other spot in the final round match. Smith stayed consistent with another mid 35-second lap, but Sheely was on a roll since the second round and dropped his fastest pass of the weekend (34.682) to claim the PRO class Duel in the Desert victory in stunning fashion!
Moving into the Forgeline Street Machine class we should begin by congratulating Bill Graves Sr. on his 2022 CPP AutoCrosser of the Year title! The AutoCrosser of the Year title format was changed at the end of the 2021 season to reflect and honor a loyal supporter of the Goodguys CPP AutoCross racing series and thus was changed to an overall points championship. Bill Graves Sr. earned the most points throughout the 2022 season than any driver in any other class and rightfully earned one of the top titles in the 2022 Goodguys CPP AutoCross racing series. Congratulations, Bill!
You could say Graves was riding a high because he showed his dominance by qualifying in the top spot in the Street Machine Duel in the Desert field. Qualifying second was Ken Yeo followed by Roger Burman and Scot Spiewak to round out the top half of the field. Angela Payne claimed the number five spot, Chris Hall landed sixth, Pat Sheely found the field in the number seven spot, and Richard Giesey qualified in the number eight spot. It should be noted that Giesey actually drove his second-gen Camaro to Scottsdale from his hometown in Kentucky, and that the Street Machine class had the most competitors vying for a spot in the 8-car field.
When the Street Machine racing got underway it was Graves Sr. advancing past Giesey with a 35.621 to a 37.666, Payne getting the upset win over Spiewak with a 36.782 to a 36.877, Yeo advancing past Pat Sheely with a 36.770 to a 37.451, and Burman’s 36.966 bettering Hall’s 37.385. It would be the top two qualifiers making their way to the final round as Graves Sr. beat Payne with a 35.044 to a 35.799 and Yeo knocking out Burman with a 35.970 to a 36.376. Graves Sr. laid down another consistent 35-second lap beating Yeo in the final round with a 35.230 to a troubled 37.775.
The new Gearstar Sports Car class (for vehicles 1988-97) saw some stiff competition but it was much of the same with the top two qualifiers squaring off in the final round. Ryan Matthews claimed the top spot in his C4 Corvette followed by Scott Fraser also driving a C4 ‘Vette. Brian Johns slid into the number three spot and Tim Molzen claimed fourth driving a first year C5 Corvette. Rounding out the bottom-half of the qualified field in fifth-eighth were (in order) Mark Golovin, Chris Stoner, Antonio Quintana, and Ryan Flatt.
Much like the PRO and Street Machine classes the only upset in round one was the matchup between the number four and five qualifiers when Golovin beat Molzen with a 37.081 to a 38.536. Matthews beat Flatt with a 34.991 to a 40.320, Fraser advanced past Quintana with a 35.963 to a 40.962, and Johns moved on over Stoner with a 36.344 to a 37.858. The plot was shaping up for it to be a Matthews versus Fraser final round and that was the outcome when Matthews advanced past Golovin with a 34.674 to a 36.270 and Fraser beat Johns with a 35.671 to a 36.108. Matthews was living in the 34-second zone, so Fraser knew he had to get there. As a 3x Goodguys AutoCrosser of the Year, Fraser knows how, and when, to step up and did just that ripping off a 34.997 forcing Matthews complete a clean run. Matthews is an equal pro driver and did just that, plus more, running his quickest time of the weekend to claim the Sports Car Duel in the Desert victory with a 34.641.
The final class to run was the LMC Truck class and even though these trucks are built to race, they still haul if you know what we’re saying! Familiar face in the LMC Truck class Rob MacGregor set the pace with the top qualifying spot followed by Dustin Reed. Keenan Smith claimed the number three spot and Bill Kinsman found fourth. The bottom half of the field was set by Bill Shumate, Hondo Miller, Sean Bubeck, and Dick Speed. Each of the four top qualifiers advanced out of round one with MacGregor beating Speed with a 37.086 to a 39.334, Reed beating Bubeck with a 36.922 to a 38.887, Smith (37.125) advancing over Miller who did not finish his lap, and Kinsman beating Shumate with a 37.433 to a 37.902.
In the quarterfinals it was MacGregor beating Kinsman with a 35.827 to a 37.188 to claim a final round spot and Reed doing the same on the other side of the ladder beating Smith with a 36.709 to a 37.489. Reed found his groove and laid down his quickest time of the weekend in the final round with a 35.734 which was quick enough to beat the top qualifier MacGregor’s 35.949.
The AutoCross action peaked late Saturday afternoon after all the Duel in the Desert class shootouts were complete with the all-new King of the Desert Shootout, which was made up if the eight fastest vehicles of the weekend, regardless of class. The ladder included qualifiers from the PRO-X class (Jared Leisinger, Josh Leisinger, Robby Unser, David Carroll, and Mike Maier) the PRO class (Chris Smith), the Sports Car class (Ryan Matthews), and the Street Machine class (Bill Graves Sr.).
Much like the PRO-X qualifying, Jared Leisinger claimed the top qualifying spot followed by brother Josh in the number two spot. Robby Unser claimed number three followed by Sports Car driver Matthews in four. Carroll claimed the five spot, Street Machine racer Graves Sr. in six, Maier found seven and PRO class driver Smith rounded out the quick eight.
It seemed like the number four qualifying spot was the unlucky number as the same scenario played out in the King of the Desert shootout much like we saw in the earlier class Duel in the Desert shootouts where in the opening round that was the only upset victory – Carroll defeated the quicker-qualifier Mathews with a 34.222 to a 34.439. The other three drivers to advance were fellow PRO-X racers Jared Leisinger over Smith (34.333 | 35.133), Josh Leisinger over Maier (33.343 | 37.050). and Robby Unser over Graves Sr. (34.657 | 35.263).
David Carroll and Robby Unser pushed in their respective matchups against the Leisinger brothers but were no match. Jared beat Carroll with a 33.268 to a 34.212 and Josh beat Unser with a 33.038 to a 38.343. It came down to a familiar final round – brothers Jared and Josh Leisinger facing off in their Summit Racing-sponsored Corvettes. Josh claimed the win in an especially tight final lap, running a 33.232 to Jared’s 33.284 – a .052-second margin of victory and a double-up win for the Leisinger brothers in the Scottsdale desert!
2022 Duel in the Desert Photo Extra!
Photos by Terry Lysak & Damon Lee