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Goodguys Rod & Custom 2017 Southwest Nationals "Duel in the Desert at Westworld"

Photo of convertible at the Goodguys Rod & Customs Southwest Nationals2017

Just one of the beautiful cars at the Goodguys Rod & Custom Southwest Nationals 2017

The Goodguys Rod & Custom 20th Southwest Nationals held at Westworld in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been one of the biggest and best car shows in the country. But it seemed that this year’s attendance was off the charts. The coolest part of the big show has to be the autocross. For nearly ten years show goers, participants, and spectators alike, have been treated to the autocrossers grand finale, “Duel in the Desert”. Seriously, these are the finals we are talking about drawing racing biggest names like Al Unser Jr. and his cousin Robby Unser, along with the likes of the Leisinger Family, et al, of Summit Racing Equipment just to name a few.

Photo of custom cars on display at the 2017 Southwest Nationals

Goodguys Rod & Custom showcases over 3,000 incredible vehicles at the Southwest Nationals

Over the course of a typical show/race season, the “pro” autocrossers earn points based on their finish. The top points earners ultimately receive an invite to participate in the grand finale, Duel in the Desert. The shootout field starts with the Top 18 invites. An additional 14 spots allow for the opportunity for those who did not earn enough points for an invite to qualify or rather race their way into the event. Qualifying runs all day Friday until noon on Saturday. And the competition gets rather stiff. We are talking about the nation’s top autocrossers converging upon Scottsdale to see if they’ve got what it takes to compete for real cash and prizes, not just bragging rights.

Photo of the pit area at the Duel in the Desert in Scottsdale

Great shot of the pit at the 2017 Southwest Nationals Duel in the Desert

Let’s set the scene for this incredible event. We are talking about over 3,000 rods, customs, classics, muscle cars, and trucks through 1972. The “Top 12” cars and trucks of the year presented by Meguiar’s are on display. Along with the Duel in the Desert Autocross Finals Shootout, any participant can try their hand at the K&N filters All American Sunday, welcoming American made or powered vehicles of all years! And if you need even more horsepower you can head over to Nitro Thunderfest Dragster Exhibition. There are literally hundreds of vendors and manufacturers exhibits, a swap meet, the Cars 4 Sale Corral, and so much more. But let’s get back to the shootout!

A photo of the Saturday afternoon shootout board with racer pairing.

A glimpse into the Saturday afternoon shootout pairing.

K&N had several race team drivers on hand to compete for the win. The coolest by far though had to be seeing Mike Maier competing in Mike and Ingrid Ansell’s bad ass big block 1972 Corvette with the MMI designed and tuned suspension. The Ansell’s have owned this beautiful C3 since the mid-90s and have been regularly competing at events in Northern California since their purchase. After seeing, competing with, and having spent time with Maier at some local events, Ansell approached Maier to discuss improving the suspension and handling on he and his wife’s Vette.

Photo of Jane Thurmond in her C2 as she comes off the autocross course

Jane Thurmond in her 1964 Chevrolet Corvette as she comes off the autocross course

In fact, Mike Ansell wanted to work alongside Mike Maier to create the perfect setup. He was ready to do the work. And that’s just what he did. Together, the two Mikes sought out those competitors who’d been instrumental in performance car set-up in the Trans Am series, along with folks who had seen great success at the local level. To that, Mike Maier implemented his years of suspension and race experience along with a little MMI flavor to come up with the suspension we see today in that beautiful burgundy C3, what Mike Maier refers to as the “every man” or “any man’s” car. That car that came from the dealer forty years ago that still has some of the sexiest body lines and is perhaps one of the best platforms for an incredible pro-touring or autocross car.

Photo of Mike Maier, Mike & Ingrid Ansell in the pits discussing race strategy.

Great minds think alike. Mike Maier discussing strategy with Mike & Ingrid Ansell.

Earlier in the year Mike Maier qualified in the Ansell’s Corvette and received an invite to the Southwest Finals for the greatly anticipated Duel in the Desert Shootout where he would compete against folks like Brian Hobaugh, Bret Voelkel, Greg Thurmond, Al Unser Jr., Josh Leisinger, and Robby Unser to name just a few. As his weekend progressed he was able to get a great feel for the competition and the course. And let’s talk about the course! Really it felt like four drag races with a couple of showcase turns and some minor wiggles between. It was fast and fun and the weather was quite ideal with the exception of a minor rain delay on Friday. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of our competitors.

Photo of Robby Unser in the Speedway Motors purpose built '68 Camaro on track

The legendary Robby Unser on course in the Speedway Motor purpose built 1968 Camaro

On the flip side, our K&N team driver, Jane Thurmond, had to actually race her way in to qualify to compete in the shootout. There were 14 spots and she held the field on Friday maintaining a Top 5 spot securing her place in the shootout field. Saturday morning brought some fresh eyes and faster times among those hoping to qualify. The wind had picked up slightly, the skies were no longer overcast and the track played a little different on Saturday for our racers. Jane consistently laid down competitive lap times but couldn’t break past the 41 second mark going into the shootout. At noon Saturday, if you were hoping to have made the cut you’d have better done everything you could because qualifying was over and the field was set.

Shot of Robby Unser out on the autocross track doing donuts after hearing that he won the shootout!

Robby Unser and the Speedway Motors purpose built 1968 Camaro tearing up the course after the win

Our team drivers made it. Maier by invite and Thurmond by qualifying. The real pressure would begin come one o’clock on Saturday afternoon. A quick drivers meeting and the reveal of just who would race who. In the third round, Jane was paired with 12-time SCCA Champion, race mentor, and friend Mary Pozzi. After a fast and clean run by Thurmond, Pozzi came out for the win by laying down a faster run and would move on to the second round of the shootout where she would subsequently be inched out by Detroit Speeds, Ryan Matthews.

Photo of Wes Drelleshak in his '59 Chevy Apache out on the autocross course

Wes Drelleshak and his 1959 Chevy Apache tearing up the autocross track

Mike Maier, with a fastest qualifying lap time of 40.709, would be paired with fellow NorCal racer and friend Mike Erickson who laid down a lap time of 41.888 and would give up the win allowing Maier to move on within the shootout. In the second round, Mike Maier would go on to beat Jason Tanner from Speedway Motors, who didn’t let up one bit. In the semi-finals, Mike would beat Josh Leisinger by a mere 3/10th’s of a second and left the crowd in the grandstands and pit area cheering. As other racers fell away from the shootout, only two competitors were left, Mike Maier and Robby Unser competing in his 1968 purpose built Speedway Motors Chevrolet Camaro. And Maier in the 1972 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Ingrid and Mike Ansell, the “every man” car with the 20-year-old big block motor. To have made it to the finals in and of itself was an achievement. But it was time to go racing.

Mike Maier, Mike & Ingrid Ansell with check in hand in front of their '72 Corvette.

Mike Maier, Mike and Ingrid Ansell and their 1972 Corvette, alongside their Goodguys purse!

Maier would run first and lay down an incredible lap time of 40.5 seconds, however, he nicked a cone and that left the door wide open for Unser to come in laying down a fast, clean run and walk away with the win. But Robby didn’t just play it safe. He had been on fire throughout the shootout and was the only competitor to run clean in the 39s. In true Unser fashion, he didn’t disappoint and brought home another high 39-second lap, clean. Upon being informed of his win, he turned that Camaro loose on the course and treated the crowd to the smokiest donut show and the crowd went wild. What a great way to end the day.

Photo of Eric Sheely and his Ford Focus RS, winner of All American Sunday

Eric Sheely in his 2017 Ford Focus RS after the win on K&N filters All American Sunday

Sunday saw the K&N filters All American Sunday with a field of forty enthusiasts and die-hard autocrossers getting out on track and laying down their fastest lap times. We had a chance to see old muscle and new and everything in between. Eric Sheely in his 2017 Ford Focus RS came away with the fastest lap of the day with a time of 41.646. Truly a fantastic day for Eric and the Sheely posse.

K&N Engineering is proud to be a part of the Goodguys Rod & Custom shows and very proud to be a part of this community. We would like to congratulate our drivers and the winners of the 2017 Southwest Nationals.


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