SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - November 2018

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 47 of 97

TEAM C PUSHES TO THE FRONT With Ricky Johnson behind the wheel, Larry Conner’s Team C earns the first starting position at the 51st SCORE BaJa 1000 By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo It’s rare when off-road fans get to see SCORE Trophy Trucks catch big air and kick up dirt on a short .6-mile course. But when it happens during the SCORE Baja 1000 Qualifying Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, it’s an awesome spectacle to watch. It’s even better when you’re the one racer with the fastest qualifying time. For short course experts like Robby Gordon, Rob MacCachren, and Bryce Menzies, it’s almost a sure bet they were going to battle for the fastest time, but when Ricky Johnson, driving the Team C SCORE Trophy Truck for Larry Conner came out, he demonstrated what it really took to win the pole position for a race he’s wanted to win overall. Johnson is well known in the motorsports world, as one of the best motorcycle riders in history. The AMA Hall of Fame inductee and 7x Professional Motocross/Supercross champion made his reputation on two wheels, earning him worldwide notoriety. After retiring from that, he moved into four-wheels, driving and starting short-course off-road races as well as NASCAR stock car racing. With a career other racers would envy, Johnson had one thing missing from his list of accomplishments, winning overall in Baja. “I always loved SCORE racing,” said Johnson. “When I retired from motocross, I wanted to race the SCORE Baja 1000.” Johnson managed to win two SCORE Baja Championships, One was on two-wheels, winning the Class 30 Championship in 1997. He backed that up on four-wheels, winning the ProTruck Class Championship in 2003, racing with Matt and Steve Scaroni. But the overall SCORE Trophy Truck win was always out of reach. “My career took a different path and I didn’t have the money to build a team and get back into it,” said Johnson. “Racing stadium trucks and stock cars, I got back into off-road on a short course through Red Bull, but I never wanted to stop racing in Baja.” All that changed when Johnson was called by Justin Matney in 2016 to drive during the SCORE Baja 10000 Qualifying, where he drove the four-wheel drive Geiser built Chevy to the pole position. In 2017, Larry Connor of Team C wanted to improve his driving skills, and asked Johnson for some coaching to learn some of his short-track techniques. “He liked what I was doing,” said Johnson. “We did some testing and the team appreciated my two-cents, and liked the data. Connor then offered me a seat last year, and here we are again.” During qualifying, Johnson’s first of two laps had him on two wheels around several corners. “I almost threw it away, but the truck saved me,” said Johnson about the Neil Mason designed 4wd Trophy Truck. “It was the second lap that put it all together for us and we got a much faster time to win the Dana/Spicer Ultimate Top Qualifier award.” This gives Johnson and Connor another good chance at winning the SCORE Baja 1000 with Team C. “I ran with Larry last year and we ended up sixth,” said Johnson. “It was quite disappointing after we lead the race for nearly 800 miles and then had a failure. This will hopefully be our redemption.” Team C definitely proved that it has the capability of being one of the fastest vehicles in the desert, but would the 4wd truck last 1000 miles in Baja? Johnson seems to think so. “There’s been a lot more technology from other four-wheel racing that has helped the transition from solid front axle to an independent front suspension on these types of vehicles,” says Johnson. “Taking that technology into the SCORE Trophy Trucks has been pretty amazing. I drove here (qualifying) too aggressively and then realized I had to change my lines. After doing that, we were three seconds faster than everybody. Four-wheel drive Trophy Trucks are definitely the future.” Now that the team is ready for the 51st SCORE Baja 1000, Johnson believes the overall win is within reach. “Larry has done a great job with the team,” said Johnson. “He is an unbelievable student and that makes me a better teacher. We have great communication and I like the fact that he didn’t just buy a SCORE Trophy Truck to haul ass, Larry is dedicated to making this work.” According to Johnson, he will start the 51st SCORE Baja 1000 and run the first of three sections, then hand the truck over to Larry Connor. Connor will then drive mid-race and hand the truck over to Johnson’s son Luke for the finish. “I haven’t been on a team together with my son Luke, so this is another reason why I’m so looking forward to this race,” said Johnson. “There are so many great things that have come together for us this season, and I have to thank Team C, Mason Motorsports, Ray Field (Dougan Racing Engines), and BFGoodrich tires for all their help. It’s also important for me to thank Dana/Spicer for the award and for supporting off-road motorsports. Being here during qualifying and going up against the best, such as Bryce Menzies, Robby Gordon, and Rob MacCachren is humbling.” While everything is falling into place for Team C, they will still be competing against some very tough competition. “This is going to be a tough race with guys like Luke McMillin teaming up with Larry Roeseler,” said Johnson. “Tavo Vildosola is also teaming up with Andy McMillin and you can’t count out Rob MacCachren either. I believe that at the end of the day, it’s going to be a five-truck race.” SJ Group Celebration after Dana Top Qualifier Award presented by Randall Speir (2nd from left) to Ricky.

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