SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - May 2019

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

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Page 17 of 92

The SCORE BaJa 500’s Greatest Victors By Dan Sanchez The SCORE Baja 500 had produced some of off-road motorsport’s greatest legends. While some have left deep roots in Baja and were instrumental in changing the sport of off-road racing, four racers have won the SCORE Baja 500 more than anyone else. Ranking at the top with most overall wins is Larry Roeseler with 11, and Ivan Stewart with 10. Since not all racers have won the SCORE Baja 500 in the fastest classes to win the overall, two top racers, Rod Hall and Jim O’Neal, have earned the honor of having the most class wins in the race. LARRY ROESELER The Man BaJa Fears Most With eleven overall SCORE Baja 500 race victories, it doesn’t appear that anyone soon will beat Larry Roeseler’s career winning record. What makes his achievements more admirable is that Roeseler has won the race both on two wheels and four. Roeseler’s first SCORE Baja 500 race was in 1972 when he was only 15 years old. Roeseler’s first SCORE Baja 500 win was in 1975 and later rode for the Husqvarna and then moved onto Kawasaki. Over his career on motorcycles, Roeseler rode with other legendary off-road motorcycle racers such as Bruce Ogilvie, Jack Johnson, Chris Haines, and many others. After 20 years of racing on two-wheels, Roeseler got into four-wheel vehicles driving for Walker Evans then moving on to the team of Joe MacPherson, driving a Class 7 truck. Roeseler then moved into the SCORE Trophy Truck class teaming up with Ivan Stewart on the PPI team for a short time, and later driving with the Herbst/Smith team, teaming up with Troy Herbst in the famous Landshark Truggy. Roeseler still races in the Trophy Truck Legends class, demonstrating that age has no limits if you love what you’re doing. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we’re not as talented as he is. Ragland remains as the one racer with the most overall wins at the SCORE Baja 500 and continues to rack up wins in this race with a total of 17 Pro Class wins to his name. IVAN STEWART The BaJa 500 Master One can’t talk about the history of the SCORE Baja 500 without including Ivan Stewart. In his 30-years of professional off-road racing, Ivan Stewart won the overall SCORE Baja 500 10 times, making him the most winning racer of this particular race on four wheels. Add to the fact that he’s won them all driving solo, and Stewart is in a complete category of his own, making it doubtful anyone will be able to match anytime soon. Most people recognize Stewart as the leading champion in Class 7 and SCORE Trophy Truck, but he also drove single and two-seater buggies early in his career, which ultimately helped him earn a total of 17 class victories in this race, matching the number of class wins with Larry Roeseler. Stewart’s long career and winning streak in Baja earned him a reputation as the sport’s leading champion and he became the inspiration for many of today’s SCORE champion racers. His desire to drive and win solo earned him the nickname “ironman,” given to him by Mickey Thompson during the early days of SCORE International. Add the fact that Stewart never had a major crash during a Baja race, and was one of the first racers to work with an OE auto manufacturer like Toyota, escalated him quickly into legendary status. Everyone wanted to be an off-road racer like Ivan Stewart. In his own words, and those of the racers he influenced, Stewart had an uncanny ability to read the terrain and make mental notes. Amazingly, without the help of modern GPS and especially a navigator in the vehicle, he could recall every part of the race’s 500 miles and know where to place the vehicle and avoid obstacles. With an incredible ability to win and a humble reputation as a great man that gave back to the sport he loved best, Ivan “Ironman” Stewart remains as Baja’s biggest legend. Rod Hall Perfect Attendance Pays Off Considered the “racing man’s” racer, Rod Hall began his off-road career without huge sponsors an on a shoestring budget. He began his career with Larry Minor, by purchasing a Jeep for $1,700 and headed off to Baja, “with nothing more than a compass and some sandwiches,” he said. He was present at the first Baja 500, as well as the first Mexican 1000 race in 1967, and participated in every subsequent Baja 500 and Baja 1000 race throughout an amazing 50-year career before retiring in 2017 at the 50th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000. Hall proved that the “regular guy” could go out and compete in a race like the SCORE Baja 500, but Hall was a much more talented driver than most of the racers who he inspired to come into the sport. Despite not having the backing, support, and pit-crew early in his racing career, Hall won the Mexican 1000 in 1969 in a Bill Stroppe Ford Bronco. This eventually led him to be on Walker Evans’ team and ultimately gained the support of Jeep and Hummer later in his career. Although Hall never won the SCORE Baja 500 overall, he has amassed an incredible 18 Pro Class championships in this race, adding to his total of 25 class wins in the SCORE World Desert Challenge Series throughout his career. Proving that it takes guts and determination to win, Hall earned the respect of his peers and inclusion into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of fame. His reputation as one of Baja’s best and most outspoken racers will always have a place in off-road racing history. Jim O’Neal The Record Holder If there’s anyone who can say they have the most class wins in the SCORE Baja 500, it would be the veteran motorcycle racer, Jim O’Neil. With 20 Pro class wins, Jim O’Neal is truly a figure to look up to when it comes to consistency and determination on two wheels. At age 71, O’Neil continues to race in various Pro Moto age classes, teaming up with both younger and veteran racers. His capabilities as a motorcycle racer are undeniably astounding, but considering he began riding at the age of 15 in 1961 and got into racing, honing his skills by entering into many races year after year. His first Baja race wasn’t until 1981, but by that time O’Neil had been racing motocross for nearly two decades. As the owner of the O’Neil Motorcycle apparel company, O’Neil is very much a part of the sport and the success of his business, which is celebrating its 49th anniversary this year. O’Neil’s passion for racing has been contagious for numerous racers and class champions within SCORE, and with the ability to team up with 30-year old racers in Pro Moto 30 and other Pro classes, O’Neil continues to inspire racers to challenge themselves and pursue their passion. SJ

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