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A SWIFT RETURN Former Ford Rough Rider John Swift, Comes Back To SCORE In The Trophy Truck Legends Class By Dan Sanchez Photos by Kris Pallesen Centerline Images The SCORE 2020 Season will have some additional competition from new and legendary racers competing in various classes. One of the most exciting classes this season is the SCORE Trophy Truck Legends class, where the competition will be fierce, especially with former Ford Rough Rider John Swift returning and joining forces with Class 8 Champion Dave Westhem in a new Trophy Truck. The two have raced before winning the SCORE Baja 1000 in 2017 in Class 8, but when Westhem talked to Swift about competing with him in the Legends Class this season, Swift did not hesitate to jump in. Swift has a long history in desert racing, which he says began with his dad Ray Swift who was racing in the 1960s. “My dad connected with Vic Hickey and because he was a GM mechanic, Hickey asked him to work on his vehicles,” says Swift. “My dad worked the pits with Vic in the late 1960s and helped with the effort on the Baja Boot and the Banshee.” The Banshee was another of Hickey’s creations. It was a short wheelbase tube chassis that Hickey built specifically for off-road racing, but it was outfitted with a modified Oldsmobile Cutlass body that was designed by the famous Hollywood car builder George Barris. “As a kid, I hung around the shop watching my dad. He later bought the Banshee from actor James Garner, who raced it for two years,” said Swift. “My dad then raced it with Indy Car racer, Wally Dallenbach Sr. I was lucky enough to go with them to the 1972 Baja 1000, where I became engulfed in the Baja racing scene. By 1974, SCORE International was in place, so my family had been racing in Baja from the beginning. My dad’s first experiences racing there were in buggies, so naturally, I got to race them as well. They teach you how to handle the car with minimal power and in doing so you finish races more. I raced buggies until the mid-’80s until I got involved with Off-Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame Inductee, Dick Landfield. I began stadium off-road racing as well as desert racing in a 4x4 Ford Ranger.” Swift had a shop in Riverside, California where he worked on the Ranger and got Curt LeDuc to team-up with him. “When I got started with the Ford Ranger, I brought in Curt to build it and co-drive with me in the 1980s,” said Swift. The Ranger competed in Class 7 in which Swift won the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000 in 1989, and won the SCORE Baja 500 in 1991. “While driving the Ranger, I had been working with Frank DeAngelo and when the Rough Riders team needed a Class 6 driver, I was chosen to run a Ford Explorer,” said Swift. “We campaigned that SUV for three years and won a Championship. In 1992 we finished the SCORE Baja 1000 fourth overall in that Class 6 Explorer. Only three Class 8 vehicles were ahead of me!” When SCORE Trophy Trucks broke into the off-road racing scene in 1995, Swift was still with the Ford Rough Riders. “We built a vehicle and were on the leading edge of that class with guys like Dick Landfield, Jim Venable, Bill Stroppe and everyone involved with the Rough Riders team. Unfortunately, we didn’t have huge successes in the SCORE Trophy Truck class for the first season,” said Swift. “I had a disastrous race in Barstow and destroyed the Trophy Truck. Then at the SCORE Baja 500 that same year, I had a devastating crash that broke my arm and left my co-driver injured.” The event left Swift wanting to drive a single-seat vehicle buggy. In 1997, Swift came back to racing in short course desert races with former Rough Riders teammate Steve Olliges. “We ran together for a time and it got me back into racing,” said Swift. “We also began racing the Explorer again in some races and we also ran Class 7 for many years and won many championships in other racing venues.” It wasn’t until 2017 that Swift came back to SCORE, driving with Dave Westhem in a Class 8 truck to win the 50th SCORE Baja 1000. “That was an awesome race as we started with a problem and ended up passing everyone to finish first in class,” said Swift. “We had a broken shift cable in the wash just outside of town. We had to pull over and had no spare. A man in the crowd said he could get one and he allowed us to make the repairs and we finished the race.” Swift was the winningest driver of the Rough Riders program and with his experience, he and Westhem are hunting for a Class Championship this season. “I was excited when Dave asked me to race again this year, and it looks like he put together a great program,” said Swift. “Along with Dave’s former Class 8 co-driver Randy Salmont and a new SCORE Trophy Truck, we’ve got a great chance at achieving our goal.” SJ

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