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ACHIEVING LEGENDARY STATUS Former Class 8 Champion Dave Westhem returns to compete in the SCORE Trophy Truck Legends Class By Dan Sanchez Photos Courtesy Dave Westhem It’s hard for any current or former SCORE Baja racer to hang up their hat from competition completely. The SCORE Trophy Truck Legends class is an example of those racers who are 50-years of age or older and still compete at a high-level. With the class expanding during the 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship season with seasoned veterans of the sport, and former class champions, the competition is about to get tough. The latest to enter into the class is former SCORE Class 8 Champion Dave Westhem who is a 4X SCORE Baja 1000 class winner. His first experience in Baja was in 1983, racing in what was originally called the Safari Class. “I had been to Baja as a tourist and knew about SCORE races. In 1983, Sal Fish had designated the Safari Class for first-time racers at the SCORE Baja 1000, and I wanted to try it,” said Westhem. “It was essentially a 5-1600 car and it gave me my first taste for racing. We finished the race and I enjoyed it so much, I knew I had to get into off-road racing.” Westhem wanted something faster and came across a wrecked Class 8 truck that he purchased. “The truck belonged to Michael Nesmith of the Monkeys,” said Westhem. “He wrecked it in ’83 and it was in pieces. There were boxes of parts, the chassis, engine, and transmission were all on the floor and I bought the truck knowing I would have to build it. To do that, I hired Russ Wernimont, who had prepped the truck for Nesmith.” Westhem got the truck built and began racing professionally that year in Class 8. By 1987, Westhem had earned some notoriety and that same year, he entered the SCORE Baja 1000 and won the class. “Winning that race set the stage for my professional career,” he said. “I was racing against tough guys like Robby Gordon who was driving the famous Hay Hauler at that time.” The win got Westhem noticed by John Nelson who was running the Chevrolet Off-Road Motorsports team and signed Westhem to drive the GMC Motorsports Class 8 truck. “Winning that race allowed me to be the factory driver for GMC,” said Westhem. “My backup driver was Randy Selmont and we had full factory support with a semi-trailer, five chase Suburbans and a full race budget. I also became a team driver with BFGoodrich Tires and have been with them forever.” With a full race budget, Westhem said he built a new truck and PPG came up with the red, silver, black and gray mountain paint scheme on the truck. “We raced that truck for a while and ultimately the team dissolved and I would end up racing for other teams, including Brian Collins, Herzog Racing, and others. I even got to team up with and drive Larry Ragland’s truck.” Westhem’s racing victories continued by winning the 20th Anniversary SCORE Baja 1000, the 30th Anniversary SCORE Baja 1000 and 40th Anniversary SCORE Baja 1000. “By 2004 I thought I would hang up my racing career and retire, but that only lasted six years,” said Westhem. “In 2010 I built a new Class 8 truck called the T8. it had 39-inch diameter tires, King-Kong shocks, and a powerful Patton racing engine. At the time, I didn’t have any sponsors so I would just pick and choose races I could run while also working.” That kept Westhem in the mix of off-road motorsports until the 50th Anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000 approached. “I decided that would be our team’s last Class 8 race,” said Westhem. “I needed another driver so I contacted former Ford Rough Rider veteran John Swift, who I had been competing against in other racing venues, and we became friends.” At the 50th in 2017, Swift and Westhem entered their T8 truck in Class 8 and finished first. The win got Westhem excited about racing again and the following year teamed up with Swift again but entered their T8 truck in the SCORE Trophy Truck Legends class. “We drove hard that race and finished third in class,” said Westhem. “Despite the finish, we were very excited about our performance and decided the Legends class was perfect for John and I. We put together a game plan for 2020 and took John’s 2016 Racer Engineering Trophy Truck (Luke McMillin’s former short-wheelbase truck) and added a new Patton 455 Fuel-Injected engine and BFGoodrich 44-inch KR3 tires. The truck will also run the same paint scheme from my GMC Class 8 and our back-up driver is Randy Salmont, who was my co-driver during the GMC Motorsports days.” Westhem is determined to win a SCORE Trophy Truck Legends championship this year and has the talent and team to do it. “Our reputations as drivers are to finish races,” says Westhem. “Between us, we have eight SCORE Baja 1000 wins and six class championships. John and I will both be 59 at the 34th SCORE San Felipe 250, and we’re ready to take on Baja with the help of our sponsors TJ Glidden Construction, and our crew chief Tony McCormack.” Both Westhem and Swift will make a “legendary” team that will add some tough competition to the class, as well as a lot of excitement for SCORE fans watching these veterans battle it out once again in the desert.

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