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

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Back To Baja The SCORE Baja 500 Starts The 2020 Season By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some photo After a long 10-months without a SCORE Baja race, fans and racers are eager for some off-road racing action, this time in San Felipe, Baja California, where the 52nd BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 500 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts race will take place. Postponed until September 2020, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020 SCORE World Desert Championship season has been challenging for SCORE, racers and their teams, as well as SCORE fans and the citizens of Baja California, Mexico. This will be the first of an unprecedented two-race season in which the SCORE San Felipe 250 and the SCORE Baja 400 (started in 2019) were cancelled to keep the SCORE Baja 500 and SCORE Baja 1000 on the race schedule for the year. The SCORE Baja 1000 is still scheduled for November 17-22nd, 2020 under a recent agreement by the city of Ensenada with the cooperation of the Mexican Government. Despite the scrambling of the races this season, SCORE racers are eager to get back to racing in Baja. With the 2020 format shortened, every race will count, and with lots of championship points to be earned, winning the SCORE Baja 500 is going to be key to anyone wanting a championship season this year. Typically, this race is fast but with enough mileage to catch-up after any downtime from a mishap or mechanical failure. A Brief History & Race Legends The SCORE Baja 500 began in 1969, first won overall by Bud Ekins and Guy Jones in the Baja Boot. By 1973 the Baja Sports Committee took over the race before handing it over to a newly formed SCORE International, owned and started by Mickey Thompson. The 1974 SCORE Baja 500 was the first race run by SCORE International and SCORE President Sal Fish on July 26th 1974. Despite fans and racers always calling the race the “Baja 500,” the name had to be called the SCORE Baja International until Fish was able to negotiate the Baja 500 name back from NORRA in 1991. Now in its 52nd year, the SCORE Baja 500 was postponed from its original race dates in June to September. Throughout its history, the race has spawned many legendary racers who have made their names in SCORE Baja racing history by winning the race several times over. Some of these include Larry Roeseler, who has won the race overall 11 times, some on a motorcycle and others in a Trophy Truck or Buggy. Ivan Stewart has won the race 10 times overall, most of them driving solo. Larry Ragland has won it overall five times. Motorcycle riders such as Steve Hengeveld who is a seven-time winner, and Johnny Campbell, a six-time winner, have dominated the race on motorcycles in the early 2000’s and demonstrate the tenacity and athleticism it takes to win this high-speed desert race on two wheels. When it comes to Class Championships in this race, legendary racers such as the late Rod Hall, has 25 of them in the four-wheel category, while Jim O’Neal has 20 on two wheels. Aside from record-breaking race wins, the SCORE Baja 500 also has many “firsts” over its 52-year history that has made this race legendary. BFGoodrich Tires began its legendary Baja history at the 1976 SCORE Baja 500, developing race tires and helping racers win with a record 31 Overall race-record here. While motorcycle racers have been competing in this race since its inception, most were done with two or more riders until 1979. At this race, Jack Johnson on a Husqvarna motorcycle, became the first SCORE Baja 500 Overall winner riding solo, making him the first motorcycle “ironman”. Since its inception, the race was always held in Mexico, but in 1984, it would be the only time the SCORE Baja 500 race was held on U.S. soil. Due to land disputes Sal Fish moved the race to Barstow, California to ensure it continued on. Land disputes over the course happened again in 1989 when the race was moved from Ensenada to San Felipe. Because of this it was also the only time in the race’s history that there were no classes for motorcycles or ATVs. When SCORE Trophy Trucks became the top unlimited off-road vehicle in the desert, the 1994 SCORE Baja 500 saw Ivan Stewart win the first SCORE Trophy Truck title in this race. As these vehicles continue to dominate with American drivers, it wasn’t until 2015 that Apdaly Lopez became the first Mexican racer to win the race overall. He was followed by Mexican racer Tavo Vildosola, who won the race overall in 2016, but in doing so claimed the elusive SCORE Triple-Crown, given to racers who have won the overall race of the SCORE San Felipe 250, SCORE Baja 500, and SCORE Baja 1000 races. Last Year’s Winners Fast forward to the 2019 season and you’ll recall a very close race between Andy, Dan, and Luke McMillin in the SCORE Trophy Truck division. Ryan Arciero was also charging for the race lead but ultimately, Andy McMillin was able to record the fastest time and take home the Overall and class win. Justin Morgan, Mark Samuels and an injured Justin Jones kept the Pro Moto Unlimited team’s 2018 and 2019 winning streak going strong, winning the race and making it seem like a joy-ride through the desert. Dominating in the Pro Moto 50 division, Giovanni Spinali kept his championship winning streak going by winning the race with Jim O’Neal, Earl Roberts, Tony Pearce and John Griffin. In a tight finish in the Pro Moto Ironman class, Tanner Janesky and Jose Carrasco battled it out to the very end. With an overall time slightly over five minutes, Janesky pulled off the win. In the Pro Buggy classes, Justin Davis and the Green Army took the Class 1 win battling for time against Brad Wilson who finished in second place. Class 10 racing saw Cody Reid finish first ahead of Roberto Romo. SCORE fans and Pro UTV teams had a tough race in which was extremely close in every class. Not making any mistakes led Craig Scanlon to his first win and SCORE Baja 500 victory in the Pro UTV FI class. The veterans, Marc Burnett, Wayne Matlock, and the Murray brothers all bolted from the start, but ended up with mechanical issues that took lots of time to repair out on the course. It was the same in the Pro UTV N/A class who saw Kristen Matlock battle with the eventual winner, Kaden Wells. Matlock was slowed by mechanical issues in a race where winning required no mistakes or breakdowns to win SJ.

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