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A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE Jeff Bader Took The SCORE Trophy Truck Spec Class Win, But Not Without Some Serious Pre-Running Drama By Larry Saavedra Photos by GetSomePhoto Jeff Bader clinched his first SCORE Trophy Truck Spec class win at the 53rd SCORE Baja 1000 presented by 4 Wheel Parts and finished 8th overall with a time of 21 hours, 44 minutes, and 54.699 seconds. But his celebrated podium finish might have ended before it got started after he rolled the truck two days before the event. “I rolled it during testing and pre-running,” he said. “After it happened, I buried my head in my hands and contemplated withdrawing. The pros and cons of being on a team where there are four or five others was something to seriously consider. But I didn’t have 100 percent of my resources.” As fate would have it, Brenthel Industries came to the rescue offering support to their Arrive & Drive teams as part of the program. They got to work replacing the seriously damaged steering box on the bright orange Vision Wheels #251 Brenthel Trophy Truck Spec race truck. As for the damaged fiberglass hood, doors, sides, and roof that job went to his navigator, who happened to be an auto body repair professional from Ensenada. Last-minute repairs and a repaint were made in town. Bader and co-driver Dan Fresh got the truck ready with only hours remaining before the green flag dropped. Although he wasn’t able to test drive the truck again before the race, Bader had full confidence in Brenthel and their team. “The incident humbled me,” he said. “It was a reminder that it’s a race of endurance. It happened for a reason, and maybe it made me a better driver.” The Course Fresh started the race and set a steady pace out of Ensenada. “Dan and I were two of the oldest guys racing Spec,” he said. “I think that played to our strengths though. It’s not about being the fastest guy. You’re not racing a sprint. It’s about getting to the finish the quickest while being able to maintain the vehicle the entire race.” Bader credits Fresh for running a clean incident-free race on the Pacific Ocean side of the 898-mile course. Fresh scrambled his way through mile-marker 220 south of San Quintin and then headed north at night near mile marker 420, where he turned it over to Bader past Check Point 2. All the while, the winds were howling, and the dust was unrelenting. From there, racers headed east of San Felipe at the Sea of Cortez and then into Cordillera de Molina and the hills of Ojos Negro. “When I got into the truck, I knew I was running behind Pierce Herbst,” said Bader. “I was about 16-minutes behind him, running in second place. All I could see was a wall of lights through the thick dust. I knew it wasn’t motorcycles. I had made up a lot of ground. I’m sure they knew I was behind them because they were throwing up a ton of dust to mile-marker 605. That’s when they ended up pitting, and I took over the lead heading into Ensenada.” Even after a shaky start, due to repair work, Bader and Fresh held fast to their original strategy of maintaining the vehicle and pitting, only as planned. At mile-marker 880, Bader was feeling the beating that this year’s technical course provided. “I wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked,” he said. “But I realized it and drove the right pace to the finish.” Perhaps it was the final 10 miles to the finish where thoughts of something going wrong. “The Brenthel truck performed flawlessly, thanks to the quality of parts from FOX Shocks, BFGoodrich Tires, Baja Designs Lighting, and Vision Wheels,” said Bader. “I would hit a little rut and think it’s a flat tire. Those sorts of things crept into my mind. It was a miraculous finish.” After everything he had been through, Bader wasn’t far off the truth. In the end, he never gave up, and that is the testament of an experienced racer.

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