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A HEAVYWEIGHT CONTENDER Jason McNeil Overcame Vehicle Trouble To Win The SCORE TT Spec Class By Mike Vieria Photos by Get Some Photo Jason McNeil planned to employ a different strategy this year in taking the Trophy Truck Spec Class win at the SCORE Baja 500. He usually tries to jump toward the front of the pack right from the beginning, but this time his plan was to hold back a bit and wait until around the 300-mile mark to start to make his move. However, with a fifth in class starting position for his #234 TT Spec truck, he began encountering and passing stuck vehicles early, allowing him to move up in position to second on the road in his class after only about forty five miles. Around 150 miles in, a flat tire on the front right slowed their progress. “I took a corner a little bit too tight, and I didn’t see the rock,” said McNeil. “I just felt it and heard it. That’s where we lost our second physical position when the Herbst Motorsports guys passed us. It took us less than two minutes to make the tire change and we were going again. That’s when we encountered them again stopped with a flat tire, so we got back around them again.” About thirty miles later, a potentially more serious problem cropped up. “Burning oil started coming from underneath the hood,” said McNeil. “It just started right away with no warning signs. We pulled over and took the hood off to see what was happening and found a blown shock. There was really nothing we could do with that. We saw the Herbst team coming, so we took off to maintain that second position because it was going to be very dusty and extremely hard to pass people in the next thirty miles.” About five miles before they reached the service area, more troubles occurred when a rock took out a brake bleeder, leaving them with no rear brakes. By the time they finished the repairs in the pits, the team had dropped to fourth position on the road from second and were about fifteen minutes behind the class leader. Now about halfway through the race, McNeil said, “I knew the next sections were going to be fast, so I really began to push it. We passed the third place team when they had to pit, and then we caught the Herbst team again on some high-speed rolling hills and were able to pass them. I then started to feel a slow leaking tire that finally exploded on the beach, and we got passed again.” “After we got going again, we were battling it out with the Green Army guys until they got a flat and we were able to get to second place again. At Santo Tomas, we were about eight and a half minutes off the leader with about ninety miles to go. From there, we just really pushed hard and ended up coming into the finish line on the back of their bumper about fifteen or twenty seconds behind them. I knew we had to finish within a minute and half of the guy ahead of us, because he started a minute and a half ahead of us.” McNeil figures they had about fifteen to eighteen minutes of unexpected repair stops between the flat tires, the shock, and the brake problems– so not too bad for the entire race, especially considering the issues they had last season. In 2020, they had three DNFs and went through three motors before ending up replacing just about everything to find a solution to a lubrication problem that was plaguing them. “This year’s been really good to us because we’ve finally figured it out,” said McNeil, “and we’re having very good finishing results and very few problems during the races.” He believes the truck is probably the heaviest in its class, and he feels that’s a big help in the roughest terrain because it doesn’t beat up the driver and co-driver as much as lighter vehicles. Lighter vehicles can accelerate faster, but overall, he feels that the extra weight is an advantage. “Being comfortable through the rough stuff and not being fatigued during the race– I find it really helps, especially in the long races,” he says. The truck is a Geiser Brothers built Trophy Truck that he converted two years ago to a smaller engine for the TT Spec class. With his eye on the points championship, McNeil plans to compete in the next two SCORE races. “There are three or four other fast guys in our class that have had bad luck, and are out of the points chase,” he says. “Right now, there are only three of us left that can win the championship, so we’re going to go for it.” SJ

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