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FAST AND PATIENT Ryan Arciero’s 2019 SCORE BaJa 400 Win Showcases The Necessary Tactics Within The Most Competitive Field Ever By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo Most SCORE fans don’t realize just how serious of a competitor Ryan Arciero is before, during, and after a SCORE race. For example, the preparation regimen for his physical conditioning includes long-distance bicycle riding with pro-riders, who he says help push him to the next level of endurance. “I train a lot on mountain and road bikes with some cool pros, and the experience has been a huge help with my off-road racing abilities,” says Arciero. “Riding is not just a physical sport, but also a mental one that can provide a clearer focus on your reactions and choices. This translates really well when I’m behind the wheel of my SCORE Trophy Truck.” While Arciero does a lot to condition his body, he is also constantly working to improve his driving skills, adapting to an ever-changing sport. With his many years of off-road racing experience and the lessons learned from his father, Off-Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame Inductee Frank Arciero Jr., he believes driving quality must now change, especially because of improvements in vehicle capabilities. “Technology has always made racing vehicles faster and more reliable,” he says. “As they improve, some racers take full advantage of the vehicle’s agility and power. The combination of driver ability, and the fact that both 2WD and the new AWD trucks have become more reliable, is one of the reasons I believe we’re seeing more vehicles stacked up at the finish line. Many are separated by only a few seconds, and any penalties they accrue can be the determining factor. It comes down to who’s making fewer mistakes, so things like getting a flat tire on the course or missing a VCP can mean the difference between winning and losing. That’s why I think that it’s always good to be fast, but now more than ever, it’s also important to be patient.” That type of driving is exactly what led Arciero to become the first winner of the Inaugural SCORE Baja 400 in 2019. “I loved the fact that SCORE brought a 400-mile race that gave you a lot of what Baja is about,” he said. “It had both fast and tight technical sections that went through Mike Sky Ranch and down into the Valley De Trinidad and included wide-open sections running up the coast. I also liked what SCORE President and Race Director, Jose Grijalva, did by stopping us at the highway section to split the race that way. It kind of neutralized those highway sections.” Recalling the race, Arciero started in 15th place, which put him behind many competitors– but it was the dust that he was most concerned about. “We were almost blind in the dust nonstop,” said Arciero. “The dust was a game-changer. With a lot of it in front of you, it wasn’t worth the risk to charge in the tight technical areas. We had to be patient and play the game a bit, then capitalize on the opportunities that opened up. When you’re running up in the dust, the chances of something bad happening at every corner on the course are elevated. You simply have to back it down.” In the end, Arciero was not the first to cross the finish line, but because he played the game smart, “stacking all the cards in his favor” as he calls it, his overall time was better. “By all means, we all make mistakes,” he says. “But analyzing the risks versus the rewards allows us to look at what we did wrong and improve on it.” Utilizing this strategy paid off, and he was well aware of it as he approached the finish line at that race. “We played the game better than everyone else did that day to win,” said Arciero. “Coming into the last 15-20 miles, the crew gave me one more split-time with the guys in front of me and was told I was 10-seconds behind Andy McMillin, who was the leader on corrected time. Knowing that, I had to keep pushing hard till the end. When I finally got to the highway section up on top, I could see five SCORE Trophy Trucks ahead of me headed towards the finish line. I knew Andy was first in time, so my co-driver used his watch to see when he would pass a visible landmark. It was then that I knew our strategy had worked and we had made up those seconds.” The 2021 Race And Beyond Fast forward to the 2021 SCORE World Desert Championship Season, where Arciero teamed up with Mike Walser in the No. 89 Mason AWD truck. His Herbst/Smith Levis truck burnt to the ground during a stateside desert race in 2020, so sharing the driver’s seat with Walser was well received. But their luck, however, didn’t seem to get any better. At the 34th SCORE San Felipe 250, the team had mechanical issues that prevented them from finishing the race. At the 53rd SCORE Baja 500, the team needed an engine part that they could not get in time. “Mason prepped the truck for the SCORE Baja 500 and we needed a part for the engine,” said Arciero. “We had been in constant contact with Ray Field at Dougan Racing Engines, but that part had been on backorder for eight months. Because of the ongoing issues from the pandemic, we simply couldn’t get it and had to withdraw from the race.” Looking forward to the 2nd SCORE Baja 400 Presented by VP Racing fuels, Arciero and Walser have everything ready to try again. “We have our eyes set on the SCORE Baja 400 to defend my 2019 win,” said Arciero. “We also plan on racing at the SCORE Baja 1000 this year too. Mike has a lot of talent, and we have such great equipment with this Mason truck.” While Arciero has a ride for the rest of this season, he’s looking forward to getting back into his own truck. Herbst/Smith fabrication has been working on building a new SCORE Trophy Truck owned by Kyle Washington, that is finally completed. “We plan on doing some stateside races this year with it, and expand to Baja for the 2022 season. This Herbst/Smith truck is a 2WD, but there has been much more amazing development work done to it. The team made the body more aerodynamic and efficient, making it quicker without having to make changes to the Gibbs Racing Engine, which in itself is a very stout piece.” His new truck, and the current Walser truck, are examples of the field of highly competitive drivers and vehicles currently racing in SCORE’s Trophy Truck division. Arciero believes the same driving style that he used during the 2019 SCORE Baja 400 is what is necessary to win more races in this type of competition. “It’s what led Larry Roeseler to ultimately winning the SCORE Baja 500,” said Arciero. Add in the blinding dust from competitors ahead of racers like Arciero, and it’s not too far-fetched to believe that starting position can play more of an important role in the modern Baja race. “It used to be that if you were in the back of the pack, you could stay with the leaders and wait until they break or make a mistake,” said Arciero. “Now that the drivers are better and these vehicles are faster and more reliable, you want to qualify for the race where you can start with the lead group– where the dust is not a determining factor.” As Arciero and Walser prepare for this next SCORE Baja 400, both competitors and SCORE fans alike will find their presence a welcoming addition to the race and make it more challenging and exciting to watch them battle for the ultimate win. SJ

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