SCORE Journal


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

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  . The First Decade 1973-1983 By Dan Sanchez . When the Mexican 1000 Rally in Baja began to make headlines in 1967, it caught the attention of various people who were involved in other forms of racing. One of them was Mickey Thompson, who, among others, signed up to challenge this new type of racing called “off-road” and participated in the 1969 running of the race.  .  The impression of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and the infancy of off-road racing sparked an idea in Thompson. He wanted to share the excitement and sense of adventure he experienced in Mexico with racing fans in the United States. When the opportunity arose to take over the Mexican 1000, Parker 400, and Baja 500 races in late 1973. Thompson’s newly developed company, SCORE, would have to find ways to continue the races and grow the organization.   .   . The First Season .  Navigating through the Baja Peninsula for a 1000-mile race was difficult in itself, as there was not much infrastructure or many roads there at the time. “The actual pavement in Ensenada ended a few miles south of the San Nicolas Hotel,” said SCORE former owner/president Sal Fish. “The road did not appear again until an area South of Constitution heading towards La Paz.”  .  It was the same for the newly formed SCORE International. Without any roadmap of how to run and operate a racing-sanctioning body, the company had suddenly found itself assuming two races in Baja, Mexico, and trying to continue a race successfully started by Thompson in Riverside, California.  . After finally convincing Sal Fish to leave Peterson Publishing and become the president of SCORE International, Thompson gave Fish the task of creating more races and finding ways to grow the series. At first, however, there were many hurdles to overcome. “Right at the start, we had the oil crisis in the United States,” said Fish. “Mickey also did not want to create entire peninsula runs like the SCORE Baja 1000. They involved a lot of logistics and thus only wanted loop races. He thought they were easier and less expensive for the company and racers. He would have been happy with the Baja 500 and a Riverside short-course race, and that was it.” In its infancy, SCORE had assumed control of the Parker 400 race, which happened to be the first race of the 1974 season. It gathered 227 entries for a 120-mile loop across Arizona and California. Among some of the winners were Edgar Venable and A.G. Fulkerson in a Funco VW winning in Class 1. Rod Hall and Jim Fricker won in Class 3 in a Ford Bronco, Walker Evans and Jimmie Bird won in Class 8, Curt Skinner and Donald Feldsher on a Honda 125 won Class 20, and Al Baker with Steve Holladay on a Kawasaki 400 won Class 22.  .  Along with the Parker 400, SCORE had three other races scheduled for its first year. The next was the Baja International (Baja 500) in July. Bobby Ferro won the race overall in his Sandmaster SS in Class 1, and Mitch Mayes with A.C. Bakken won in Class 22 on a 400cc Husqvarna.  .  SCORE again produced its second AC-Delco World Championship Off-Road Race in Riverside, California. With the help of Walker Evans and Parnelli Jones, Mickey Thompson designed the course that was slightly over three miles in length. Rick and Bill Mears won Overall in a Sandmaster buggy. Rod Hall and Jim Fricker won Class 3 in a Ford Bronco. Al Baker with Bryan Farnsworth won in Class 22 on a Kawasaki, while Class 22 was won by Bill Silverthorn and Gene Fettyi on a Honda.  . Heading towards the end of SCORE’s first season, the fuel crisis finally caught up to them, forcing a postponement of the Baja 1000. While it was a let-down for the organization, it didn’t deter its new president Sal Fish from moving forward.  .   . Great Things Start To Happen  .  The 1975 season looked great for SCORE International. Now with four races to its name, the Parker 400, Baja International (Baja 500), AC Delco Riverside Off-Road Championships, and SCORE Baja 1000, things began to move quickly and fall into place. All of the races that year were a success, and at the end of it, Fish organized the first awards banquet to honor the season champions. The banquet was held at the Crystal Ballroom of the Concord Hotel in Anaheim, California, and had more than 600 off-road racers, their families, vehicle and parts manufacturers, and the press in attendance.  . The 1975 season also brought a new Class to SCORE racing. Thompson and Fish wanted the sport to be available to more than high-dollar racers with specialty-built vehicles. The idea of a Baja Bug class would make it affordable for anyone to participate. Class 11 was born, and to encourage racers to participate, Thompson would end up racing a Class 11 in the Riverside event.     .  With continued participation in upcoming SCORE events, the 1976 season races grew in attendance and participation. The Parker 400 had 56 motorcycles and 277 cars. In June of that year, the Baja International race had 302 four-wheeled vehicles and 83 motorcycles registered, and the Riverside race had 250 cars and 34 motorcycles start.  .  SCORE had also begun sanctioning additional events in the United States. Along with the Parker 400, Thompson and Fish added the Baja de Saddleback short-course races in Orange County, California. On the East Coast, SCORE created sanctioned races held in ZOAR Park in New York.  .  The 1976 SCORE Baja 1000 in November was also one of the races that stood out. After torrential rain inundated the Baja Peninsula, the race was delayed until the course began to dry out. There was, however, lots of mud and impassable areas along the way.  .  While other racers struggled on the course, Ivan Stewart eventually won the race in Class 1, but it was a huge surprise to everyone when Doug and Don Robertson drove a Class 5 “The Bilstein Bug” to finish second Overall. The amazing story of how they did it is in the November 2019 issue of SCORE Journal.  .   . A Trade Show And A Move To Mexicali  . According to Fish, it was common for Mickey Thompson to get distracted into starting other ventures before seeing others through to the end. One that came up in January of 1978 was the SCORE Show. Thompson partnered with hot-rod pioneer and Bonneville racer Alex Xydias to gather the off-road racing community and aftermarket parts manufacturers for a specialized trade show. Xydias had started his SoCal Speed shop from his success in turning a P-51 aircraft belly tank into a Bonneville land-speed race car. He had also helped launch the SEMA Show in 1964, and Thompson thought he could help with launching the SCORE Show. It was the first time off-road parts manufacturers and fabricators had a show for themselves, and towards the end of the show, the public was allowed to enter.  .  After several continuous years of sanctioning races in the U.S. and Mexico, SCORE International faced a growing problem at the start of the 1978 season. Land regulations began to change, and for the first time, Fish was not able to get the proper permissions to put on the Parker 400 race that year. He turned to his friends in Mexico who helped him move the race to Mexicali and started the SCORE Mexicali 300. Read the full story in SCORE Journal here: .  The Parker 400 would return for the 1979 SCORE season, but the Mexicali race had already drawn lots of attention and began to grow. Fish changed it to a 250-mile race, Mexicali 250, that would allow racers a full SCORE Baja race but also have enough time afterward to enjoy the amenities of the surrounding area.  .  By the 1982 season, it was becoming more difficult to have a race in Mexicali, as the city and its surrounding areas were growing with infrastructure, homes, etc. Fish had suggested moving the race to San Felipe, which back then, was a county of Mexicali. The move was successful and it was the start of the SCORE San Felipe 250 which continues on as one of SCORE’s greatest races.  .  The Barstow Classic was another U.S. race that was added to the SCORE 1983 season. It took place at the beginning of December, and in 1984, it was held right after the SCORE Baja 1000 at the end of November.  . SCORE’s first decade brought about many surprises and helped to establish what off-road racing was all about. During that time, new rules and safety measures were put in place that were ultimately adapted to other off-road racing-sanctioning bodies. One of them was VORRA, a racing organization that started in 1975 for enthusiasts in Northern Nevada and California. “We were learning as we went along,” said Fish. “This was all new territory, having to deal with land use, safety, growing vehicle technology, and giving race fans an opportunity to see what this is all about. Unofficially, VORRA came to us and wanted to use the SCORE rules that we had worked out over the years. With them using similar rules, it worked to help unite the sport of off-road racing and safety measures for everyone.” SJ .   To be continued… .

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