SCORE Journal


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

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A NEW ERA SCORE Enters A New Decade With A Change Of Ownership By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo Since its inception, SCORE International continued to grow and raise off-road racing to new levels under the ownership of Sal Fish and his team. After 39 years of leadership, and reaching the age of 73, Fish decided it was time for someone else to take SCORE to the next level. That person was entrepreneur and off-road racer, Roger Norman, who comes from an elite racing family and had already won the SCORE Baja 1000 in the Trophy Truck division with Larry Roeseler. Discussions resulted in Norman agreeing to purchase SCORE International in 2012, and the announcement was made in December of that year. “Roger Norman is a great racer with a big vision and superb business acumen,” said Fish in an interview. “I have been able to grow this sport to the level it has reached, and now Roger and his team will take it to the next level. I have no regrets and leave knowing I have left a good legacy for the sport to continue to move forward for the next 40 years.” HDRA/SCORE TOGETHER AGAIN Norman had already purchased and resurrected HDRA and now with SCORE, the plan was to once again combine races totaling six events and crown a World Champion at the end. The races for this first season (2013), included the HDRA South Point 250, SCORE San Felipe 250, HDRA King Shocks 250, SCORE Baja 500, HDRA Reno 500, and SCORE Baja 1000. Winning the Overall Championship that season was B.J Baldwin in the SCORE Trophy Truck Class. The following year (2014), five races were on the schedule, including the SCORE San Felipe 250, Imperial Valley 250, SCORE Baja 500, IV SCORE Desert Challenge, and the 47th SCORE Baja 1000. For the 2015 SCORE Season, the SCORE Baja Sur 500 replaced the Desert Challenge. The race in Baja Sur was also a great venue for the people of Southern Baja and it was the first time a full race was held there from beginning to end. This not only helped SCORE have a greater presence across the entire Baja Peninsula, but it also helped increase the economy in the area, and gain greater acceptance across the entire region with SCORE as its number-one attraction. In 2016, SCORE switched to a four-race season and replaced the Imperial Valley 250 with the Rosarito Beach Desert Challenge. The move allowed SCORE to have all of its races in Mexico, further aligning itself with the people and country. SCORE had already established an office in Ensenada to allow it to work closely and expeditiously with land owners and government officials from the cities and states along the Baja Peninsula. 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAJA 1000 The 2017 season saw SCORE reach several milestones in its history, culminating with the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000. When the season began, the opening race had started on the Malecon of San Felipe for the SCORE San Felipe 250. The race moved to this location along the city’s beautiful coastline, bringing more fans to local restaurants and hotels. This season also saw the SCORE Desert Challenge move from Rosarito Beach to Tijuana. It was another first for SCORE in operating a complete race, from start to finish, in Tijuana. The effort also brought more fans and tourists, giving a boost to the local economy. When the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000 finally came in November, the media coverage and pre-race festivities brought about greater excitement for SCORE and the city of Ensenada, where the peninsula run would take place. Aside from the multitude of legendary, current, and new racers who wanted to participate in this historical race, it was also the inauguration of the Baja 1000 Walk of Fame. Working with SCORE, the city of Ensenada created the Walk of Fame, a street filled with carved tiles showcasing all of the racers who have won the Baja 1000 race Overall in its history. Some of the attendees of the Walk of Fame opening included legendary racers such as Malcolm Smith, Rod Hall, Bruce Meyers, Walker Evans, and many others. The pre-race festivities for this milestone race, also included the first showing of the Dana Brown film Dust 2 Glory, a sequel to the original Dust to Glory. The film had been in production for more than a year and debuted at Papas Y Beer to a huge crowd of racers and fans the night before the start of the 50th SCORE Baja 1000. At the end of the race, the entire country of Mexico celebrated as Apdaly Lopez, from Tecate, Mexico, won Overall in the RPM Off-Road SCORE Trophy Truck, and earned his second SCORE Trophy Truck Championship. 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAJA 500 The following year, 2018, SCORE again had to prepare for another milestone event, the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 500 race. Former SCORE owner Sal Fish was invited to be the Grand Marshal for the event, along with Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, who has won more Baja 500 races on four wheels than any other racer in SCORE history. SCORE also honored off-road industry pioneer Nico Saad, who was instrumental in developing the relationships between SCORE, local city officials, and the Mexican government, allowing the race to reach its 50-year milestone. These efforts also earned Saad a place in the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. Adding to the race’s lists of legendary racers and pioneers present, 2011 Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee and legendary racer Rob MacCachren, won the race Overall in the SCORE Trophy Truck class. SURVIVING COVID The 2019 season brought about a new race, the Lucerna SCORE Baja 400. It replaced the Tijuana Desert Challenge with a 400-mile race which SCORE President and Race Director, Jose Grijalva, said was more attractive to racers who wanted a longer, full-loop race in between the SCORE Baja 500 and SCORE Baja 1000. While the SCORE races went off without issues that season, the looming COVID pandemic was already shutting down events and cities worldwide. When it hit Mexico early in 2020, SCORE had to cancel the SCORE San Felipe 250 and the SCORE Baja 400. Working closely with the Mexican government, SCORE worked out a way to continue at minimum, a two-race season with the SCORE Baja 500 and SCORE Baja 1000. To the efforts of SCORE, its sponsors, and racers, all COVID protocols were enacted and adhered to. This included wearing masks, use of wash stations and limited contact with personnel, and moving the venues to parts of the Baja highways, preventing fans from gathering at the start and finish lines of the events. The success of the 2020 season was proof that the races could continue through the 2021 season, which were still under COVID protocols. Although difficult, the 2021 season held all four races that year. Once again, it was a complete success for SCORE, and the local cities, due to the cooperation of racers and fans. 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SCORE INTERNATIONAL The 2023 Season brought about another milestone for SCORE International. This year it celebrated its 50th Anniversary as a race organization. In celebration, SCORE asked Sal Fish to be the official Grand Marshal for all four races and other legendary racers joined him as co-martials for each of the individual races. These included various personalities, former SCORE Champions, and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductees including; Pat Butler of the El Dorado Ranch and SCORE Tech Director Dan Cornwell for the 33rd SCORE San Felipe 250, Ivan Stewart and Johnny Campbell for the 55th SCORE Baja 500, and Walker Evans with Mark McMillin for the 4th SCORE Baja 400. At the finale of the season, the 56th SCORE Baja 1000, the race course had to be a Peninsula run, but also a very special one. Race organizers thought to run the course from South to North, starting in La Paz and ending in Ensenada. The unique reverse course was a huge hit for racers with 338 vehicles officially registered to be a part of off-road racing history. NEW SAFETY REGULATIONS SCORE introduced the Stella warning system that was required on all race vehicles. This early warning system automatically notifies moto riders that a SCORE Trophy Truck, or other fast-moving four-wheel vehicle, is approaching from behind. Simultaneously, the system in the four-wheel vehicle notifies the driver that they are approaching a slower-moving motorcycle ahead of them. Because the Stella System has an internal battery and no need for external antennas, it’s a small self-contained system that is simplified and easy for racers in all classes to use. In addition, double redundancy was added to the Stella systems, in case a moto rider goes down and knocks the unit off the moto. The system is still able to record and the information could be downloaded to race officials. SCORE also began the use of a helicopter that would be constantly flying along the course and include an EMT or doctor onboard for emergencies. Along with the Helicopter, SCORE also saw a need for ground crews to be available on the course and began outfitting UTVs to sweep the course ahead of the motorcycles and behind them. In some races, SCORE officials also implemented a Sportsman Cut-off, sections of the course exclusively for moto racers so that they would not have faster SCORE Trophy Trucks approach them from behind. While accidents dropped dramatically, fatalities became non-existent during races on carefully routed courses. To further alleviate any chance of incidents, even on the local highways, SCORE implemented tough rules and penalties for Chase Teams and their vehicles.   ENSENADA OFFICE AND STAFF Since all SCORE races were now held exclusively in Mexico, it was important for SCORE to also have a presence there. In 2013 SCORE appointed Jose A. Grijalva as SCORE President and Race Director, and Juan Tintos Funke as General Manager. Both live in Mexico and opened the SCORE Ensenada Race Office shortly thereafter. Jose G. as he is known, is instrumental in developing many of the safety improvements SCORE has implemented. He also plots the race courses and oversees as many as 350 SCORE course workers and staff who help with managing the course, tracking, protest reviews, and much more. Juan Tintos Funke is SCORE’s contact between the many government officials and state agencies. He also makes sure all SCORE race events work in tandem with local businesses, hotels, restaurants, and local departments of tourism. Together the entire SCORE Ensenada office and staff handle the extensive groundwork to put on each SCORE race, and are an invaluable component of SCORE International, bringing new partnerships and fans to each event as SCORE moves forward. MORE RACES ON TELEVISION NETWORKS From the beginning of the new ownership era, one of the major initiatives was to bring more television coverage to SCORE races. While some networks would, from time to time, cover the SCORE Baja 500 and SCORE Baja 1000, SCORE managed to increase coverage for all its races. The management brought in the professional team of BCII TV, to record each race, providing more detailed coverage and overviews, specifically tailored to network television broadcasts. As a result, event coverage appeared on networks such as ABC World of X Games, ESPN2, El Rey, CBS Sports, and a multitude of international networks. The impact of this coverage brought new racers and sponsors into SCORE International and further increased its audience size worldwide. In 2017 it was the first time that SCORE had been able to deliver in-vehicle and drone footage from the SCORE Baja 1000. A feat that has continued to improve over the years and is now rooted in coverage. Later use of the Starlink satellite system now allows viewers to see the race live from various areas on the course from their television, mobile devices, or laptop computers. In addition, a large network facility was built in El Cajon, California to monitor and capture live feed from the race and incorporate race commentary and overviews from a variety of hosts and racers, from an in-house studio set.  MEDIA AND MARKETING GROWTH SCORE’s media and marketing skyrocketed during this new decade, with the creation of the SCORE Journal Digital publication in 2015. This immediately opened SCORE to millions more off-road fans worldwide, by providing monthly in-depth race coverage, industry events, vehicles, off-road products, and personalities. It includes integrated video and amazing photography supplied by Get Some Photo and other leading industry photographers. The magazine was also created in both English and Spanish editions. In addition to the SCORE Journal digital magazine, SCORE produced two hard-cover 50th Anniversary Book projects, one on the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000, and another on the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 500 which highlight the history and events of those races. A new book on the 50th Anniversary of SCORE International is also scheduled to be available by the 2024 SCORE Baja 500 race. SCORE’s social media platforms also began to dramatically increase in popularity and reach more off-road fans, with images, videos, and unique content reaching millions of fans. Live Streaming of SCORE races was also implemented into its social media channels, which allowed those race fans who couldn’t be in Baja, Mexico, a first-hand look at each race from the course, inside the vehicles, and through commentary and interviews, and live tracking from each race. This additional coverage also brought in new sponsorship opportunities to SCORE with major sponsors taking advantage of the branding and increase in audience reach. Brands also began, and continue to take advantage of the unique product technology proving grounds that only SCORE races can provide. The “Baja Proven” endorsement is known worldwide and is considered one of the greatest product durability endorsements. Ford Motor Company was one of the first to utilize the power of SCORE’s marketing, launching both the Ford Bronco and Ford Ranger during SCORE Baja 1000 races, revitalizing the interest of OE manufacturers getting involved back into the sport as they did in the past. Other sponsors that have come into SCORE during this period include; Ford, King Shocks, Polaris, VP Racing Fuels, Optima Batteries, Axial RC Cars, Muck Daddy, Raceline Wheels, 4Wheel Parts, K&N, Vision Wheel, and more to be announced at the end of the 2023 SCORE Season. Although much has changed in the last decade for SCORE International, the new ownership and management agree that they did not want to change the philosophy that Mickey Thomson and Sal Fish brought to SCORE during its first 39 years. While that remains, there is still a desire to continually make SCORE races better, and safer, and incorporate new technologies. But at the end of the day, SCORE Baja racing is still family-oriented, bringing together some of the toughest and best off-road racers in the world, alongside a growing fanbase that can’t seem to get enough of the excitement and adventure that racing in Baja delivers.

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