SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - Mar 2017

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

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Page 28 of 91

GRAND MARSHAL OF THE GRANDEST RACE Sal Fish Will Carry The Grand Marshal Duties At The 50th Anniversary Of The SCORE Baja 1000 By Dominic Clark, SCORE Media Operations Director Sal Fish, the iconic desert racing promoter who owned and operated SCORE International for 38 years, recently accepted an invitation from SCORE CEO/President Roger Norman to be the Grand Marshal for November’s 50th annual SCORE Baja 1000. Held annually in Baja California, Mexico, the 50th-anniversary race will be held November 14-18, and will be a peninsula run, starting in Ensenada and finishing in La Paz. Fish, who is also an Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame honoree, has earned more awards in his life than most racers have won races. Fish ran SCORE from 1974 until he sold the company to Roger and Elise Norman on December 20, 2012. When Fish was asked to be the Grand Marshal for the race, he seemed surprised but very happy to be a part of it. “Life brings surprises and if you would have told me five years ago that I would not be producing the 50th anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000 I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Fish, “But I also didn’t know that I would end up with serious health issues and surgery so I am very grateful to be in a position right now to be able to be asked and to accept the honor of being the Grand Marshal for the race that has meant so much to me and to so many people all over the world.” “There is no one in the off-road world that we would have considered more worthy of being the Grand Marshall for the 50th than Sal Fish,” said Norman. “He brought so much to the sport from the rule book to the first television exposure, as well as all the major sponsors and manufacturers that have used SCORE and the SCORE Baja 1000 as the proving grounds for so many different products.” A Legacy With SCORE Began Early-On The long path that took Fish to the top of the desert sport began on May 2, 1939, when he was born in Los Angeles. He was educated in parochial schools. He attended Transfiguration Grammar School and Loyola High, where he was class president three years, and earned an industrial relations degree from the University of San Francisco. After graduation, waiting for an army induction that didn’t happen and not ready to start a career, he began working in his father’s auto repair business. Fish attended Rochester carburetor school, General Motors transmission school, and Bendix brake school before he was managing the family business. In 1966, he decided to take a job selling advertising for Petersen Publishing. That job led him up the ladder to become the publisher of Hot Rod Magazine. In 1970, Fish was traveling the country attending races for Hot Rod when he met VW aftermarket parts manufacturer Joe Vittone, who eventually talked him into driving in a desert race in Baja California, Mexico. Fish and fellow Petersen employee Bob Weggeland started the race with no experience and no pre-run -- in fact, Fish had never even been to Mexico. “I didn’t know what to expect,” said Fish. “I thought there would be a white line down the middle of the course. We had massacred our vehicle to put in creature comforts. We stockpiled food, spare tires, and tools to work on the car. It was more an odyssey than a race, as far as we were concerned.” He recalled that most of the serious racers reached Lake Chapala in eight hours. Fish and Weggeland had driven 16 hours before they broke their transmission and they still hadn’t reached the Chapala checkpoint. Fortunately, one of Jim Garner’s mechanics stopped to help and towed them to Chapala. “We went faster on a tow rope behind the mechanic than we had been going in the race,” Fish said. “When we got there I wondered why we bothered. I had pictured this hacienda with senoritas serving cold drinks, but all we found were some families living in shacks and two cars to lean on. The checkpoint was closed.” Mickey Thompson, who founded SCORE in 1973, recruited Fish to be the President of SCORE. “I have never second-guessed my decision to leave Petersen Publishing and join SCORE, but there were some early moments before technology exploded that I did wonder what I was doing,” said Fish. “To me, the logistics of SCORE races are like a conductor of a majestic symphony.” Fish took the reins of SCORE four years later in 1974 and immediately began to make the organization and the sport more visible. He began by broadening the exposure of the legendary SCORE Baja 1000 until it became the premiere desert race in the world, now covered by national and international television as well as journalists from a dozen countries. “I feel that I helped create the sandbox for extreme sports and helped to keep up with the technology and logistics involved in the development of desert racing as a unique major motorsport.” Fish developed TV coverage of the old SCORE Off-Road World Championships at Riverside International Speedway and created a number of highlights that made it a unique spectator event including creating the concept of “heavy metal” and “mini metal” divisions. The marquee SCORE Trophy-Truck class, for unlimited production trucks with upwards of 850 horsepower, was another innovation when he introduced the division in 1994. Making Headway Over The Years The rewards of Fish’s leadership with SCORE were varied over the years. One example hangs in his Malibu home-office. It is the copy of a resolution introduced in the California State Assembly by Assemblyman Richard Katz of the 39th District. The assembly honored Fish for “contribution to the sport of international off-road racing” and commended him for “his exemplary record of public service.” Another early decision that helped raise the stature of the sport came when SCORE joined with the late Walt Lott and Lott’s High Desert Racing Association (HDRA) to produce a combined championship series of races unparalleled in the world. Together, Fish and Lott organized the major manufacturers into an advisory committee, which served to recommend technical and safety rules to the organizers, assist with public relations and communicate to participants. The combined HDRA/SCORE series ran from 1985-1991. SCORE purchased HDRA outright, forming one organization in 1993, and as a visionary, Fish also secured the Laughlin (Nevada) Tourism Council, in association with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and Las Vegas Events, as the title sponsor of the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge. This race was held from 1995 through 2012. He also brought the LVCVA and LVE to SCORE for the annual SCORE Terrible’s Primm 300, which started in 1996 and ran through 2009. Fish also produced the monumental once-in-lifetime Tecate SCORE Baja 2000 to help commemorate the advent of the new millennium in the year 2000, running the legendary race down the length of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico--from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas. In 2007, Fish produced the 40th anniversary of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. Festivities began in Tijuana, the actual start was in Ensenada, Baja California, and it finished in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. Fish was also honored in December 2003 with the inaugural BFGoodrich Tires Motorsports Person of the Year award for his many contributions to the world of motorsports. In addition, Fish also brought SCORE to the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Government in 2004 and 2005. SCORE provided significant logistical support for the ongoing DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomous robotic ground vehicles, a massive DARPA research project designed to assist the U.S. Military. In 2005, Fish was the first recipient of a new Off-Road Lifetime Achievement award presented by Advanstar Communications at the Off-Road Impact Show. The following year, he was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and in 2003 was enshrined into the Baja Legacy Hall of Fame, located at Horsepower Ranch near Ensenada, Mexico. In February of 2010, Fish was honored for the third consecutive year by the Mexican Federation of Motorsports. During an elaborate formal awards presentation in Mexico City, Fish received the prized Silver Helmet Award. Back in the United States, Fish was honored with a special Community Achievement Award and Charter Life Membership in 2005 by the Laughlin, Nevada Chamber of Commerce. Governments, governors, and mayors from every area where SCORE has produced events have honored Fish with special commendations and keys to the city. In addition, the feature-length documentary, directed by Dana Brown, called ‘Dust To Glory’, was produced in association with SCORE International and was released in April 2005 as a tribute to the legendary Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. Back To Celebrate The 50th Now at 77 years of age, Fish is still recovering from major open heart surgery he had last September but continues to feel the passion for the sport that he has helped grow into the amazing level it has reached. “People ask what do I miss the most, and I quickly answer the people, especially racers, crews, government officials, the ejidos, all the wonderful people of Mexico, and even the news media. But life changes, especially after nearly four decades, and I am honored and humbled to be part of the SCORE Baja 1000 one more time.” Fish has waited for this anniversary for a long time and is glad to see that this racing series has endured. “When I started with SCORE back in 1974, 50 years was not in my vocabulary at all,” said Fish. “It was around the year 2000 when I really started thinking about and looking forward to the 50th anniversary of the greatest desert race in the world—The SCORE Baja 1000. I was enamored with Mexico’s magnificent Baja peninsula from the first time I raced down there. After Mickey Thompson dangled the carrot and I grabbed on, I was addicted to SCORE Baja racing, the terrain, and the people.” “While I may have thought it would be me leading SCORE into the 50th, things worked out differently and I am very happy to be able to be a part of it in a different way,” added Fish. ”When I first went down the peninsula and marked a race course, we were like pioneers looking for the West Coast. We really didn’t know exactly where we were going, but somehow we got there that first time, and now it has evolved into one of the very top motorsports extravaganzas in the world. Besides swapping stories with the old ‘sea dogs’ like me who will reappear for this landmark event in November, I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts with the new ‘young lions’ of SCORE Baja racing.” Fish is happy with what Roger and Elise Norman have done with SCORE and to keep the legacy of the SCORE Baja 1000 at the forefront of off-road racing. “Because I have been there and truly done that, I sincerely appreciate all that Roger and Elise have done and are doing, to help solidify the legacy of SCORE International event more. Technology has moved so swiftly, I know I will also be asking a lot of questions about these unique, exotic racing machines of today, including how differently they will approach an odyssey like the SCORE Baja 1000 than they did just five years ago when I shook my last hand to congratulate another finisher of the world’s greatest desert race.” Autobiography In The Works Never one to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else go by, Fish has embarked on his next adventurous journey. He has begun the tedious and tenuous process of sitting down long enough to tell the story of his life in the form of a first-person autobiography. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but I was always too busy with SCORE and never got around to it”, said Fish. “I thought I better get to it before I forget more about my adventure than I already have. For me, it’s definitely harder than marking a SCORE race course in Baja and that’s not easy.” “The 50th anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000 will afford me the opportunity to put the final layer on my adventure. It will be like the ‘cherry on top’ and a wonderful way to cap off my SCORE experience.” SJ

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