SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - Mar 2017

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

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BUILT TO WIN Four Time SCORE Baja 1000 Class Winner Jerry Penhall Keeps The Spirit Of The Baja 1000 Alive In His Race-Winning Buggies By Stephen Romero Jerry Penhall’s induction into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame capped countless victories in a career spanning 36 years behind-the-wheel of Class 1, 10, 11, 12 and 5 vehicles. But as he told the SCORE Journal, it’s far from over, even though Penhall Fabrication has various class wins at the SCORE Baja 1000; 1996, 2001, 2009 and 2011, in a variety of vehicles that he built with his own hands. Although Penhall is relentless in his pursuit of winning Baja races and adding to his mantel of trophies, he is surprisingly humble, reserved, and seemingly unchanged from the day he belted into a vehicle and participated in the SCORE Baja 1000 race. Through the years one thing has remained constant, Penhall is a fan favorite on and off the race course. At his fabrication shop in Santa Ana, California, Jerry Penhall recollected on his past SCORE Baja 1000 class victories and experiences, as well as what this iconic race means to him personally as an enthusiast of desert racing. “I’m proud I got involved in the SCORE Baja 1000 shortly after SCORE took it over,” Penhall said. “Everybody wants to win that one race, and there are a lot of people who have never one it. Most recently Brian and Brad Wilson just won their first SCORE Baja 1000 last November after many years of trying. To win the SCORE Baja 1000 is a big deal and a lot of fun because it’s our biggest race of the year. It’s like racing in a new frontier because you never know what you’re going to get.” Penhall grew up in Orange County, California surrounded by the surf and sand, and he was fortunate to have come from a spirited family that loved racing. His brother Bruce was a former speedway motorcycle champion in the United States, and in Europe. Parents, Leroy and Barbara, supported both of their son’s racing careers and instilled in them a work ethic that continues to this day at Penhall Fabrication, where he builds some of the most innovative chassis designs on the market. Penhall’s success and experience also come from winning the SCORE Baja 1000 four times in various classes. While the memories of each race are quite unique, Penhall does recall the 2009 race in the COPS-sponsored Class 1 race car as being the best out of all the other vehicles he’s driven in that legendary race. “The Class 1 had the power it needed and I was so close to being the overall champion that year,” he said. “The COPS car was the ultimate Baja 1000 vehicle.” Penhall started racing motorcycles well before he got interested in race cars, and that led him to travel to Baja with his father to watch the likes of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart” whizzing past him. He was hooked on race cars from that moment on. So Penhall saved his money by doing fabrication work for friends on the side, and then bought a used swing-axle VW High Jumper and rebuilt it completely to race it in SCORE Class 2. That’s how Penhall did things, full throttle. He dove in head first into desert racing and befriended David Kreisler, who founded Raceco, and then in the early ‘80s, he started to offer his own Penhall chassis for racers. The first car Penhall Fabrication built was a single-seater Class 10 vehicle and the rest, as they say, is history. Along the way to his many wins, Penhall raced with legends like Malcolm Smith, Larry Roeseler, Danny Letner and other motorsport champions. When he got the phone call from Roeseler to drive the Herbst Truggy he jumped at the chance. Instances like these make Penhall an interesting mix of sportsman, and by understanding his background you start to see that he has accomplished so much by having the foresight to pursue his goals and by never giving up, likely early lessons in life taught to him by his parents. Before he opened Penhall Fabrication, he taught himself to weld, fabricate, and to be a businessman; and it worked. Today Penhall Fabrication is a player in off-road racing today, especially when it comes to developing winning race cars for upcoming champions. “To be a manufacturer and to have a component that you’ve designed and built a car that’s won the SCORE Baja 1000 is huge,” said Penhall. “This is good for everybody. But some of the best memories of racing is having our families with us. Those are the best times.” “Most of the people that help us at the SCORE Baja 1000 have been with us for many years and they just love it. They’ll chase or pit, they just want to be involved,” said Penhall. “I got into this when I was a kid because of my dad, who used to race motorcycles at Ascot Park in Los Angeles. He raced boats too and flew chase planes at Baja. At the time he was really into desert racing, that’s when it all started.” Penhall recalls the first time he and his dad experienced the SCORE Baja 1000 which eventually changed their lives and started Penhall’s Baja racing career. “It was the year Parnelli Jones won the SCORE Baja 1000 in the Bronco,” said Penhall. “My dad came home from that trip and said he was going to have Offenhauser build us an engine for a Bronco that we were going to race. I was way into it.” “Shortly after that conversation, my parents were both killed in an airplane crash and it never came to be, but I was hooked on the sport,” said Penhall. “To this day, I’d like to think that my dad would proud of what I have done.” SJ

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