SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - MAY 2017

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

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ALONE IN THE DESERT TWO TIME, BACK-TO-BACK SCORE BAJA 1000 WINNER BJ BALDWIN REFLECTS ON THE RACE THAT STILL CHALLENGES HIS SKILLS By Stephen Romero BJ Baldwin discovered the SCORE Baja 1000 when he was nine-years-old, watching his idol, Ivan “Ironman” Stewart, race the event on television. As the story goes, he was hooked on desert racing and when he was experienced enough to enter his first real race, he set his sights at trying to achieve what the Ironman had done countless times in his career. He wanted to win the most grueling desert race on earth, the SCORE Baja 1000, solo. “Larry Ragland contributed a great deal to my early career,” said Baldwin. “I would pre-run with him at the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000.” As Baldwin’s mentor Ragland showed him the ropes, and as Baldwin devoured everything Ragland suggested, he became proficient behind the wheel. It was enough to eventually climb into his first Trophy Truck at the SCORE Baja 1000 in 2003, which he led for several hundred miles; unfortunately, he didn’t win. But as Baldwin told SCORE Journal at Baldwin Motorsports headquarters in Las Vegas, he walked away thrilled to be part of an event that one day he would win… and he did. In 2012 and 2013 Baldwin stunned his growing fan base by taking on the SCORE Baja 1000 solo and winning back to back events. Now as he gets ready for the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000 Baldwin reflected on the race and exactly why, in his opinion, this event has become the most prized race in off-road motorsports today. “When we won it the first year in 2012 that was very exciting and I was thrilled for several months afterward, in fact, I still get excited talking about that first win,” said Baldwin. “I’ve taken swings at the Baja 1000 many times in my career, but Baja has beaten me down. To be successful in a heavily packed field like what happened in 2012 and 2013 that was the greatest feeling and something that I will never forget.” When he won that race in 2012 it came with a sense of accomplishment that is unique to desert racing, and it was especially gratifying to Baldwin because he raced it alone, without the assistance of either a navigator or co-driver, as Ivan Steward did when he competed. “There’s definitely a different sense of pride to race the SCORE Baja 1000 solo because people don’t do this anymore like Ivan did years ago, and it is like following in your hero’s footsteps,” said Baldwin. “I’ve never won a SCORE Baja 1000 with a teammate so I don’t know what that feels like. Winning the 1000 and doing 100 percent of the driving yourself is five times more challenging than with another driver. You are doing three or four times more pre-running. You’re spending most of your time on the highway trying to get back to a section to do it all again.” On the downside of running the SCORE Baja 1000 solo, Baldwin admitted that a competitor with multiple drivers has a huge advantage. “You have a higher chance of success with a teammate, you’re only going half the distance alone and you’re seeing so much more,” said Baldwin. “You have a fresh driver that’s not beat to hell and that driver knows his section way better than I know my thousand-mile section. I’m more beat-up at the end of a pre-run than others.” Social Media in Racing SCORE Along with all of his off-road accomplishments, including four SCORE season points championships, a certain degree of openness is expected from not only sponsors but for fans as well. From Instagram to Facebook and Twitter, Baldwin has his hands full keeping his tens of thousands of followers entertained; 480,000 followers on Instagram alone. No doubt, the aftermath of racing the SCORE Baja 1000 feeds that core market. As Baldwin said, there’s a lot of “smack talk” going on in social media. “No one talks smack on professional basketball players because no one can out dunk them or outrun them, but they do (talk smack) on race car drivers,” said Baldwin. “People say it’s easy and not that hard to drive because they don’t have a race car to prove it with. They don’t realize how hard it really is, and that’s why I focus 100 percent on winning the Baja 1000. It is never outside of my thinking.” Evolution Changes Driving Patterns Through the years the SCORE Baja 1000 has gone through its share of changes, which means the teams have become much more competitive. These growth spurts have some effect on the efforts of the drivers, and as Baldwin explained, he’s no different. “There’s a distinct change in how I ran my program in 2003 as opposed to how I’m running it now,” said Baldwin. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we’ve continued to evolve and to become more competitive to win another SCORE Baja 1000.” On the longevity of the race itself, Baldwin took a deep breath and thought about how much the race has meant to him during his career. “It is the longest continuous off-road race in the world,” said Baldwin. “It is the most brutal race in motorsports, and lastly when the sun sets in Baja there is no place on earth as beautiful. I think people are attracted to the 50th SCORE Baja 1000 because it is special. But I’m not just trying to win one race I’m trying to win all of them. If I didn’t try to win all of them I would have never won two of them. I’d be surprised if it didn’t last another fifty years. For the Mexican people, it’s their Super Bowl. I’m out in the middle of nowhere and miles from the nearest town and there are 30,000 people waiting to see their favorite Trophy Truck drive through.” Toyota and Baldwin Go Racing What could potentially make BJ Baldwin even more competitive at this year’s SCORE Baja 1000 is the deal he inked with Toyota back in 2016. Baldwin sees that as a way to carry on the winning tradition of Ivan Stewart inside the TRD Tundra Trophy Truck. Baldwin has lots of confidence in his new ride and said it will be no different from any other year because he’ll put his efforts into maximizing his opportunity for success race after race. SJ

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