SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal Issue - NOVEMBER 2017

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

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Page 75 of 82

Deeply Rooted Legendary off-road racer and Off-Road Hall Of Fame inductee, Walker Evans, talks about his career and best memories of the SCORE Baja 1000 By Dan Sanchez Photos by Centerline Images It doesn’t take long for people to flock around the tall man with the white cowboy hat when he’s attending an off-road race. Walker Evans is one of those people who are immediately recognizable not just because of the hat, but because he’s one of the guys that helped put the word “racing” alongside off-road. His history in the sport is legendary, but so is his influence, as he alone has worked with, and eventually spawned more racers, engine builders, crew chiefs, and businessmen, during his 30-year career in motorsports. This is one of the reasons why he’s considered the grandfather of off-road racing. “Over the years, I shared some of my career with lots of people,” said Evans. “We’ve hired eight to10 different drivers for four different vehicles in some races. More have worked in my shop, built cars, and maintained them.” of these include his business partner Randy Anderson, NASCAR racer Brendan Gaughan, engine builder Kevin Kroyer, and racers such as Rod Hall, Rob MacCachren, his son Evan Evans, and many others that extend into rock crawling, UTV, snowmobile and other forms of racing. Evans said he always wanted to do things his way, and he made sure his workers knew it. “They thought working for me was the strictest and hardest place to be,” said Evans. “Afterwards, they were the first people to thank me. My thoughts on racing were different during those times. I always said that if you were in racing for having a fun time, you’re in the wrong sport. I warned everyone that there would be tough times with more problems and try to resolve them at one or two o’clock in the morning; under a vehicle and right before the start of a race. Racing is very hardcore and you get no weekends off. Then, after the race on Monday, you come home, wash and tear the vehicle down and spend all week getting it ready for the next race.” A 30-Year Career Began On Two-Wheels Evans’ legendary career in off-road began as a successful motorcycle racer. He had won in the desert cross country and short-course races, but he really wanted to get into four-wheel vehicles early in his racing career. “I always wanted to get into something with a roll bar, cage, and four wheels,” said Evans. That chance to drive didn’t come until he found out about a team building a pair of American Motors Ramblers for off-road racing. “My friend, who was a good mechanic, told me to check out these vehicles he was building for John Crain and James Garner out in Hemet, California,” said Evans. “I fell in love with these cars that were just sitting there on jack stands, had dual shocks, and were being prepared for an assault on Baja.” “Of course, I asked who was driving these things, and I immediately offered to be a co-driver or an alternate,” said Evans. The team eventually allowed Evans to pre-run the course of a new race that started in 1969, called the Baja 500. “It took us two to three days to pre-run that first Baja 500 course in a four-wheel drive GMC truck,” said Evans. “I was standing right by that Rambler when one of the drivers, John Greene, said he wasn’t going to be able to drive.” Evan’s first encounter with Baja racing ended up with a third-place finish and a realization that lots of parts were going to break in the process. “I was hooked on off-road racing ever since,” said Evans. “The whole experience seemed as though it was tailored just for me. I adapted to it and loved it. From my motorcycle racing experience, I could read the terrain and I was also a pretty good mechanic, so it all fit together.” The team eventually dissolved and Evans wanted to build and race his own custom-made two-wheel drive truck. He approached Bill Stroppe, to fully prepare a used truck he had purchased, but Stroppe wouldn’t touch it. “Stroppe only wanted to build new trucks,” said Evans. “So I went and bought a brand new pickup and brought it to them. It took me a whole year to get the truck ready and I eventually raced it in the second Baja 500 in 1970.” Stroppe saw how talented Evans was and took him under his wing. “I didn’t get sponsored by Stroppe, but he put me on his list for pit stops which helped quite a bit,” said Evans. He later sold the truck to James Garner the following year. Evans wouldn’t see the truck again until he turned 50, when his wife, Phyllis, bought the truck back and gave it to him as a present. The same year that Evans took on his first Baja 500, he raced the Baja 1000 too. This started his long career in off-road motorsports, competing against the likes of Ak Miller, Mickey Thompson and Parnelli Jones. Although Evans struggled to win against such tough competition, he knew his time would eventually come. Although Evans had already won numerous off-road races by this time, it wasn’t until 1979 that he won the Overall Baja 1000 with his brother-in-law Bruce Florio, in a Dodge pickup. Evans And Dodge, A Match Made For Winning In 1979, Evans was the first driver in off-road racing history to win the Baja 1000 overall in a truck. His efforts in vehicle design and driving capabilities, changed the face of SCORE and off-road racing to this day, leading the way to the modern SCORE Trophy Truck. Evans and his relationship with Dodge grew to the point where the two were synonymous in off-road racing. “I won more races in Dodge trucks,” said Evans “I got my first contract with Dodge in 1977 and our relationship lasted until 1999. A lot of Dodge engineers came to all of the off-road races and because of that, we were at the forefront of engineering. We built more pieces out of billet and other materials that would withhold up to the torture of Baja.” Evan’s winning with Dodge trucks dominated in Class 8, until he switched to SCORE Trophy Trucks when they came to SCORE racing in 1999, adding them to the regular series. A Baja 1000 Victory That Changed Everything While Evans has more off-road race victories than any other living racer alive, with 142 victories and 21 championship titles. One of his most memorable races, however, was winning that Overall Baja 1000 victory in 1979. “That race sticks into my mind because it was a trouble-free race,” said Evans. “Our Dodge was a Stepside so it had rear fenders in which one of them got ripped off when we got a flat tire. We got to the finish and because we were so far out in front, we knew we had won the race overall.” “The next morning, our crew chief Randy Anderson who is now my business partner, took the hood off the truck to get it loaded onto the trail for the haul home. He saw that the ignition coil bracket broke and the coil was laying on the engine with the wire was dangling. There was no paint on the valve cover, indicating it had been sitting there beating and rattling all during the race. I realized that if the wire would have come off we would have been done. So not only was that one of the best race wins of my life, it was certainly one very lucky experience too. I firmly believe that when it’s your day, it’s your day!” SJ

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