SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal-December 2019

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

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Page 42 of 130

BAJA TAKES ITS REVENGE The rain stirs the pot in the SCORE Trophy Truck classes and changes the odds By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo Among the field of SCORE Trophy Truck racers, there was no doubt in their minds that delaying the race for 24-hours was a wise choice. The changes it caused on the course, however, was something they couldn’t have anticipated and it had a significant outcome for many of the top teams. Starting the field was Ryan Arciero who teamed up with Dan McMillin in the number 32 Herbst/Smith Levi’s truck. They were first on a course where the conditions were much different than what they had previously pre-run weeks before. “The weather this year put the race on a completely different level,” said Arciero. “Some of that water was so deep and the mud was so bad. I have seen a lot of SCORE Baja 1000’s and I’ve never seen anything like this.” The team reported losing the truck’s rear brakes early in the race, forcing the team to pull into a pit more than once to fix the recurring issue. “When Dan got in at race mile 330, the team ended up replacing both the rear calipers and we had sufficient pedal pressure the rest of the way,” said Arciero. No racer in this class wants either Andy McMillin or Bryce Menzies closing in behind them in an AWD SCORE Trophy Truck. But the two of them teaming together in McMillin’s number 31 Red Bull truck, made for one of several “super teams” that were poised to win this race. Starting second off the line, Menzies quickly took the lead spot on the course as the Mason Motorsports AWD truck had no problem plowing through the slippery mud, but would soon suffer a mechanical failure in the transmission. “Bryce drove an amazing race and was leading,” said McMillin. “We then had to switch to Plan B and get the truck to the finish to try for the championship.” After a great finish at the Lucerna SCORE Baja 400, Tavo Vildosola in the number 21 Mexicana Logistics truck started third, followed by Justin Lofton in the number 41 Fox Ford. Fifth off the starting line was the number 10 Papas and Beer truck driven by Alan and Aaron Ampudia, followed by Cameron Steele who teamed up with Ricky Johnson in the number 12 Monster Energy truck. Starting ninth was B.J. Baldwin who teamed up with Todd LeDuc in the number 97 Monster Energy truck. Missing from the lead starters in the SCORE Trophy Truck division was Luke McMillin who started in 10th place. He teamed up with Larry Roeseler in McMillin’s number 83 truck and despite problem after problem, the two managed to move into the lead at several points on corrected time. “We had a stuck throttle, no brakes, lost an alternator and a power steering pump and water pressure,” said Luke McMillin. “At one point we thought we lost an engine when it dropped dead at one point. We just kept pushing and pushing.” Starting behind McMillin was Mike Walser out of Comfort, Texas in the number 89 Mason Motorsports truck, who teamed up with Luke Johnson, and was followed by Robby Gordon in the number 77 Speed Energy truck. Towards the rear of the pack of SCORE Trophy Trucks was Jesse Jones, the driver of record for the number 76 Red Bull truck that started 23rd. Jones had Dakar Rally champions Nassar Al-Attiyah and Toby Price co-drive the AWD Mason Motorsports truck. For Al-Attiyah, it was his first SCORE Baja 1000 race experience, and while Price normally competes in Dakar on a motorcycle, this was also his first experience driving a SCORE Trophy Truck at a SCORE Baja 1000 race. THE RACE UNFOLDS AS THE MUD PILES ON It was evident early in the race that the AWD Trophy Trucks had an advantage in the slick conditions. Menzies and McMillin had taken an early lead while Walser and Johnson moved up the pack. In an amazing display of skill, Al-Attiyah and Price also moved quickly with the SCORE Trophy Truck leaders and suddenly, all were in a position for a win. While many of the two-wheel drive trucks were clearly at a disadvantage in this race, it didn’t deter the Ampudia team who eventually came into first place on the course and in corrected time mid-way through the course. It was the same for Luke McMillin and Larry Roeseler, who persevered the difficulties and moved their way to challenge the Ampudia team, trading the lead at several points in the race. For Andy McMillin and Bryce Menzies, their early lead dwindled with their drivetrain issues and were at that point, hoping to finish the race and keep Luke McMillin from possibly stealing away the SCORE Trophy Truck Championship from them. Despite being passed early in the race, Arciero managed to hold on to a good position on the course, and from starting in 16th place, Rob MacCachren began pushing towards the front to challenge the leaders using all of his skills to get through the mud and getting stuck behind Justin Lofton after he lost his steering. MacCachren assisted Lofton by pushing his truck off the course. “We helped him take the tie rod off his truck so he could get the wheel straight,” said MacCachren. “We lost about 15-20 minutes.” LIMP IT TO THE FINISH With many of the SCORE Trophy Trucks experiencing issues due to the mud, those in the lead pack desperately tried to hold on to their positions and limped it home, hoping their times were fast enough. As the first vehicles approached the finish line, it was after 3 a.m. in Ensenada on Sunday, November 24th. SCORE’s announcer Rat Sult had been up for nearly 48 hours during the SCORE Live Stream announcing the positions of racers using the Live Tracking. Fans and team members waited at the finish line as the headlights began to appear down the streets of Ensenada and around the corner as the Ampudia team drove to the finish to win the race Overall. Emotions ran high as it was the team’s first SCORE Trophy Truck win on one of the most difficult courses imaginable. “To be able to come out here with a stacked field like it was today and come out on top through all the elements Baja threw at us this year with the rain and mud, it was crazy,” said Alan Ampudia. The team celebrated with family and the three brothers embraced their dad Rodrigo Sr. to an emotional finish that meant the team will be a force to be reckoned with during the 2020 season. Finishing second in another amazing display of skill was the number 76 Jones truck with Al-Attiyah driving it into a waiting Toby Price. “This is my first SCORE Baja 1000 and it was fantastic,'' said Al-Attiyah. “I am so happy to be here and it’s fantastic for us to finish on the podium. Compared to my Dakar car, there is no limit with these trucks and I love to be here. I promise I am coming back next year.” “I’m very grateful to Jesse Jones to have me in his truck,” said Toby Price. “We have had a very good race here today. It’s crazy that two Dakar champs can get a podium finish.” The two Dakar racers demonstrated enthusiasm for SCORE Baja racing and the experience left them wanting a win to add to their racing careers. Luke McMillin and Larry Roeseler, also demonstrated why they are two of the top racers in Baja. The team stopped to fix the multiple issues they had with their vehicle and still managed to finish third overall. The team had been battling with Ampudia during the last half of the racecourse and was very close to winning it. “We made it to the lead in the desert which is something we knew we could do,” said McMillin. “Our biggest problem today was the steering pump. It took us 30-minutes to change it out and ultimately cost us the win.” In another amazing finish from the rear of the pack was the Mike Walser and Luke Johnson. The two drove the AWD truck to take fourth in the race and were pleased with their efforts. “The course was so much different at the start with all of the water and mud,” said Walser. “You had to be technical in several areas too. We are happy to take fourth and are getting ready for next year.” Rob MacCachren could have run up the pack and taken the win, but had alternator problem and stopped to help Justin Lofton in the number 41 truck. Despite the problems, he and co-driver Justin “Bean” Smith ran a fantastic race to finish in the top five. Ryan Arciero also used his skills to stay with the leaders and finished sixth, followed by Robbie Pierce in the number 30 Jimco truck with co-driver and 2016 Overall Points Champion Rafael Navarro IV, who moved from TT Spec into Pierce’s Trophy Truck for the first time. “The course was rough and I’m very thankful to Robbie Pierce for having me in this truck,” said Navarro. “We tested in this truck and it’s on another level. It’s a huge difference power-wise, but I got comfortable very quickly.” MCMILLIN AND MENZIES FINISH STRONG With Andy McMillin and Bryce Menzies teaming up, it was almost a sure bet they would have walked away with the victory, but Baja threw so much at these two veterans it’s amazing that they still managed to finish and with their combined teams, put across an effort that won’t soon be forgotten. “It was one of those Baja days,” said McMillin. “At first Bryce and I were stoked at the rain because we knew the all-wheel drive would have an advantage on the slippery hills. Baja tried to beat us but we came back fighting. I want to thank all my guys at the shop and all of Bryce’s guys and his family, all our volunteers that come and help us with the race program. Chasing us from eight o’clock yesterday morning until nine o’clock this morning, it’s really cool. While the 52nd SCORE Baja 1000 had some unexpected results in the SCORE Trophy Truck class, it will be one of the most memorable. With many racers from other forms of motorsports competition now getting into this class, they will also bring more fans and grow the sport to new levels and greater competition. SJ SCORE Trophy Truck Finishers 1. 10 Alan Ampudia, 28, Ensenada, Mexico/Aaron Ampudia, 26, Ensenada, Mexico/Rodrigo Ampudia, 34, Ensenada, Mexico, Ford Raptor (ID), 16:10:36 (49.48 mph) 2. 76 Jesse Jones, 53, Litchfield Park, Ariz./Toby Price, 32, Australia/Nasser Al-Attiyah, 48, Qatar, Ford F-250 (Mason), 16:21:06 3. 83 Luke McMillin, 26, San Diego/Larry Roeseler, 62, Imperial, CA, Ford F-150 (Racer), 16:21:33 4. 89 Mike Walser, 52, Comfort, Texas/Luke Johnson, 27, Sun City, CA, Chevy Silverado (Mason), 17:19;40 5. 11 Rob MacCachren, 54, Las Vegas/Justin B. Smith, Las Vegas, Ford F-150 (Geiser), 17:24:12 6. 32 Ryan Arciero, 46, Foothill Ranch, CA/Dan McMillin, 31, San Diego, Ford F-150 (Herbst-Smith), 18:11:17 7. 30 Robbie Pierce, 60, Alpine, CA/Rafael Navarro IV, 26, Temecula, CA, Ford Raptor (Jimco),18:27:42 8. 85 Michael Lawrence, 31, Banning, CA, Ford F-150 (Herbst-Smith), 19:11:12 9. 50 Zak Langley, 44, Manhattan Beach, CA/Kyle Jergensen, 23, Oak Hills, CA, Ford F-150 (ESM), 19:38:07 10. 45 Gary Magness, 45, Denver/Devin Housh, 37, Desert Hot Springs, CA, Ford F-150 (Herbst-Smith), 19:42:51;11. 9 Carlos ‘Apdaly’ Lopez, 24, Tecate, Mexico/Juan C. Lopez, Tecate, Mexico, Chevy Rally Truck (Geiser), 20:04:54 12. 42 Casey Mears, 41, Scottsdale, Ariz./Doug Fortin Jr, 49, Alpine, CA, Ford Raptor (Geiser), 20:57:52 13. 31 Andy McMillin, 32, San Diego/Bryce Menzies, 32, Las Vegas, Chevy Silverado (Mason), 22:03:12 14. 44 Jayson Strachan, 45, Salt Lake City, Utah/Bill Apgood, Salt Lake City/Kendall Bringhurst, American Ford, Utah/James Burman, Heber City, Utah, Ford F-150 (Geiser), 22:07:52 15. 14 Bobby Pecoy, 55, Anaheim, CA/Mike Byrd, 47, Parker, Ariz./Greg Distefano, San Clemente, CA/Scott Conley, La Jolla, CA/Cameron Steele, 51, San Clemente, CA, Ford Raptor (Geiser), 22:57:16 16. 77 Robby Gordon, 50, Charlotte, N.C./Damen Jefferies, Apple Valley, CA, Chevy Silverado (Custom), 24:04:39 17. 41 Justin Lofton, 33, Brawley, CA/Derek Balcunas, 37, Hemet, CA/Ray Griffith, 31, Downey, CA, Ford Raptor (Jimco), 24:46:16.(28 Starters, 17 Finishers)

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