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Page 25 of 124

TIME TRIALS Penalties Shake Up The SCORE Trophy Truck Class By Dan Sanchez, Paul Hanson, Jose Vazquez, and Guilherme Torres Photos by Get Some Photo It was perhaps one of the most dramatic endings to a SCORE Baja 500 in recent history, when a joint decision from SCORE and the Competition Review Board (CRB) brought down the gauntlet on the first two finishers of the SCORE Trophy Truck class. The race started like all the others, with Bryce Menzies leading the field after his win at the SCORE San Felipe 250, but he was followed by two of the most skilled SCORE Trophy Truck racers in modern times, Luke McMillin and Andy McMillin. The three sped across the Baja desert much more slowly than in previous races, due to the technical nature of the course. Nevertheless, the three racers stayed within minutes of each other until about the last 200 miles of the race when a fuel system problem ended the day for Menzies. Luke McMillin in the 4WP Mason AWD truck took the lead in the race but battled with Andy McMillin on the course until they reached the finish line. Luke crossed the finish line ahead of Andy, who was right on his tail. Everyone checked the times to guess the results, thinking that because Andy McMillin started third behind Luke his overall time would be faster. But SCORE officials and the CRB took 48 hours to investigate reports of Luke McMillin missing a turn and decided to disqualify him for crossing over a short section where spectators were gathered. “I got off my line and ended up behind a campsite,” said Luke McMillin on his Instagram post after the race. “When we pulled up to the tents, the first thing we did was yell and point to see if anyone was in them, once the guys started to pull the tent out of the way and signaled no, is when we decided to go. I would not have moved forward if it was not clear. It was a big mistake and I’m very sorry. I’ve been in contact and made things right with the people there, fully replacing their belongings.” While Andy McMillin thought he had won the race, SCORE and the CRB investigated reports that he had passed vehicles in a speed zone on the highway, one in which an oncoming vehicle had to get off the pavement. The maneuver cost McMillin a 30-minute penalty which pushed him into second place. “I not only fully accept, but also respect this decision made by the Competition Review Board and feel very bad if I endangered anyone during this maneuver,” said McMillin on his Instagram page after the race. “I unfortunately made a poor decision in the heat of the battle in the latter part of the race. These things happen, we must learn from our mistakes and move forward.” The incidents moved Larry Roeseler, who finished third physically, with an overall time that was a little more than three seconds over Andy McMillin’s penalized time to win the race. For SCORE fans, they felt both ecstatic that “Mr. Baja” himself, broke his own record and won his 12th Baja 500 race. “SCORE appreciates the diligent work of the CRB in assisting in adjudicating these more challenging situations that can arise during one of our SCORE Baja races,” said Jose A. Grijalva, SCORE President and Race Director. “SCORE will continue to review and enforce the rules that are designed to keep all racers, crews, and spectators safe. Unfortunately, these two special decisions have impacted two of the most prominent and well-respected racers in the entire sport of desert racing, and this is an example of the transparency SCORE has with the help of the CRB in these special situations.” After finishing ninth at the SCORE San Felipe 250, Tavo Vildosola had quite an impressive run, moving up the pack and finishing only a few seconds behind Roeseler. After the official rulings, Vildosola ended up in third place with one of his best performances so far this season. “It was a tough course. Just for the attrition alone, and how the SCORE Trophy Trucks are going to finish today– we’re going to see it,” said Vildosola at the finish line. “We made the podium, but I didn’t drive us well enough to get to the top. I made some mistakes early that really cost us a lot of time and a couple of spots. It’s disappointing. We had two programmed pit stops for the race and ended up stopping eight times for different things. It’s not a winning formula to stop eight times in a SCORE Baja 500 or in any race. We weren’t able to recover in the end but we pushed hard and did what we could.” Out of the 25 starters in the SCORE Trophy Truck class, only 14 finished. Dan McMillin would end up finishing in a strong fourth place, with Rob MacCachren in fifth, leaving these racers in a good starting position for the SCORE Baja 400. Fans and SCORE officials were also happy to see the return of Justin Matney in the RPM Off Road No. 4 Geiser truck. Matney had taken a season off to recover from a serious illness and returned with co-driver Josh Daniels to his first SCORE race in over a year. SCORE TT LEGEND CLASS Driving the No. 37L Mason Ford Raptor, Rolf Helland won his second class victory in a row this season. Co-driving with Rick D. Johnson, the two started first in class and maintained their position despite a challenging course. “ It was a tough race, and I was worn out after more than five hours on the truck, “ said Helland. “Our Mason SCORE Trophy Truck ran really well. Rick and the crew did a terrific job in preparing it, and it ran flawlessly all day long. We had a couple of close calls and missed a couple of turns, but overall we didn’t make any mistakes all day. Luckily, we had a good finish here and in the SCORE San Felipe 250. Now we’re looking forward to the SCORE Baja 400 and the SCORE Baja 1000.” Helland widened his lead in points towards a class championship ahead of Clyde Stacy in the No. 5L RPM Off Road truck, who finished third at the SCORE Baja 500, and second at the SCORE San Felipe 250. Robert Malone in the No. 13L Brenthel Chevy, finished second in class while Robbie Pierce with Bobby Patton finished fourth in the 20L Jimco Chevy. SCORE TT SPEC For the 26 SCORE TT Spec competitors at the BFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 500 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts, the silt was perhaps their biggest challenge. Many got stuck or slowly pushed through the deep areas of silt where competitors caught up to each other and fought to get out in the fastest time. No one knew this better than Jason Coleman in the No. 292 Herbst/Smith Chevy. Coleman started the race first after winning the class in the SCORE San Felipe 250, but got high-centered early in the race, losing his position on the course. At race mile 47, the team got caught deep in the silt and took more than two hours to get out. As the race progressed, Jason McNeil in the No 234 truck moved up and had been battling with Pierce Herbst in the No. 256 truck. Herbst had issues with mud getting into his engine’s air filter which cost him the lead, allowing McNeil to hold on to finish first in class. Ryan Hancock who started second managed to hold on to the second place position after McNeil passed during another silt area. “We had a good day with no major issues,” said co-driver Brock Heger. “We had a good lead going timewise. One of our co-drivers had an injury with a rock that hit his back and I finished the race alongside Ryan. We had a pretty clean race and never had to get out of the truck.” Starting way back in 13th place, Justin Davis in the No. 250 Green Army truck powered his way forward up the pack and finished in third place. Davis is a former SCORE Class 1 champion and drove his new TT Spec truck like it had been “broken-in” for years. “It was a pretty technical, tough course, typical for a SCORE Baja 500,” said Davis. “It had a lot of silt and people got stuck. We set a good pace early on and got through some of those who were stuck. We did what we had to do and were running up front but had some overheating and wheel issues. We battled it for a few minutes and then we got a flat. Sometimes you just need a little more luck, but for a brand new truck, which we only got to test for 20 miles, I’ll take a top-three finish. We got a lot to build on and now we already know a lot of stuff we can do to improve this truck.” SJ

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