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IN PURSUIT OF A CHAMPIONSHIP Jason McNeil Adds Another Winning Performance By Mike Vieira Photos by Get Some Photo Jason McNeil’s win in the SCORE Trophy Truck Spec Class at the K&N 4th SCORE Baja 400 Presented by VP Racing Fuels comes on the heels of a win in the SCORE Baja 500, and a second-place finish in the SCORE San Felipe 250. That impressive season record puts him in a prime position to win the Class Championship for 2023 if he can pull off a good finish in the upcoming SCORE Baja 1000. Starting off second on the road in the SCORE Baja 400, McNeil used a slightly different strategy than he usually does. “Normally, we’re a little more aggressive as far as passing people and things like that, but in this race, we went in with a little different mindset of toning it down some, with the Championship on the line,” he said. “With the good qualifying spot, when you start near the front, it’s a lot easier to maintain that position, so we were probably a little bit more conservative in the beginning than normal.” Before too long, however, racers were beginning to close in from the rear, and it became time for him to turn up the wick a bit. The race went pretty smoothly for McNeil and his navigator, Eric Clay, but one incident did cause a problem for them that remained throughout the race. “Right after we went through the second water crossing at Simpson’s, we hung a tire off to the right-hand side”, said McNeil. “I hung it off a little bit of a cliff that was there, and it pulled the truck off the race course and down into a ravine. We were very, very lucky. I heard things banging all underneath the truck, but we were able to get back to the race course. We almost threw away the race there.” That adventure around Mile 160 damaged the driveshaft and set up a severe vibration that caused their maximum speed to be reduced to about 70 to 75 miles per hour. The team decided that the time needed to change the driveshaft wasn’t worth it, and elected to continue to the finish despite the problem. “We decided to risk it, and it worked out for us,” he said. “We wouldn’t have won if we had stopped to change it.” That smart choice indeed helped bring the team victory in the race and secured the first-place starting position in class for the upcoming SCORE Baja 1000. The team is hoping for a win in that race, and also to repeat their season championship win of two years ago. “Of course, we’d like to do both of those things,” says McNeil. “But if I had to pick, I’d probably say that winning this 56th SCORE Baja 1000 is most important to me. This one is special because it starts in La Paz and goes north. I think that it would really be cool to win this one, maybe even more than your standard SCORE Baja 1000, because who knows how many more times they’re going to be doing this?” The team has had a plan in place for a while for the upcoming SCORE Baja 1000, with SCORE TT Spec veterans Elijah Kiger set to start the race, Justin Davis to drive the middle portion, and McNeil to take over for the last 490 miles. Rivals throughout the season, Kiger and Davis teamed up for this SCORE Baja 400 and were running in second place when transmission problems forced them out, so they’ve already got a start on working together in a race. The partnership for the SCORE Baja 1000 also makes good strategic sense for McNeil. “Both those guys are right there in the top five, so I’ve taken two people out of the mix of competing with me, and now they’re going to help me.” That certainly doesn’t put a lock on the race for the team, but it’s a good plan. In this very competitive class, almost anyone can win with just a bit of a turn in luck, one way or the other. At this moment, with the departure of Christopher Polvoorde for the SCORE Trophy Truck Class, he considers the Herbst team one of his biggest challengers in the Spec Class. “They have really good equipment, they have very good everything else behind them with the team with logistics and pitting, and all that kind of stuff,” he says. As of this writing, Jason’s TSCO truck is torn down and in the process of being prepped for the next race. While McNeil and Elijah Kiger have a good amount of experience in racing TSCO vehicles, Justin Davis has less but built it up a bit during this past SCORE Baja 400. That could be an important factor, as McNeil crashed his TSCO twice when he first switched to it from his heavier Geiser Brothers truck that had been converted from SCORE Trophy Truck to Trophy Truck Spec Class. He says, “The TSCO is engineered for Trophy Truck Spec, and it’s lighter, so you’re going faster than you realize, and you’re hitting things at faster speeds. That’s what caught me off guard, and caused me to crash, as I was probably going 15 miles an hour faster than I would have been in my Geiser.” The SCORE Baja 1000 promises to be a tough, competitive race for everyone involved, and Jason McNeil and his team drivers will be going all out to notch a win and a season championship, against other teams with the same goals, so we wish them all the best.

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