Preference: Charlene Bower and Ladies Offroad Challenge winner Megan Stevenson will be reporting live from the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000 as they expose the complexity of the BFGoodrich Tires Pit Support Program, highlight all the ladies racing and of course talk racing! This article is by Charlene Bower:
Not sure what I was expecting from the BFGoodrich Tires Pit Exchange day. Maybe I was anticipating a bit of a contingency style atmosphere with vehicles rolling through bumper-to-bumper dropping off tires, dump cans, parts and tools; teams signing up at the tables, one on top of another. Yea, that wasn’t quite the case.
It was so organized there was no opportunity for the 150 plus teams to get bound up in a bumper-to-bumper situation. The pit locations were parked in order from 1 to 8 and the truck and trailers easily drove through to the pit locations they wanted to drop off at. Inside, the tables were set up for fuel, insurance, pit books, communications and a general help station. Again, the numbers from today are staggering. I’ll give you one right now: 370 BFGoodrich Tires were dropped off to be hauled to pits.
What does it cost to be serviced by a BFGoodrich Tires pit? Nothing. You just have to run BFGoodrich Tires! Yes, it’s just that simple.
BFGoodrich Tires Pits Day 2: (4 Days to Race Day)
We kicked off today Sunday, November 12 at 8am with a Pit Boss meeting to go over the tasks for the day and get the key items of communication that needed to be passed onto the racers. After a meeting to determine our route last night, we knew the fate of having to skip a second pit: Pit 2. So, we decided to spend the day with them while teams approached to drop off items.
Pat Bonse has mainly raced motorcycles, with a stint in a Class 1 and 8 cars before deciding to buy Jack Sypolt’s ProPit business. His full time job as a heavy equipment diesel mechanic in Yerington, NV allows him the opportunity to go to the races on the weekend with the large red, white and blue fifth wheel to represent and be helpful.
Brenda Sellers is the team Mom, as she calls herself. She makes sure everyone is fed and taken care of. She mans the radios, sat phone and makes sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to. “I am essentially Pat’s right hand,” says Brenda.
They both put in a lot of time before they roll into the pit exchange parking lot. Brenda gets all the shopping done, less fruits, vegetables, and bread, which she will buy tonight. She makes spaghetti sauce, breakfast burritos, and other freezable items long before this weekend. “Basically I am responsible for everything in the living quarters and Pat takes care of everything in the back. Pat inventories fluids, safety equipment, tools and a range of other items on his list.”
“BFGoodrich Tires really tries to make it simple for us. There is a lot of paperwork involved, but they get us what we need and we work with our teams to get it handled as quickly as possible,” said Brenda. Today was no exception with the binder of paper next to her that she considers her Life Saver, she would check people in and get their detailed information for the book in preparation their fast paced arrival in the pit.
It was a great day being around their crew and I can guarantee you they lived up to their reputation of “Never Bored and Never Boring!” The entire pit includes: Billy Ferguson, Bob Roggy Jr., Brenda Sellers, Dan Patterson, Dennis Kordonaway, Jim Berryman, John Tommila, John Whitehead, Kevin Mapes (EMT), Mike Snook, Pat Bonse (Team Leader), Randy Adams, Tamiya Ferguson, Tammy Adams, Traci Sorholus and Vanian Lopez. As the day ended, Pat pulled his group together to go over the plan for crossing the border in the morning. “Fuel up tonight to be prepared for a great day tomorrow!”
Meanwhile, Registration is Inside
The inside registration had a flow of traffic all morning and then a rush just before the Pit Crew Meeting at 2pm. The Registration area included getting the coveted pit books, securing fuel, getting mexican auto insurance, checking GPS files and confirming teams radio frequencies.
As the meeting neared, the teams filed into a large ballroom. Frank DeAngelo started the meeting with his safety briefing: “If you can do one thing for BFG, please make sure everyone on your team comes back alive. Take a time out and develop a good plan for your group. Safety is our #1 priority.” <FULL STORY ON SAFETY COMING>
The meeting moved into the race course stating that SCORE tried to make a course that if you use your head you will finish. It includes more of the smoother roads, so speed will be up. The Pit Book with access roads and full detail was discussed for those new to the meeting or to racing overall Baja.
“Lots of people have been part of organizing the Pit Experience, if we went down the whole list you wouldn’t make it to the start of the race,” said Frank just before he took a couple minutes to introduce Nate Hunt, Jennifer Ignacio, Jeff Cummings and Matt Hanlon as the core team. Then he asked Chris Baker, Motorsports Director of North America to say a couple words: “We have spent millions of dollars in all forms of motorsports. Every year I come down and am continually impressed with the investment. For the first time ever, we are offering a $50,000 contingency if the overall winner of the 2017 Baja 1000 is using BFGoodrich Tires! I just want to nail down the idea that we are all in! We have been here for 40 years and we are not going anywhere. I deeply appreciate the commitment by everyone on our team and appreciate what you are going to do. Race fast, but be safe. You have to finish to win.”
One of the last people we talked to as we headed back outside was Sal Fish. “If it wasn’t for BFGoodrich and Frank DeAngelo there wouldn’t be SCORE. What they have done for the series and to help the racers afford to be able to race by providing their pit support has had a significant impact on SCORE. There have been other companies that try to come in and replicate what BFG does, but they don’t come close to the thorough, dedicated and professional manner that all BFG crews represent. Plus, they have the most fantastic tire in the world!”
What the Racers Have To Say
The fun part about the pit exchange day is getting to see the racers in a little more casual environment than at contingency or registration in Baja. I got to ask them the question of why they use the BFGoodrich Tires Pits, and the answers were very interesting:
Bill Schueler #2919: Owner of one of the longest running and most successful UTV Teams Jagged X, this is the first year their team will utilize the full service available at each of the pits. “They know Baja better than we do with 8 great access points and 8 solid crews, they have all the resources and knowledge. It essentially expands our personnel by 200! We still have 3 chase trucks and 15 people going down, but we don’t have to worry about carrying fuel. With this strategy, we are not dropping any tires or parts as we feel we can have a truck meet the car at each pit. As for tires, we are excited for the new 32” tire. It is fantastic; it is best tire we have ever raced on.
As part of the Ladies Offroad Challenge Top 10 weekend where Megan was vying for the spot to come to Baja with me, we visited multiple shops including Jagged X. Kristin Conrad wrote a story about the shop HERE and the LIVE Video is HERE.
Dennis Hollenbeck #1121: Soon to be an International Celebrity when Dust2Glory 2 premiers on the big screens December 6th, Dennis followed his friend Eric’s advise to get BFGoodrich Tires and always be part of their team. “I call them my Angels in the Night. It always seems to be nighttime when we need them the most. They are just amazing how nice they all are and accommodating trying to give you anything you need to eat or drink. When you pull into a BFGoodrich Tires pit, even in a Class 11, they treat you like kings running a professional race team. It doesn’t matter if you are in first place or in last place. They always treat you like you are in first!”
Julie Boyer #1662: One of the many ladies putting on a helmet, she is also the logistics coordinator for the team. “If anyone really knew how much time racing takes, it is certainly not just race day!” Julie said after being up since before the sun getting everything ready and getting to the pit meeting just in time. “The most reassuring part of having BFG Pits on our side is you know you have skilled personnel assisting you to get to the next pit. On a side note, if I did break down, they always have the best food. They take it all very seriously.
JT Holmes #1950: Redbull extreme athlete and star of Dust2Glory 2. “I use them because they are the best you can use – best tires and best help. It’s really about logistics for me. Even if I had the money, I couldn’t do as thorough of a job as they do. Thorough, that is the word!”
The final meeting fell at dark with all the teams verifying every task had been completed and all the pits had what they needed. Frank DeAngelo’s opening words will be our closing as we prepare to cross the border tomorrow with the BFGoodrich Tires Parade of the Pits: “A big thank you for what you have done and for what your about to do. Have a great time and stay safe!”
Charlene Bower is the owner of Bower Motorsports Media since 2008, Ladies Offroad Network and Offroad Marketing School among other projects. Bower is a Performance Team Member for BFGoodrich Tires in addition to other honors and certifications. She has been working in the offroad industry for 23 years and has recently focused all her attention on supporting the ladies who love offroading. For the 50th SCORE Baja 1000, Charlene ran the 2nd Annual Ladies Offroad Challenge where anyone from across the country could enter to be her media assistant or participate in two other events. Megan Stevenson from CA earned the opportunity and is helping in the execution of this exciting project in coordination with BFGoodrich Tires.