2017 Race-Dezert Baja 1000 coverage sponsored by Method Race Wheels
Over 400 teams embarked on the quest of trying to conquer the 50th Anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000. Sometime it sounds cliché in racing to say “To just finish is a win on its own.”, but for the Baja 1000 that statement certainly is true. 1134 grueling miles of Baja’s toughest terrain are what drivers had to go through, and they don’t do it for the money, the fame, they do it to test themselves and to prove that things that you may think are impossible are possible.
2017 SCORE BAJA 1000 TOP 10 OVERALL
1 Carlos ‘Apdaly’ Lopez, 22, Tecate, Mexico/Juan C. Lopez, 43, Tecate, Mexico, Chevy Rally Truck, 19:53:36 (57.02 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
2. 16 Cameron Steele, 49, San Clemente, Calif./Pat Dean, 49, Las Vegas/Cody Stuart, 32, San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Shane Robinson, 43, Dolan, Ariz./Mike Craft/Bobby Pecoy, 53, Anaheim, Calif./Rene Brugger, San Diego, Chevy Silverado, 20:52:45 (54.33 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
3. 23 Dan McMillin, 29, La Mesa, Calif./Gary Weyhrich, Boring, Ore., Ford F-150, 21:13:10 (53.46 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
4. 15 Billy Wilson, 32, Corpus Christi, Texas/Chad Bunch, 41, Glendale, Ariz., Ford Raptor, 21:22:41 (53.06 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
5. 40 Chris Miller, 43, LaJolla, Calif./Jimmy Nuckles, 50, Brawley, Calif., Toyota Tundra, 22:20:09 (50.79 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
6. 91 Troy Herbst, 51, Las Vegas/Brett Sourapas, 21, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif./Tim Herbst, 54, Las Vegas, Ford F-150, 22:23:14 (50.67 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
7. 83 Luke McMillin, 24, San Diego/Larry Roeseler, 62, Martinez, Calif., Ford F-150, 22:36:24 (50.18 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
8.1068 Cody Reid, 24, Apple Valley, Calif./Adam Pfankuch, Carlsbad, Calif./Rick St. John, Carlsbad, Calif./Sammy Ehrenberg, Las Vegas/Brian Bowles, Fullerton, Calif., Alumi Craft-Chevy, 22:42:53 (49.94 mph) (Class 10)
9. 7 Bryce Menzies, 30, Las Vegas/Jesse Jones, 51, Phoenix/Pete Mortensen, Las Vegas, Ford Raptor, 22:58:32 (49.37 mph) (SCORE Trophy Truck)
10. 250 John Langley, 74, Santa Monica, Calif./Steve Hengeveld, Flagstaff, Ariz./Kash Vessels, Bonsall, Calif., Mason-Chevy, 23:34:54 (48:11 mph) (Trophy Truck Spec)
What makes this race so special is that not everyone who dreams of finishing the Baja 1000 will. Parts fail, drivers make mistakes, and sometimes a little bad luck ends your day. So to finish the Baja 1000 is a special thing, and to win it in your class is even better.
The father and son duo of Apdaly and Juan Carlos Lopez are your 2017 SCORE Baja 1000 overall 4 wheel vehicle champions. The defending points champions in Trophy Truck waited patiently for the first 800 miles letting other trucks set the pace following just far enough behind to capitalize on any mistakes or bad luck. The 22 year old Apdaly said at the finish line, “It was a very rough race and the course was very dusty but we are here. Just before the sun set, the fog on the beach was very bad. We have been looking forward to this for a year and everything went as we planned it. Next year we are going to try and win another championship. This win is significant to me because I’ve always dreamed about winning the SCORE Baja 1000 and to win with my dad is amazing. Baja is family and my little brother is driving a Class 1 so my whole family is racing in the 1000. My mom was even on the highway chasing for all of us”.
Robby Gordon held his pole position until a mechanical issue gave him some down time which let Rob Mac the defending winner get by as well as a large group of racers. Rob Mac held that lead physically until Andy McMillin got around him south of San Felipe. Andy would go on to lead the race into the halfway point where he gave over driving duties to Tavo Vildosola but unfortunately a motor failure would put them out of the race.
Rob Mac would suffer the same outcome as well putting them out of contention and no chance for a fourth Baja 1000 win in a row. These two DNF’s put the lead into Larry Roeseler’s lap who took over driving from Luke McMillin in the #83 McMillin Racing truck and the Baja legend led all the way till mile 900 where a broken shock would cause them to limp the truck. Patience prevailed as the lead was taken over by Lopez who then laid the hammer down in the last 200 miles crossing the finish line with an hour lead over the next Trophy Truck Camerson Steele and claiming the title of your 50th Anniversary, SCORE Baja 1000 Champion. For the past two years Apdaly had finished second to Rob Mac, but the third time was the charm.
Controversy surrounded the Pro Moto class as a hard fought battle all race between the 0x Motorsports team of 1x and the 45x led by Shane Esposito came down to a penalty. The team of 1x led by Mark Samuels would cross the finish line first after having about 30 minutes of downtime earlier in the race, and the team celebrated their win at the finish line but it would be overturned as SCORE threw down a 30 minute penalty due to team ride Ian Young riding into the podium at speed and crashing his bike causing people to jump off the stage and allegedly injuring someone. The penalty then gave the 45x team the overall bike win who finished 9 minutes behind 1x.
In Class 1 the team of Jon Walker took home the win after starting 14th off the line in their class. The team of Brad Wilson and Wilson Motorsports lead for a large portion of the race but Walker slowly worked his way through the field and eventually took the lead where he kept it there till the very end. Brad Wilson would finish second to Walker followed by Al Torres. The 138 car of Brian Wilson finished 4th in class securing the points championship for the team.
Every race there seems to be a discussion on which class should start before the other. Class 10 thinks they should start first and Trophy Specs think the opposite. Cody Reid and the team of RPI put that discussion to rest as they put in a strong effort and not only beat everyone in their class and the Trophy Spec class, but also finished ahead of the first Class 1 car! Even by mile 95 the 1068 car was already mixed in with the 1 cars and after an amazing run are Baja 1000 champions. Clay Lawrence would finish second behind Reid followed by Justin Davis in the Green Army Class 10 car.
The Baja 1000 always ends with countless stories that last a lifetime from all the racers, crews, media and fans spread all across the beautify baja pennisula. From Rod Hall competing in his 50th Baja 1000 and to be the only person to race every single Baja 1000, to Robby Gordon’s son Max racing in his first Baja 1000 at 9 years old, Apdaly and Juan C Lopez winning the Baja 1000 overall sharing the moment as father and son, and too many to list here.
Baja is a special place and there is a reason why we all come down here to share a little part of its magic. Till next year….
Photos by HighRev Photography and Ernesto Ariaza