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 from the La Paz:
After 1134.4 miles, all you want to see is a checker flag. You have just accomplished one of the greatest feats of your life. Your team is there cheering you on. You finally get to peel off your gloves and helmet for the last time and are rolled up onto a platform the height of a trophy truck just underneath the largest outdoor screen you have seen. You look up as you are driving up the ramp and it’s like a dream as you see your car on the big screen in true living color. As you approach, the cameras surround you, snapping pictures, flashes flashing with the 50th flag flying in the background. Ladies come around to the driver and co-driver putting finishers metals around your necks. If you are a BFGoodrich Tires racer, Greg comes up and puts either a Winner or Podium hat on your head. Then, in breaks the announcer, Rat, asking you how your race went and throwing a microphone in your face. Words, what are the words to explain what you just did for the last 30+ hours? You just finished the 50th SCORE Baja 1000 presented by BFGoodrich Tires!!!
As the racers have their moment of glory, in the background there is a lot of logistics and work that goes into making it as smooth and amazing as possible. Elise Norman is in charge of helping to create the magic. Among many tasks, she is in charge of making sure that the medals that go around the drivers and co-drivers necks are there, “The hardest part of the medals is getting them packed down from San Diego, wrapping them for safety, and then unwrapping them all here. We put them on the semi, and when we get down here yesterday we couldn’t find them anywhere! We were about ready to claim that someone stole them when we finally figured out they were locked in a manager’s office, but none of those in the circle of communication knew about it. So, they were in probably the safest place they could be, but I had no idea! It was a very stressful few minutes, okay maybe longer than a couple minutes, but we found them. Every job we have for people is complicated in it’s own way. Each piece affects another piece. Plus it’s different when we are in another country,” said Elise.
The medals are just the first and most visible step in the process of checking a driver in at the finish line. The vehicles are checked off a list of car numbers accounting for their return, a secondary check to the timing and scoring program. The ladies are also looking for the names on the wristbands to confirm that the Driver of Record is in the vehicle because as the rules state, the DOR has to either start or finish a race. The contingency paperwork for the vehicle is pulled out and the qualifications are checked – sometimes that means making sure a sticker is in the right place and right size. In the mix of that, they are paying attention to the team’s pictures that are being taken and adjust the commemorative 50th Anniversary flag to strategically be flying in the background.
Then there are the IF’s…
- If you are 1st in your class you are given a bottle of Champagne and a commemorative 50th Anniversary Flag.
- If you are racing on BFGoodrich Tires and are on the podium in the class, you will receive either a podium hat or, hopefully, a winner’s hat.
Greg and Carol Atherton were in charge of the finish line for BFGoodrich Tires. Greg is the guy you want to see at the finish line to get a hat that is worthy of a place on the mantel. To have the honor of wearing a BFGoodrich Tires winner or podium hat is a big deal, nothing to take lightly. Greg handed out 60 winner’s hats and 100 podium hats to racers. BFGoodrich Tires accounted for winning all but 3 classes! (unofficial) Today was also a special day – Greg got the opportunity to hand a $50,000 check to the overall winner that was on BFGoodrich Tires: Apdaly Lopez.
Carol is Mrs. Hospitality. She makes sure that everyone in the BFG arena at the finish line is taken care of. Between her and Greg they record the finish times and utilize the satellite phone to keep track of drivers coming in. She makes people take naps and when they do, she takes over their job ensuring that it gets done. However, her most important job, which everyone can relate to, is making sure the team doesn’t get hangry. Oh, yes, super important! “I love to see all my friends finish. This community is awesome, most people just wouldn’t understand,” said Carol. (Picture is not from finish line, but after at a pool celebration party.)
The finish line closed at 1:45pm on Saturday and the official awards ceremony started at 7pm with all incidents and penalties assessed. Final times were posted, and the top 3 teams in each class were encouraged to come up to accept their trophy and talk to the thousands of people in the audience with everyone else watching LIVE around the world.
BFGoodrich Tires was at the center of attention as the title sponsor of the Baja 1000, but also from the racers that depend on the strength and durability of the tire. First on stage were the Trophy Truck racers where BFGoodrich Tires took a clean sweep with Apdaly Lopez, Cameron Steele, and Dan McMillin. Apdaly took 1st overall, 1st in Trophy Trucks, earned the $50,000 BFGoodrich Tires contingency and the $4000 King Shock Zone bounty which is given to the fastest car through a specific section of race course. This puts Apdaly in a solid position to win his 3rd consecutive SCORE Championship.
The most ceremonial finish was for Rod Hall, his 50th start of the Baja 1000 and officially his 25th win just days before his 80th birthday. With a special flag made, they waived his son Chad up to the finish line at 3am Saturday morning. The team had made history. Chad Hall and Frank DeAngelo, the drivers of the car, had attacked the desert and brought it to the finish line where Rod was waiting to get in. In typical Rod Hall fashion, he had some great things to say during his interview, especially thanking Chad, Frank and the Normans for the opportunity to be successful. What an accomplishment!
Casey Currie and his brother, Cody, #4422 took 1st in the Hammer Truck Unlimited class. This was his 2nd time to Baja and his 1st Baja win! Bestop did a promotion where if he won the overall there would be a random draw for a million dollars. Well, he was trying, even to the point of being up in the Top 10 physically on course. Also a BFGoodrich Tires Performance Team Member, Casey adds, “I never changed my tires, they all have 1,143 miles and right now, they still look like they could run another 500 miles.”
#801 David Westhem was running the BFGoodrich Tires KR2’s with no flats or issues. “I’m still racing, and thank you for having faith in me to podium at this race! I had spares at the different pits with a full tire change planned along the way. When we reached that pit I told them not to do a tire change they looked so good.”
BC1 winning BFGoodrich Team of Brian Finch and Bob Bower were there to accept the awards on behalf of the whole team. These class wins are what allows the BFG Legal team the opportunity to approve “Baja Champion” on the sidewall of the tire. Last year, this team ran the newly engineered KM3 Mud-Terrain tire to test out their strength and toughness and earn the Baja Champion designation through winning. This year, all the Wide Open BC Cars are running the KM3 with little to no issues! The new tire is expected to release in the summer. “Tires are secondary to the BFG family. Your personal story is amazing, and the tires help you find them. I have a story thanks to BFG, and I am very gracious for them having me on this winning team.”
Also up on the podium for a 1st place finish and 1st overall in the UTV Class was #2919 Brandon Schueler who just kept saying over and over: “We just killed it! It was FanF***kingTastic!!! We were going savage speeds to keep in front of the rest of the pack. The tires were awesome, we had 2 flats, but that is significantly less than what we have had to deal with in the past. With less tire changes and only fuel stops, it made our win possible!” Bill added, “We really appreciated the support that we got from the BFGoodrich Tires Pits. Being able to roll into a pit and know that we had a team of professionals behind us to quickly get the car back on course and not lose a lot of time was imperative to the win.” We saw the JaggedX team on the second day of our journey checking into the pits (HERE) and they were one of the shops that the Ladies Offroad Challenge Top 10 got to visit (HERE).
The awards ceremony continued well into the night giving each team an opportunity to thank their sponsors and take a picture in front of the huge crowd. The final moments of the official BFGoodrich Tires 50th SCORE Baja 1000 were going into the history books. The fight had been fought. Some had won, some were already north, defeated by the treacherous desert. But everyone had tried with his or her best effort never missing an opportunity to be successful. One of Bob Bower’s statements comes to mind, “Life is only a one lap race. Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.”
Congratulations to all those that started the Baja 1000, that is a feat in itself. Congratulations to those that rolled over the finish line, regardless of time, you have a story of a lifetime! A special congratulations to those on the podium; what a huge accomplishment!
Our team of 3 was up for 46 hours from Thursday to when we went to bed Saturday morning, with a few cat naps along the way. We won. We accomplished all the very high level goals that I set and we did it with a smile. I’m very proud of our team and thankful to BFGoodrich Tires and SCORE International for allowing me the opportunity to jump behind the scenes and expose the numbers and details of their very successful organizations for you to learn about. (Yes, the picture is as blurry as our brains at that moment!)
Our fourth teammate, Frankie, the green BFG Jeep, did amazing, too. There was not a question in my mind that the Jeep built by Impulse Offroad wouldn’t take care of us, but there are always variables in a distance run like this. There were a few times that we got to jump off onto the dirt, but for the most part, we were pavement bound as we pulled into each pit. I even survived the backseat without much comfort challenge.
Huge thank you to the Race-Dezert.com family for letting me “take over” the site with all these stories. We ran into Matt once on the road, but most recently ripping off sleeves in celebration at the awards ceremony. Good times!
The official race action may have finished, but we are far from our finish. Today we roll into what we are calling Phase 4: The Journey Home. We have a lot more stories and background information to share… and remember, we still have to declare an Outhouse Winner!! Stay tuned!
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.