The 2012 SCORE Baja 500 was another epic race for the record books. Bryce Menzies takes the win over Bj Baldwin by mere seconds after tackling 450 miles of the roughest terrain that Baja California has to offer.
Racers took the checkered flag at 10am Saturday morning with one goal in mind; win the 2012 SCORE Baja 500. First to leave the starting line was the Mexican National and hometown hero; Juan Carlos Lopez, or most commonly known as “Pin” driving the Speed Energy Trophy Truck #18. As if drawing the most coveted starting position in all of desert racing wasn’t enough, “Pin” also went into the SCORE Baja 500 sitting second in the overall points standings with points leader Rob MacCachren starting just three positions behind him.
As soon as the green flag dropped, it was an all out sprint race to the finish. Lopez set a blistering pace for the first half of the race and it looked as though there would be no looking back for the Mexican National (Lopez). Unfortunately for Lopez, Bj Baldwin was hot on his heals and hungry for the clean air that was in front of the Speed Energy Trophy Truck #18. BJ came off the line burning rubber and got a little too hot trying to drift the first turn, he spun the truck around and lost precious time in doing so. This would end up play a very important roll later in the race. Baldwin was eventually able to make his way around Lopez and took full advantage of the clean air ahead of him. Separating himself from the rest of the pack by nearly 7 miles at one time, Baldwin looked as though he was going to run away with the race. Then toward the 2/3rd mark of the race Bryce started to come from the middle of the pack and reel him in. Around race mile 300 Bryce was only 1 ½ minuets behind BJ on corrected time.
As both trucks made their way to the finish line their crews sat at the finish with watches in hand and fingers crossed.
The first truck to cross the finish line would be that of the Monster Energy Drink Trophy Truck #97; BJ Baldwin. Shortly after Baldwin crossed the finish line, the 2011 SCORE Baja 500 winner and 2011 SCORE Points Champion; Bryce Menzies would come sliding into the finish line. Both drivers hopped on the roofs of their trucks and were waiting to hear the results. They knew it would come down to a matter of seconds. After the results were in Bryce ended up beating out Baldwin by a mere 11 seconds on over-all time and defending his title with back to back Baja 500 wins! BJ Baldwin had to settle for a second place finish and was asking himself if his spin at the start could have possibly cost him the race. Rounding out the podium would be that of Fox Racing Shox driver; Jesse Jones. Jones started nearly dead last and was able to make an impressive run to finish third over-all. Pole sitter; Juan Carlos Lopez would end up finishing the day out 9th overall.
The Desert Assassins team of Cameron Steele and Josh Daniel had a bit of a rough day. They started out making up time on the leaders but then a broken steering servo put Cameron in the #16 down about 2 hours. Josh also had downtime when they had to replace a rear differential at pit 1. Both trucks did end up finishing and Cameron said that he was able to pull off an epic pass on the Herbst truck in the San Felipe section of the course right by the Jeff “OX” Kargola memorial that was built down there a few months ago to remember his very close friend who passed away last year.
Armin Schwarz and Martin Christensen in the All German Auto #15 TT were off to a great start also, they were charging toward the front and looking good in their Jimco BMW until they slid off the side of the course just outside Valley T while headed for the coast. A broken front a-arm ended their day early.
Gary Magness had an impressive solo run in the Mango Racing #45 Jimco TT as well. He drove the whole course himself and was able to come away with a top 15 finish!
The new Vildosola Racing trophy truck had a roll over early in the race and then ended up coming back to town on the highway and were unable to finish the race. They will look to come back strong at the Baja 1000 later this year.
Dan McMillin driving the #23 along with Chuck Hovey had a good starting position and they made the best of it. They ended up finishing 4th with no rear brakes for the 2nd half of the course! Dan did a great job getting the truck to Chuck to bring home to a very impressive finish while not being able to slow down!
Robby Gordon brought out his Dakar Hummer hoping that him being able to go the whole way without a fuel stop would help his start from deep in the pack. Perhaps it would have worked but reports of a early roll over were heard and that ended his chances of a win.
Leading the open wheel unlimited class 1 race cars to the finish line and finishing his day out with a very impressive 5th over-all, was that of Luke McMillin. McMillin along with co-driver Justin “Bean” Smith ran a flawless race and the duo has absolutely dominated the competition, winning 4 out of their last 5 races they have entered.
Another notable mention is that of F&L Fuels class 10 driver; Matt Cullen. Cullen not only finished first place in class 10, he finished 15th over-all beating out the majority of Trophy Truck and Class 1 racers. Very impressive victory to say the least.
Just as we all expected, the 2012 SCORE Baja 500 was a nail biting and action packed thrill ride from the drop of the green flag in Ensenada Mexico to the finish line 450 miles later back to the streets of Ensenada.
Official Results Here:
Words by Adam “Gunnslinger” Gunn and Austin “Fish” Farner
Photos by Jason Zindroski