42nd annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000
Final round of the five-race 2009 SCORE Desert Series
Nov. 20-21, 2009 — Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
PRO CARS & TRUCKS
ANDY McMILLIN, No. 31 (First in class and first overall four-wheel vehicle. Andy started and drove to race mile 206. His father, Scott, drove to RM 500 and Andy drove the final leg.)
Andy said: I started the race and I think we started 17th on the road. The plan was just to kind of take it easy and kind of let the race come to us. Sal (Fish) laid out a really rough, tough course this year. We knew that it was going to take one trip that didn’t have any problems to get the win. That was our plan all day – stay smooth and not have any downtime, no flat tires. I gave my dad the truck at mile 206 and I think we were seventh on the road and pretty close on the overall lead. My dad drove the San Felipe loop and the Mike’s loop. By the time he got to San Felipe, he was the first truck on the road. My dad handed me a helluva lead, so it was pretty easy. It was kind of just stay on the racecourse and you won’t get in trouble, so that was our plan and we followed it and let the race come to us, really.
Scott said: The Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, you just don’t come down here and decide to race this a month in advance; this takes a whole year of planning. We have a dedicated team back at our shop, about five core guys who work fulltime on this. Plus, there are another 20 volunteers who are with us at all the races, all the pre-running, all the planning. We just couldn’t have done it without all of them. They are as much a part of this win as those of us riding in the truck. It just gives you that confidence when you’re out in front and you don’t want to have any mistakes … they help us do that. It’s really great that they posted (the virtual checkpoints) in advance … so when we were pre-running and practicing, we knew exactly where to be and what we were supposed to do. They are all the same lines we’ve all been racing all these years. Always – all the 30 years that I’ve been racing – the fastest way is the racecourse. I can’t tell you how many times I just take the racecourse and stay on it and stay focused and you go y all the guys that are trying to find the smooth route. Before this race, we decided that we’re going to race all the SCORE races next year.
ROGER NORMAN, No. 8 (Second in class and second overall four-wheel vehicle. Larry Roeseler drove the first 400 miles and Norman drove to the finish.)
Norman said: Early on, going over the Summit, B.J. (Baldwin) and Larry got tangled up and they got their bumpers hooked together and they both were stuck. When we came out of that, we had about 17 minutes of downtime between the first-place Trophy-Truck and where we were. At one point, he was only about a minute and a half from the lead. Everyone was bunched up. We hadn’t gained any positions but everybody was so tight, it was unbelievable. After that, we just played catch-up all the way around the San Felipe loop. He brought the car to me in fifth or sixth place and we just kept whittling off cars until we got to the finish. Our suspension was horrible. Something broke in the suspension, in the shocks, and it made the truck just so stiff. It made the truck really hard to control and it was a real workout just to keep it on the road. We are super happy with the results, considering.
Roeseler said: We really missed our shock setup and that made the truck a handful to drive. It’s not a win but with the problems we had, all things considered, this isn’t a bad result.
RICK D. JOHNSON, No. 71 (Third in class and third overall four-wheel vehicle.) I am relieved to be here (at the finish). Sal (Fish) and his boys put together a tough course. This course was brutal. There are a lot of easier Baja 1000 courses to La Paz than this one. It seemed like every edge was square. It was very tough. I was fighting the wheel at times. The steering was hard to hold in many spots. We were out of the GPS for a long time so we had to put another antenna on the GPS unit. It was very hard at night. Robby (Gordon) was racing us hard for some time but we broke a light bar and we had to fix it. He got out of the pit in front of us and, with no GPS, he was able to pull away. Being on that whole beach without GPS is very tough. We had to slow way down then. In today’s world, the GPS plays a big role in our racing and without it, it is very difficult to run with the leaders. We had a little stumble on our last pit. To win here in Trophy-Trucks, you have to have a perfect day. With 30 some trucks, there is somebody out there who is going to have that perfect day. It wasn’t perfect for us but it was a pretty good day. We’ll take third.
GUSTAVO VILDOSOLA JR., No. 4 (Fourth in class and fourth overall four-wheel vehicle.) We had a couple of delays today. We ran out of fuel coming out of Matomi Wash and lost about 15 minutes there. Then the motor started to heat up before we got to Mike’s (Sky Rancho) and we lost about 10 minutes repairing that. But other than those problems, it was a pretty clean day. We had no flats (tires). It was very deflating to have trouble at Matomi because four trucks got by us when we were sitting there. It was hard to get back up towards the front, but we did it. It was a long, tiring day. But I’m just happy we made it to the finish line.
ROBBY GORDON, No. 77 (Fifth in class and fifth overall four-wheel vehicle. Gordon clinched the Trophy-Truck season points championship.) About mile 490, I got by Rick (D. Johnson) and then we lost the brakes. We worked on it for a while. We lost the battle and won the war. It was a long day. It’s a very, very technical racecourse that Sal (Fish) built for us and it was very tough. I think I’d take a Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 win over a championship, to be honest with you. This race is tough. The car basically ran pretty good all day. We know where we got beat. We were running third on the road for a while and then I had a flat tire. When we changed it, we had to put one on the rack and when we were putting one on the rack, Andy (McMillin) went by. We knew we had to get back in front of Andy. He was only about two minutes in front of us and then I had another flat and then I got stuck behind (Nick) Vanderwey. I’m not going to say he held us up but Andy was able to get a clear run in there and he put 10 minutes on us pretty quickly. The rest of the time, we kind of just hung about 10-15 minutes back, depending on what traffic I had. The only way we were going to win (the race) was if everybody else broke. There was no reason for us to run any harder than what we ran at that point. We lost a good half an hour or 45 minutes fixing a right-rear caliper that was leaking. This is by far the toughest racing in the world – it’s truly the last endurance racing there is. (Would you try to race for the SCORE Trophy-Truck championship again?) We have a conflict at Laughlin with Dakar, so I won’t be at Laughlin next year. As many points was we won the championship by this year, I could probably miss Laughlin and still win it but I think we’ll probably focus on the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 and Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 next year.
ROBBIE PIERCE, No. 30 (Sixth in class and sixth overall four-wheel vehicle. Pierce started the race and drove to race mile 350 and Mike Julson drove from RM 350 to the finish.)
Julson said: The course was good. Coming back into town is the hardest part of trying to get here and some of the local fans were throwing stuff at me. Someone could get hurt – mainly me. Robbie had an ignition problem and they were down for several minutes. Other than that, he had one flat and I had no problems. When that happened, he was fifth on the road and we were the 27th truck off the line. When he got to me in San Felipe, I think we were the fifth or sixth truck on the road. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and, at 52, they’re getting tougher all the time. You have to survive through it. The competition in SCORE Trophy-Truck is just insane.
MARK McMILLIN, No. 23 (Seventh in class. McMillin split driving time with Brian Ewalt.)
Ewalt said: I got in at Borrego, got out Borrego and got back in at Trinidad. We really had no problem except we lost a sensor in the engine and ran really rich so we had to stop and work on that. I really had no problems other than the fuel issue. Mark, right off the bat, had a water leak and he had to stop and fix that and about 10, 15 cars went by. But we were still in great shape. It’s a pretty tough course. Coming back from Santo Tomas to Ojos was pretty rough and then from Ojos across the pavement was pretty tough. We had no flats, which was a first. We changed tires twice during the race but no flats. It was a great time, really.
JERRY PENHALL, No. 103 (First in class and seventh overall four-wheel vehicle. Penhall drove the first 350 miles and Dan Martin finished.) We had a good run. Our pits were a little long – longer than they should have been. The light bar change took a while. Changing tires at the halfway point took longer than it should have. We lost maybe 8 to 10 minutes in the pits. Efficient pits would have saved time, but it doesn’t matter. We’re real, real happy with this. I feel a little beat up – it’s a long 350 miles. But we were having such a good run, with only minor issues, that it felt great. I gave them a good car, I think. I was on the edge the whole time until Dan got here but we’re real happy.
ARMIN SCHWARZ, No. 101 (Second in class. Schwarz drove to race mile 345 and Martin Christensen drove from 345 to the finish.) We had no serious problems at all. We had an oil smell close to the driver change and I told Martin and we tried to figure out what it was. It took quite some time but it didn’t turn out to be a big deal, but we lost some time there. Martin lost the front-left brake on the second half.
RANDY WILSON, No. 106 (Third in class. Jeff Quinn started and drove to race mile 200. Randy Wilson drove from RM 200 to RM 419. Ronny Wilson drove from RM 419 to just outside of Ensenada and Randy Wilson drove to the finish.) Sal (Fish) always puts on a challenging course for us and it was a ball. We had a good time. We lost all the brakes and had to put all new brakes all the way around it, but that was the only thing. After that, it ran perfectly. We never had a flat all day – nothing. For our family, this has been great. Everybody did a good job.
ERIC DURAN, No. 1645 (First in class. Duran shared driving duties with Evan and Hiram Duran.) Eric got stuck and he also lost five minutes with a flat. Other than, we had no other problems except that Hiram lost a light. It was a good race for us.
KEVIN CARR, No. 500 (First in class. Carr shared driving duties with Perry McNeil.) This one was a lot different than last year. This race was real rough. We had a lot of problems including an electrical problem right off the start. We dropped a CV boot and we couldn’t find anyone who had one. We ran into Mark McMillin and he got one for me. We were down about hour. Then we lost the distributor; we fried it somehow. Then we lost the brakes. We ran from Valle de Trinidad to the finish with no brakes, so that is rough. We didn’t have a lot of problems with the silt, though. We got stuck for about two hours as people were caught in the silt. We just couldn’t get around them. But we finished. We were able to win the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 and also clinch the class championship so we’re pretty happy. Perry did a great job driving, too. A lot of people thought the course would be easier, but it wasn’t this year. The ground was really ripped up. The power line road at San Felipe was just horrible
MARCOS NUNEZ, No. 550 (First in class.) It was very tough today. There was so much dust this year. It was difficult to drive but we like it. That is why we are here. It was a slow race and very cold. But it is about the 1000. It is always a tough race. There are some funny stories out there in the night. But you have to be patient and finish the race. And we won, so we feel good after all of those hours.
DAN CHAMLEE, No. 700 (First in class.) We rolled the truck twice. I broke the suspension with about three miles to go so the whole front end was wobbling into the finish. I hit a big square hole and it just ripped up the front suspension. That was the second time the truck was on its side. The tie rod is gone. Our sway bar broke in the early part of the race. We had it on its side up in the hills with an 80-foot cliff on the other side. We blocked the road for about 40 minutes until we could get a winch under the truck and turn it right side up. I was considered about a finish on this one. We wanted every mile of every race. Last year, we missed it by seconds at Laughlin so this year we got the Milestone Award for finishing every mile in every race.
PANCHO BIO, No. 903 (First in class. Bio shared driving duties with his son, Francisco, and brothers Francisco Guerrero and Daniel Guerrero.) We switched (drivers) every 100 miles. It was a difficult course and we had to stop a few times. But other than that, we had no problems, no flats.
MIKE LAWRENCE, No. 1000 (First in class.) We had an electrical problem that cost us about two hours or so. We had something break off in the alternator. Finally, the crew got to me and we figured out the problem and we kept going. I was losing the radio and the GPS, so I knew it was something electrical. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and we drained the battery down. Without that problem, we would have been here a lot sooner. Plus, there was a lot of traffic. The course seemed real narrow and a lot of people were getting stuck. With the electrical problem and the blocking of the roads, we were down about five hours. There were a lot of jams. We never got stuck but we had to wait for a lot of things to clear up. Even in the middle of Matomi Wash, it was jammed.
CHAD Hall, No. 860 (First in class. Drove with his father, Rod Hall, who earned his 20th Tecate SCORE Baja 100 win – more than any other driver – in Stock Full and added his 21st victory later in the day in Stock Mini.)
Rod Hall said: This makes for the 20th win and I have been trying for a long time. So I finally got it. Now, if I want to quit, I think I can. I started in my Stock Mini and drove that to Borrego. Chad did a lot of driving in this Hummer. Chad had one hell of race. I wanted to jump in the Stock Full in the end to get my 20th win. But I drove really hard, too. I don’t think we’ll win the Stock Mini class but we had a real ‘duke out’ in that class. There was a lot of bumping and shoving.
JOSH HALL, No. 761 (First in class. Mike Wenkel shared driving duties with Rod Hall and Emily Miller.)
Mike Wenkel said: It was a challenge out there. It was pretty rough. We had a couple of issues but everybody in our class did. When we were running, we ran great. It’s pretty hard on these little trucks (Hummer H3). We were behind (the 778 team), so we just tried to catch up and get in contention and keep our truck where we had a little truck left at the end. There’s a steep hill just after you cross the highway around Ojos and that’s where we caught them. I think they got bogged down there and were having trouble.
Rod Hall said: Mike did a helluva job. So did Emily. I did, too! I love this Hummer. These production trucks are the right size, they’re fun and they take a lot of abuse and just keep running and running. You’d be surprised at how hard you can pound one of these things. I went off the line pretty hard because I didn’t want those guys passing me. I got out in front, then we had a steering problem and everybody got by us. We were down for a couple of hours with steering problems. Then later on, the (No. 778) had problems and later on, (the No. 779) had problems. (On winning two classes in the same race) It was a good day for the Hall family. Baja has treated us pretty good. It’s kind of a tradition for us to come down here every November for 42 years. That’s pretty awesome.
ROBERT DITNER, No. 778 (Second in class. Ditner started and drove to race mile 206. Ken Ziesemer drove from RM 206 to RM 390. Joe Nolan drove from RM 390 to RM 500 and Ivan Stewart drove from RM 500 to the finish.)
Ivan Stewart said: It was good out there. The truck really ran good for the first time we ever had this one out on the racetrack. I think we did really well. I’m really happy with the performance. We got around the Halls at one point but we had some problems and they got back by us again. We lost the four-wheel drive, we only had two-wheel drive, and I couldn’t get up the hills. I got us to the front; I just couldn’t keep it. It always feels good to get back behind the wheel. It’s what I do, you know? I had a great day. I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot and I had some great teammates. It was a great experience. Coming back, it took a little while to kind of get in the groove and then pretty soon, it was like riding a bicycle. It all fell into place. It feels good to be back…it feels good to be anywhere at my age.
BORIS SAID, No. BC5 (Second in class. Said is a sports car driver and ESPN commentator.) This race was unbelievable. It was my fourth Baja 1000 and Kelli (Stavast, NBC commentator) was the best co-driver I have had. We never got lost. No wrong turns. We laughed the whole way. That made it better. We had two flat tires, that is all. Those were my fault when I clipped some rocks. It was a lot of fun.
WILLIAM ERIKSEN, No. 209 (First in class. Drove with Joe Desrosiers.) I drove everything but the loop. Joe Desrosiers drove the loop for me – he did the hard part. This was the first race for this vehicle and I loved it. It handled well, it was fun to drive and it got me here (to the finish line). I’m seeing a lot out there on the course that didn’t make that happen. I’m a road racer so this was the first off-road race for me. I’ve driven a lot of racecars but none that says ‘I’ll just take a beating and keep on ticking.’ And they take a beating. This is my first time for any off-road racing. The car made it look easy.
JEFF OFFUTT, No. 402 (First in class.) It worked out great. This is our first time ever in Baja. We’ll be down here a lot more, that’s for sure.
RICHARD CASSEY, No. 781 (First in class. Shared driving duties with Mike West and Greg Foutz.) It was wonderful — we had only minor problems. It was a great run. We had about an hour of down time so we got in the car late in Borrego. It was really tough getting through Mike’s (Sky Ranch) down to the Pacific side. But once that was done, it was pretty easy getting home. This car has never run before. It’s the first time it’s taken on Baja and it beat her. This is my eighth Baja 1000 and my first win. It took a while. It’s my lifelong dream. I’ve raced off-road all my life and to be sitting here is what I dreamed about so I’m happy.
KENDALL NORMAN, No. 12x (First in class, first overall and first overall motorcycle. Norman started and rode to race mile 202. Quinn Cody rode from RM 202 to RM 354. Timmy Weigand rode from RM 354 to RM 502 and Norman rode from 502 to the finish.)
Norman said: It was definitely a good battle at night. There was a lot of dust out here. Steve (Hengeveld) was going. I’d get in his dust and slow down, get in his dust and slow down. He rode a great race and it was war out there today. We had all of our guys positioned and they put in a lot of hard work. I couldn’t be happier right now. I rode from the start to Borrego, at mile 200, and Robby (Bell) was up about ten minutes. I started way back and there was a ton of dust and I just couldn’t get through it. By the time I finally cleared the dust, he was gone. When I got the bike back from Timmy Weigand at the Meadows (mile 504), I was only a minute and half down. Quinn Cody and Timmy did some great work out there. I figured it was going be close to impossible to pass Steve on the final run because of the dust and being at night but I know if I was in his dust, that is all I needed to do (to win). It feels great to win the 1000 three years in a row and fourth total. I am really stoked.
Cody said: I just tried to be smooth and fast and hit Matomi Wash (mile 278) as hard as I could. I have ridden that wash a lot and I was able to put in a really good run. It’s challenging to set up a bike for a 150-pound guy like Timmy (Weigand) and a 210-pound guy like me. We both had to compromise on the settings of the bike. It’s mostly Kendall’s settings. We were having a little trouble with the jetting of the engine in testing so Johnny (Campbell) jumped on it because he is so good with that sort of thing. Next thing we know Johnny didn’t come back; he crashed and totaled the bike. So this bike was completely rebuilt for the race. We were able to test it before the race, we finalized all of our settings and headed to Mexico. We had a heck of race like this one at the Baja 500, but not in the 1000. It feels great to win it.
Weigand said: The race went all right for me. I had a really rough section and I just tried to race smart and smooth and not go down and keep the bike on two wheels. Quinn and Kendall did an awesome job also and we just put the race together. Our game plan was just to ride within ourselves … but we were six minutes behind at one point and I was on the bike so, of course, I wanted to hang it out a little bit and try to gain some time back up. That changed our game plan a little bit because you’re not riding comfortably, you’re putting it on the edge a little bit and trying to make up time and get back in the race. The course is super rough everywhere and it’s hard on the body. It’s Baja – no surprises.
ROBBY BELL, No. 1x (Second in class, second overall and second overall motorcycle. Bell started and rode to RM 201. Destry Abbott rode from RM 201 to 305. Ryan Penhall rode from RM 305 to RM 397. Bell rode from RM 397 to RM 417. Abbott rode from RM 417 to 465. Connor Penhall rode from RM 465 to RM 504 and Steve Hengeveld rode from RM 504 to the finish.)
Bell said: I crashed around mile 417 and tweaked my ankle a little. I hit a rock I didn’t see in the shadows and it sent the back end out and pitched me out. I was doing about 60 miles per hour, I think. I was so bummed that happened because up until then we had a perfect bike and the race was going so well. I went down and it bent the bars and it bent the pipes and we had a little downtime in the pits and it allowed the (No. 12x) Honda to get a little closer to us.
Hengeveld said: It was a really close one. We had a couple problems but we still ran strong all night and we were trying to get to the finish first. We gave it one hell of a try so hopefully we’ll be back here next year. It was wide open the whole time that last leg. He (Kendall Norman) was trying to keep up with me and I was trying to just pull away and we just stayed the same the whole time. We gave it our all, that’s all I can say.
COLTON UDALL, No. 18x (Third in class, third overall and third overall motorcycle. Shared riding duties with Matt Eddy, Max Eddy and Brent Harden.) Matt and Max Eddy did a good job and so did Brent. I was probably the only one who crashed but I’m here in one piece and that’s the best thing about it. I did my best. I can’t say that I can do any better than that. Next year I’ll come back and do a better stab at it and hopefully I can end up the champ.
RONNIE WILSON, No. 102x (First in class and fifth overall motorcycle. Wilson, the rider of record, split riding duties with six others: Shane Esposito, Brian Pinard, Steve Garnett, Francisco Septien, Mike Blackman and Gerardo Rojas.)
Wilson said: This is really a dream to win a championship. I never thought I could accomplish it. I want to thank Shane. I don’t think Shane is given the respect he deserves. He is one of the best riders out here. Shane started for us today and went off the line at 23rd. But by Borrego (Mile 201), he had us into sixth. We were able to maintain our positions and Shane brought it home for the win.
We put together a solid team of riders today. We went with seven riders and they did a great job. There was just a five-point margin between first and third in points entering this race. Everyone did his part. Most teams have four or five riders, but I went with seven to be safe. Bill Boyer and Nick Blais gave it all they had and they put in a great run. It was great to compete against them. Actually, this Honda bike is a 2007, but we like the chassis and everything was rebuilt for this race. Brian Pinard did a great job prepping the bike. Next year, we are coming back with a Class 22 team as well as a Class 30 team. We are going to go after it in 2010.
Esposito said: I was the only one of the seven riders on the team to lay it down, but it was pretty easy; just a slide out in the dust. I really want to thank Ron for the opportunity to race with this team. Everyone had a good ride and did what they were supposed to do.
MIKE JOHNSON, No. 301x (First in class. Johnson shared riding duties with Rex Cameron, Robbie Clauss and Jack Massey.) I passed Ron Wilson (309x) down on the beach section. We were going back and forth all day. We had one rider, Jack Massey, go down and broke his collarbone. Our chain slider wore out and we went into a Honda pit and they replaced it for us but they didn’t tighten the countershaft bolt and our countershaft sprocket came off. Robbie was able to limp into one of the pits and get that fixed. Considering everything that went wrong, we actually came out pretty damn good.
SCOTT MYERS, No. 400x (First in class. Myers shared riding duties with Brett Helm, Lou Franco, Jeff Kaplan, Bob Johnson and Craig Adams.) It was awesome. We had a perfect ride, absolutely perfect. I didn’t have any problems and I don’t think anyone else even went down. I know people always say this every year but this was a gnarly course. I think it was the dustiest I’ve ever seen but that could be because we started so far back. It was a lot of work, I’ll tell you – a lot more than usual. I think we were the 43rd bike off the line and I brought it home 12th overall. But it was a good time.
JIM O’NEAL, No 500x (First in class. O’Neal shared riding duties with Andy Kirker, Dan Dawson, Jeff Kaplan, Craig Adams, Tim Withers and Eric McKenna.)
Kirker said: Jim O’Neal crashed but I don’t know how he is. I love riding at night – it’s fun, except for the dust. I’ve been riding in the Tecate SCORE Baja since 1974. I quit for 20 years and came back when I turned 50 three years ago. My friends are doing it so I had to do it. It’s fun – the best fun you can have is riding motorcycles.
WAYNE MATLOCK, No. 1a (First in class and first overall ATV. Matlock shared riding duties with Harold Goodman Jr., Wes Miller and Josh Caster.) There was a lot of traffic at the finish but we really didn’t have any problems. We just put gas in it and went all day long. We changed a couple tires and that was it. I enjoyed riding at night because it’s easier to see oncoming traffic. I’ve been competing in the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 with our own team here since 2005 and this is the third time we’ve won it. This is a good one. Preparation and a lot of good riders are the keys to winning this race.