15th ANNUAL SCORE LAUGHLIN DESERT CHALLENGE
Round one of 2009 SCORE Desert Series
Driver quotes after first of two days — Saturday, January 24
GUSTAVO VILDOSOLA JR., No. 4 (In first place after Saturday) – It feels good, although we learned last year not to count our victory before it’s actually done. I think we got Robby (Gordon) today by a couple of seconds so we’re happy going first tomorrow. We’ve just got to keep it going. Last year, we were in the same situation but this year I think we’re a year older and a little bit wiser. It was an amazing race and as the race went on, the course got a little bit tougher and I had to deal with different issues. We repeated last year’s Saturday run and we just need to duplicate it tomorrow. I decided early on that we were just going to take it easy and run the first five or six laps and see how everything was shaking down and then hammer down at the end.
ROBBY GORDON, No. 77 (Second) – I didn’t have anybody to pace off of. I’ve got to be honest: I was half-throttle the whole time. I’m telling you, I idled around. Even the first lap, we just idled around. The truck is really good. It got really rough out there. Laughlin has always been a survival race. We came out here last year, Carl (Renezeder) and myself, and we were the two fastest by a long ways. Today, we just wanted to survive. The guys do a great job working on the truck. They’ll go back and put in a new drive shaft, gear and transmission, rear gear, and cross our fingers that it lives tomorrow. The track is horrible. It’s not even any fun.
JUSTIN LOFTON, No. 20 (Third) – We lost fuel pressure right from the get-go in the race. We just kind of fought it the whole race and did what we could. It probably actually worked out better that way. We’ll go back and rebuild it. We got in the first turn and it started missing and everything else. This is a hell of a race for a Trophy-Truck; this is what it’s all about. We had lots of passing and a lot of good, fun racing. B.J. Baldwin is a blast to race, and Gustavo (Vildosola Jr.) and everybody else. It was just a lot of fun. Our body is kind of torn up but we’ve got a body guy in the camp with us, so we’ll be all right. Tomorrow, we’re going to do the first two laps and kind of see how everybody is going and see how the truck is handling and then we’re going to let it rip.
ROBBIE PIERCE, No. 35 (Fourth) – The first lap we lost the brakes and the first lap I lost communication with my co-driver. So we did a lot of thumbs-up deals. All you can do is just keep going and just work the best you can with no front brakes. We had absolutely no front brakes; I think only the left rear was all I really had and it was really spongy. All you can do is work with what you have and try to check up as much as you can. The transmission is done, using second and first gear to brake. The hardest part was getting stopped for the finish.
B.J. BALDWIN, No. 1 (Fifth) – We had problems right off the start. We built a new floor on the truck. We took three inches out of the floor and put it right down on the skid pad so we could build a longer brake pedal. When we were behind Robby we would get rocks in the cab and rocks would get underneath the throttle pedal, so we were dealing with that all day. We stood it up on its nose and we ran on the bumper on the backstretch. It’s (the race course) more of an attrition deal; whoever can survive the longest. A lot of the stuff out there is square-edged; it’s like two curbs, and that’s really hard on equipment.
CAMERON STEELE, No. 16 (Sixth) – It was awesome. For not being able to really see the course and get a chance to drive my truck because I was in Aspen at the Winter X Games, it was pretty cool. It was a little bit of a crash course. I was chasing (Brian) Collins and he threw like a picnic table at us and it gave us a flat tire, so we had to stop in the hot pit and change the tire. I don’t know what it was but it looked like a folding table (laughing). After we changed the tire, we made a conscious decision to make sure we got to the finish line but we still wanted to run some fast laps. Our times we really good and I’m excited because we got to pass a lot of trucks. I’m just stoked to be here in Laughlin; last year I had to watch from the sidelines at X Games and this year I just took destiny into my own hands and came out and raced it. I’m not coming back tomorrow – I’m only here for four hours today.
BOBBY BALDWIN, No. 96 (Seventh) – This was our first race on the General Tires and they were fantastic. The front gripped so good that I continually came up short in some of the turns. They have a very aggressive tread and a lot of bite — the tire is fantastic. I landed on a few rocks and the tires survived so I liked that part of it, too. The course was the usual – choppy and hard – but we had great visibility because of the rain last night.
ED STOUT, No. 13 (Eighth) – It’s 48 miles of pure rough that just tears that truck apart. It’s like going 250 miles at San Felipe. We got one flat and that put us back. We actually had a light fall down in my footbox and I blew two corners. Other than that, we had a real fantastic race. A lot of sharp edges are being created (on the course). Today as far as I’m concerned is just a qualifying day. Tomorrow is the race.
DAMEN JEFFERIES, No. 22 (10th) — It was OK. We fought it today; a brand-new truck. We lost our steering. The steering got real tight at the tail end of the first lap. We’d keep rolling the scrag on the shift from first to second and losing the transmission the rest of the day. The last five laps I had to go first-third, first-third. It made it difficult. Luis Ramirez is scheduled to drive tomorrow (Sunday).
LARRY ROESSELER, No. 88 (11th) — It’s an engine heating issue. We knew at qualifying we had some high oil temps and high water temps. The engine got a little hot testing one time so maybe we’ve got a little water issue. It’s hard to say. It seems to me it’s got air in the system, in the water. With the heat exchanger, it shares the temperature. If the water goes up, the oil goes up. We got some really high temps so I just had to take my foot out of it and just idle along to get the temps to come down and try to keep it alive and not melt it down. My goal was to at least get the eight laps in and get and finish. Now tonight we can regroup and hopefully tomorrow I can run a little harder. The other truck (Norman) just had a right rear shock go.
ROB MacCACHREN, No. 3 (14th. Driver of record Mark Post will drive Sunday) — It’s tough (to just drive around). We weren’t even going to be here to race until earlier this week, when the call was made. We had to get some points so we had no choice but to bring the Protruck out. We needed to get the points. That’s what we came here to do and that’s about it. The first couple of laps was OK, but the more it went on it got so rough it was beating this truck up pretty good. We wanted to make sure we finished. The whole key for us was to finish.
HARLEY LETNER, No. 118 (First) – I was waiting to see cars pulled over when I got here (to the finish line) because it was so rough out there. (Were you keeping track of what was going on with the cars wrecking in front of you?) Absolutely not. When I came in, I saw all these cars and I started thinking we didn’t do that well and then Danny (Anderson) said he was the only one that finished and I thought, ‘Maybe I got him on time.’ It feels good (to be leading) because I had four seconds last year and I wanted to finish and hopefully get a win to start the year off right. I’m going to try to pick it up a couple of notches tomorrow and see if I can put some time on him so I can relax a little bit. It’s hammer down tomorrow. There were no issues whatsoever today. I was probably running about 95 percent just to try to get a good finish for today and we’ll get the real racing going tomorrow and try to take a win both days. I might have to do a little shock rebuild tonight to get ready for tomorrow.
DANNY ANDERSON, No. 109 (Second) – That was a lot of fun. We thought we had won but Harley got us by 51 seconds. The course is really rough. We’re the last race of the day and everybody’s chewed it up and I think it’s going to be worse tomorrow. We’re going to have to go hard tomorrow. We’re down 51 seconds already so we have to run hard tomorrow. You can’t play it safe – not here, especially, because the race is so short. I’ve got to thank P.J. Flores for riding with me. He prepped this thing, and Butch Dean. I’m so happy you can’t even imagine. P.J. told me ‘watch out, watch out, he’s (Schwarz) got a broken spindle,’ and I almost blew it there (coming off the leap on the final lap). I got a little excited and got into the back of him a little bit. He did a good job to get it in here. The course is beat up terribly, with all the trucks. But we got the car stiff and it was perfect for this course. There were no issues whatsoever. It was flawless. (On driver of record Pat Dean possibly competing Sunday for the points) No, he can’t even get into the car. I’ll be driving it tomorrow.
ARMIN SCHWARZ, No. 104 (Third. Drove the final mile with a broken front suspension part and dragging the left-front wheel.) – It happened a mile too early. I’m lucky to get it here (to the finish line), very lucky. (On leaving the course and hitting an ambulance parked in the infield) I think it was parked in the wrong place. I tried not to hit it but I just had to get the wheel around again otherwise I couldn’t turn in. It was my only chance to get to the finish. That was the only problem all day. A very, very good finish considering. The car was handling brilliant, very good, and a failure like that could happen – it should not – but the car was handling brilliant. Martin (Christensen) will drive the car tomorrow.
DALE EBBERTS, No. 114 (Fifth. Drove the last three-quarters of a mile in reverse after a transmission failure.) – I was in the hot pit area and all of a sudden, something went wrong inside the tranny. I pulled in the pits and they looked at it and said the axels are fine so I tried reverse, made a U-turn and just came down the rest of the way in reverse. We’ve got to figure out how to fix the transmission before we worry about tomorrow. It is (disappointing), but it could work out good because that problem could have happened one lap into tomorrow and we would have been done. Now we have a chance to fix it and see what we can do. I guess they know what it is and we’ll get it going. Everything else was fine today. The course was rough like usual but I was able to find some good lines and cross over from one line to the next and pick the best spots.
ENRIQUE BUJANDA, No. 113 (Sixth) — There were no problems. It was all very good.
RONNY WILSON, No. 120 (Seventh) – The car just ran great. It feels like we just finished the 1000, though. It was a lot of fun. I can’t wait until tomorrow. It feels like we just did a little triathlon. It’s so rough out there; you just can’t get a rhythm. There were no problems. The car just ran great, flawless. It was just starting in the back and going through the other cars. It was a lot of fun.
JOSH RIGBY, No. 101 (12th) – We had a blast. It’s a rough course, man, but it always is, every year. There were no problems. Our shocks aren’t stiff enough. We’ve got to stiffen them up a little bit. We almost had to stop for the Leap. It was killing the car and killing us.
STEVE EUGENIO, No. 1600 (First. Driver of record Adam Pfankuch will drive Sunday.) — It was good. I had some problems getting the car into first gear. We changed the tranny out for the gearing yesterday and I think the linkage needs to be adjusted. There was quite a few times I kept missing shifts and almost had to stop to get it back in gear. Other than that, it was a great day. Beautiful weather and beautiful conditions. No dust. We’re at a desert race with no dust. You can’t beat that.
AARON HAWLEY, No. 1603 (Second. Driver of record Brian Burgess will drive Sunday.) – At the end of the sixth lap I started to make some mistakes But it was a good run. The car stayed out front, the Yokohama tires were great. We just had a few mistakes there toward the end but, you know what, I love this race. I finished third here two years in a row and I want to do better than that this year. Brian Burgess should do a good job for us tomorrow.
DAVE CASPINO, No. 1604 (Fourth) – I’ve got to thank my girlfriend, my crew and the man upstairs for giving me a really good, solid race today with no problems. The course was great. They graded it last night and it was real flat, no problems. Hopefully, they’ll grade it again tonight – that would be really awesome.
JUSTIN DAVIS, No. 1602 (Fifth. Davis is 15½ and is driving at Laughlin for the first time. He will drive both days. He said he has driven in other desert and short-course races.) — It was fun. It’s like a big (short-course) race, just a little bit longer, a little bit rougher.
MARIO GASTELUM, No. 1606 (Sixth) — It was very good. The track was nice and level for today. It was very good. We had a lot more fun today than pre-running yesterday because everything was a little smoother, we got the turns a little faster. The only thing I didn’t like was waking up early. (The strategy) was just get it to the finish as fast as you can, with no errors or anything.
BRIAN WILSON, No. 1609 (Seventh. Sammy Ehrenberg will drive Sunday.) — It was awesome. We just went out there and tried to keep calm and run our own pace and leave everybody alone and keep it on all four wheels. That was a huge goal for us today. We’re 4 (rollovers) for 6 so far. We figured we’d come out, finish this one, keep it on all four wheels, no flat tires. It was an awesome run. The car ran flawless. There’s no dust. It was a little soft and muddy and you kind of feel the car wanting to suck into the ground a little bit, but the BFG tires hooked up great.
DONALD MOSS, No. 300 (First) — It’s always a lot of fun out here. It was a nice course today; no dust. We went first (in pre-running) and by the time the Trophy-Trucks got done with their qualifying it really got tore up. It will look completely different again tomorrow. Those holes will be very big. (Is it harder or easier being the only one in your class?) Probably not harder. You definitely have to keep your head on. These things are pretty tricky, with the short wheelbase, and it’s pretty tall and heavy, so it takes a lot just to keep it between the course markers.
CARLOS ALBANEZ, No. 501 (Second) – It was a lot of fun and that’s what it’s all about. We had no problems. I think I hit a little bit too hard on the first (jump) but other than that, I think we did OK. Luivan Voelker, my co-driver, will drive tomorrow. We’re going to go out and try to do the same thing tomorrow. There were a lot of ruts out there but outside of that, I think we did very, very well and we had a good race.
ALONSO ANGULO, No. 552 (First) – The course was OK out there. We had one problem; a spark plug came out. It just came out but we got it screwed back in and it was OK. We’re here (at the finish) and that’s good.
HEIDI STEELE, No. 601 (First) – Everything went good. I drove the first four laps and somewhere on the fifth lap, we broke an axle so one of the wheels wasn’t spinning. Once we got out to that sand area, it was difficult to get traction because it’s getting so deep out there. We had a difficult time getting traction and we actually had to get out and try to push it and get going. Ultimately, we changed drivers because it’s Ross Savage’s truck and it was my first time driving the truck. Ross drove the last lap from like mile two to the finish so we could get the finishing points and first place. Tomorrow, I’m going to drive my truck in (Class 7) so Ross is going to drive this truck tomorrow.
JOSE CANCHOLA JR., No. 703 (First) – We had a good race and we’re in a great battle with Chris Taylor and here we are. Viva Mexico! The course was real tough but it was a great race. Let’s see tomorrow. We had no problems but I think we’re out of fuel. But we made it.
A.J. RODRIGUEZ, No. 704 (Second) — It was great; a little rougher than I expected, but we had a good time. No problems. I just think I needed to adjust my suspension differently for the roughness of the track. It was too soft. (Rodriguez said he saw early class leader, No. 719 Chris Taylor, down with what appeared to be a broken spindle.)
DAN CHAMLEE, No. 700 (Third) – It was fun. The course was better than it was in reconnaissance. I really liked it. This course always has been rough but it’s always a lot of run. We were a little down on power this year so we’re at a little bit of a disadvantage but we still brought it home for third so we’re happy with that. It’s a finish – for today – and we’ll see how tomorrow goes. We had no problems other than just going around some slower trucks. BF Goodrich tires really hooked up for us today. The rain made the course just perfect. We were down on power but we never lost traction.
JOHN HOLMES, No. 759 (First) — It was rougher this year than last. We took it pretty easy. We didn’t want to break anything. The first day is all about just saving the truck for the second day. We stopped in the hot pit a couple of times to check the rear end. I thought we had a flat tire and I did not. It was just rougher out there than we’re used to. (Is running by yourself harder or easier?) You’re really tempted to go race against the other classes and you have to harness yourself in and just keep the truck together. I see the other trucks and want to pick it up and race with them, but I have to say ‘no, that would be stupid. There’s no reason to break.’ It takes a lot of self-control. (Co-driver was son Ty, 15, who was in his first race. Holmes said Mark Landersman probably will drive Sunday, but there’s a possibility Ty could drive instead.)
GREG ADLER, No. 802 (First) — When he came through the infield on the first lap No. 801 was on its side in the left-hand sweeper. Adler said: From there on it was just really cruising and taking it easy. The Mopar truck ran great; the guys prepped it awesome, the BFG tires held up, no flats or nothing, no problems. It was great. We’ll run tomorrow in this truck and then run with the Coynes in their Trophy-Truck. The course was starting to get chewed up a little bit more, but it was fun, a fun course. The last few laps, different areas almost looked like a different course, in a way. (Is running by yourself harder or easier?) It’s a little of both. It’s not super easy because you’re trying to be careful, be safe and not do anything stupid. But you jump out of your normal lines, you’re a little out of your groove. It’s not as much fun, but it was great to go out and play.
ROBERT McBEATH, No. 1003 (First) — It was a great race. The course is in great condition. There are a lot of fast guys out there, but the course is really rough and it took its toll. After the second lap my throttle kept sticking wide open. I had to pull into the hot pits and they sprayed it with WD40 and got it working again and got me back out. Once that happened there were no other problems. Bryce Menzies on the last lap broke his driver’s side rear axle off. He was very fast. It feels great. I’ve been second and third a lot so it may just have been our day, our time.
SCOTT WHIPPLE, No. 1004 (Second. Driver of record Scott Gailey will drive Sunday) — We had no problems. It was a great course. It started getting a little torn up, but it was pretty fast. The corners are pretty tough corners, but we took them at pretty high speeds. We almost flipped it on the lid a couple of times, but luckily we didn’t. All in all it was a great track and great competition. This is our first time out here at Laughlin and this is my first year to drive the car, so to get a podium at the first event, we’re more than happy. (Team also is involved with an NHRA Fuel Funny Car with Jim Dunn, Kawasaki Team Green in Supercross, and is building a Trophy-Truck.)
MIKE LAWRENCE, No. 1000 (Third) — We were battling for the first position. The green car got by me and then the Menzies car was behind me. We were going back and forth having a good time and I came into a turn too hot and rolled it on its side. It was a little flooded, but it started back up and it was fine. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll do well.
RICK ST. JOHN, No. 1200 (First) – It’s amazing how rough it gets out there. It’s just loamy sand and it doesn’t take too many cars to go through it to just start building up a lot of holes, a lot of deep, deep berms but all in all, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of excitement for your one hour of driving. Adam Pfankuch will drive it tomorrow.
DAN WORLEY, No. 1201 (Second. Stan Potter will drive Sunday) — It was a lot of fun. I hadn’t driven this car in a year. We came back and put it together, Stan and I. I thought I’d drive it today and see what developed, tried to save the car, take good lines and don’t hit the big holes, try to save it for tomorrow. We took a year off for financial reasons. We’d chased a championship for like five years and ended up second four of those years and it just took its toll. You’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries. We plan on doing the whole year. The car was just sitting in the garage up until like two weeks ago. This car is tried and true, it’s a competitive car. I think it’s eight years now we’ve been racing it. Everything’s figured out on it so it’s just up to the driver now.
JAKE JONES, No. 1203 (Eighth. First vehicle in class to finish, but was assessed a start/finish violation and dropped to last in class.) – I have to apologize (for the violation.) I’m just thankful nobody got hurt. It was awesome out there, just unbelievable. This is one of the most fun races of my life. Racing is just fun in general. Just knowing that I have tomorrow to race, too, is great. Tomorrow, I’ve got to keep the car on all four wheels and just stay consistent – do the same thing I did today. I’ll be behind the wheel again tomorrow.
GAVIN SKILTON, No. 779 (First) – It was a beautiful day. Thanks for the rain last night, it made the course a lot softer today and it was a lot of fun. We didn’t have any problems. I was out there on my own, just cruising around. The Honda Ridgeline has been doing good in the desert and we’ve got a good team going together with BF Goodrich Tires – they’re the best things out there. We’re just running a good, small, tight team and just getting out there and racing all the time and we’re getting good results. It’s a good truck. People don’t believe it, but it is. You’ll see the Honda Ridgeline with BFG tires ripping up the SCORE Desert Series this year.
JUSTIN MATNEY, No. 861 (First) – The track was good. We had a little inner cooler boot issue that we’re going to fix here in just a minute. We had a small pinhole leak or a tear and we just couldn’t boost more than 20 psi so we didn’t really have much power there with two laps to go so we really had to back it down. We couldn’t run it like we were doing the first few laps. We just want to make the truck live, really. Come out here and have fun this weekend and get ready for the San Felipe race.