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 Megan Stevenson:
As Charlene Bower and I walked through the BFGoodrich Tires pit exchange area, and she introduced me to pit leaders and their crews, there were several seasoned veterans who stood out to me. I wanted to sit down get to know them a little better, and so we did:
Richard Winchester recently retired from BFGoodrich Tires after 40 years. He has been part of the BFGoodrich Tires pit support team and a well-respected pit leader since 1982. It all started when he and his wife Jackie decided they were going visit some friends and come to the Baja 1000 for their honeymoon. While they were here, a pit leader was injured, and the team was in need of some help. Richard and Jackie gladly stepped in to help, and they have been coming back every year since then. They just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.
Richard’s number one priority is safety for the 17 members of his East Coast based crew. “We are the only crew that has all East Coast members; I think that makes us unique,” said Winchester. While his favorite piece of being involved with the BFG team is the opportunity to be a part of pre-running with the BC Team, when asked why he keeps coming back Richard simply replied, “Baja is in my blood. That’s about all there is to it.”
Don Minton, or as his friends like to call him, Don “Bad” Minton, got his start in 1979 while working for BFGoodrich Tires. Don and Frank DeAngelo paired up and drove the first BFGoodrich Tires Tractor Trailer down to La Paz, when there were still pieces of dirt road before it all got paved! Over the course of the last 39 years, Don said the thing he has noticed the most has been the evolution of the vehicles utilized. When he first started out they used a 40 foot trailer with a tire machine and air compressor mounted to it. Now there are multiple large BFG semis with double-stacker trailers.
Don takes his job as a pit leader seriously as he feels it is a big responsibility, and safety is incredibly important. When talking about his crew, he affectionately refers to them as his “hodgepodge”. “We have guys from Ireland, guys from Mexico, and cowboys from Ohio and Pennsylvania,” said Minton with a big smile on his face. “My favorite part of the Baja 1000 pits is getting to see my BFG family.”
Sam Wilshire will turn 80 years old on December 2, 2017. He has been part of the BFGoodrich Tires pit support team since 2003 but has been part of the BFG family since long before that. In earlier years, he used to race and loves everything about the sport of offroad racing. Sam is a huge supporter of safety both on the racecourse and off. He has been really happy to see how the importance of safety has grown, and continues to grow, in the racing community.
With challenges breathing, this year he has taken a step back from his past duties to take on the support role at the starting line. Sam spoke of his admiration for the camaraderie between all the pit crews. When asked about his favorite part of the pits, he stated that the love he has for his friends here at the BGF Pits is immeasurable.
With almost 100 years of pit service between these three gentlemen, this barely scratches the surface of the combined years for all the volunteers here in the pits. I wish I had more time so that I could get to know each of the amazing people who make up this remarkable program. Maybe that would be a good excuse for me to come back again next year…
Follow Megan’s Baja 1000 journey HERE.