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'Echoes from the Past'... SCORE Baja 500


  May 17, 2023   ‘Celebrating 50 Years of SCORE Desert Racing Excellence’ Race week May 31-June 4 BFGoodrich Tires 55th SCORE Baja 500 ‘Echoes from the Past’ provide prolific, poignant, precise notable notes, super stats for one of World’s Top 10 races   Round 2 of four-race 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico—Off-Road Racing Capital of the World; #SCOREBaja500; More race info at        ENSENADA, Baja California, Mexico—History is the foundation for the present, the present is structure for the future and echoes from the past resonate resoundingly as racers from around the globe are anxiously awaiting this month’s memorable BFGoodrich Tires 55th SCORE Baja 500. Round 2 of the four-race 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship will be held May 31-June 4 in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. SHOWTIME Most the world’s best desert racers will be in action at this year’s celebration of one of the top 10 motorsports events in the entire world. With over 300 entries expected 45 competition classes are offered for cars, trucks, UTVs, motorcycles and quads. The current total of 205 entries includes racers from 25 U.S. States, U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico and 11 total countries. Besides the USA, are host country Mexico, along with Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Japan, New Zealand and Peru. An elapsed-time race with staggered starts, the green flag on Saturday (June 3) will drop first for the motorcycles and quads at 3:30 a.m. (PT) and 8:15 a.m. (PT) for the cars, trucks and UTVs. While the fastest vehicles will complete the rugged 73.67-mile course in around 10 hours, all vehicles will have a 20-hour time limit to become an official finisher. All four 2023 SCORE races are being held on Mexico’s magnificent Baja California peninsula for the eighth consecutive year. SCORE is in its 50th year as the World’s Foremost Desert Racing Organization. LIVE STREAMING There will be extensive live streaming from pre-race contingency (June 2) and the start/finish line compound broadcasting the start, live action around the course and finish line interviews (June 3-4). Popular Rat Sult is in his eighth year as primary host and lead announcer of the SCORE live streaming which airs on the SCORE TV website. Sult will be assisted again by the veteran voice Dave Arnold. ECHOES FROM THE PAST       Here is a brief look back at some of the plethora of prolific poignant race notes, superlative stats, notable numbers that this legendary desert race has etched indelibly into the dusty desert sands of time… ECHO 1—SCORE Baja 500 The legendary Baja 500 is celebrating its 55th anniversary this month in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. The race was first held in Ensenada in 1969, organized by the NORRA racing organization for four years. In the inaugural Baja 500 in 1969 winning the overall 4-wheel vehicle title was the team of Bud Ekins/Guy Jones in an Oldsmobile-powered Baja Boot open wheel desert race car and the fastest motorcycle was the Ducati ridden by Doug Douglass and Jim McClurg. ECHO 2—SCORE Baja 500 In 1973 the Baja Sports Committee, local tourism group in Ensenada, produced the event. Later in 1973 after the NORRA group was no longer sanctioned by the State government to produce events in Mexico, legendary Baja California tourism advocate and prominent Ensenada hotelier Nico Saad introduced Mickey Thompson to the governor of Baja California that resulted in SCORE being named as the official non-Mexican promoter authorized and sanctioned by the Baja California government to produce events in this Mexican state. ECHO 3—SCORE Baja 500 Thus came the birth of the SCORE Baja Internacional (legal issues precluded SCORE from gaining the rights to use the name Baja 500 until 1991). The first SCORE Baja Internacional (produced by Mickey Thompson and Sal Fish) was held on July 26, 1974 in Ensenada with 279 official starters and 173 official finishers.   But fans, media and racers alike have always called it the Baja 500. Noted Hollywood stunt driver Bobby Ferro won the overall 4-wheel vehicle title for the third of four times in his career in 1974, this time in a VW-Sandmaster open-wheel desert race car. The fastest overall motorcycle in this race was the Husqvarna with Mitch Mayes and A.C. Bakken sharing the riding duties. ECHO 4—SCORE Baja 500 Racers like Ivan Stewart, Larry Roeseler, Bobby Ferro, Parnelli Jones, Larry Ragland, Robby Gordon, Malcolm Smith, Dr. Bud Feldkamp, Troy Herbst, Rob MacCachren, Bryce Menzies, Steve Hengeveld, Johnny Campbell, Bruce Ogilvie, Justin Morgan, Mark Samuels and McMillin family racers—Corky, Scott, Mark, Andy and Dan—are all part of the legacy of all-time multiple overall four-wheel and multiple two-wheel vehicle winners of the SCORE Baja 500. ECHO 5—SCORE Baja 500 Governors of the Mexican State of Baja California during the years of the SCORE Baja 500—Raúl Sánchez Díaz...1965-1971; Milton Castellanos Everado...1971-1977; Roberto De la Madrid Romandia...1977-1983; Xicontecatl Leyva Mortera...1983-1989; Oscar Baylon Chacón...Interim for eleven months in 1989; Ernesto Ruffo Appel...1989-1995; Héctor Terán...1995-1998 (Died while in office); Alejandro González Alcocer...1998-2001 (Interim); Eugenio Elorduy Walther...2001-2007; José Guadalupe Osuna Millán…2007-2013, Francisco Arturo Vega De la Madrid...2013-2019, Jaime Bonilla Valdez…2019-2021 and Marina del Pilar Avila Olmeda…2021-present. ECHO 6—SCORE Baja 500 When it comes to desert racing there is only one ‘Ironman’ standing at the top of the list of solo drivers/riders. San Diego’s iconic Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart has accepted SCORE’s invitation to be the co-Grand Marshal for the upcoming BFGoodrich Tires 55th SCORE Baja 500. The legendary ‘Ironman’ will be celebrating his 78th birthday on June 4, the day that this year’s SCORE Baja 500 will be finishing. Racing since 1973, Stewart, who retired in 2000, joined the Toyota factory team in 1983 for Cal Wells at Precision Preparation Inc. (PPI). He had a total of 84 career off-road race victories in stadium, short course and desert. The legendary Stewart has been inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (2006), the San Diego Hall of Champions Breitbard Hall of Fame (2009) and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (2020). ECHO 7—SCORE Baja 500 Among the drivers from other arenas who have tested the Baja 500 have been Indy Car racers Rick and Roger Mears, Parnelli Jones, Danny Ongias, Danny Sullivan, Jimmy Vasser, Roberto Guerrero, Michel Jourdain Jr., Johnny Unser and Mike and Robbie Groff, NASCAR’s Robby Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Boris Said and Brendan Gaughan, SCCA legend Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Pike’s Peak Hill Climb record holder Rod Millen, Drifting and Pike’s Peak and World Drifting champion Rhys Millen, World Rally Championships’ Armin Schwarz, Armin Kremer, Andreas Aigner and Harri Pavanpera, world motorcycle champions Malcolm Smith, Larry Roeseler and Destry Abbott, Motocross legends Ricky Johnson and Jeremy McGrath, Dakar Rally Champions Ricky Brabec, Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, XGames star Travis Pastrana, Sports Car champion Larry Connor, drag racers Don Prudhomme and Larry Minor and legendary SCORE founder and motorsports innovator Mickey Thompson. ECHO 8—SCORE Baja 500 Part of the legacy of this iconic race, SCORE presents the racers who have been overall winners of the SCORE San Felipe 250, SCORE Baja 500 and SCORE Baja 1000—the SCORE Baja Triple Crown Award. The nine individuals who have earned this amazing honor are: Dave Ashley, Robby Gordon, Rob MacCachren, Andy McMillin, Scott McMillin, Larry Ragland, Dan Smith, Ivan Stewart and Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Vildosola Jr. ECHO 9—SCORE Baja 500 Ensenada has hosted nearly all the Baja 500 races.  The race officially became the SCORE Baja Internacional in 1974 and Sal Fish was finally able to negotiate the use of the name it was always called and it became the SCORE Baja 500 in 1991. Overall, one of the world’s most well-known desert races has started 47 times in Ensenada, three times in Ojos Negros, twice in San Felipe and once in Barstow, Calif. (USA). Overall, the SCORE Baja 500 has finished in 43 times in Ensenada, five times in Santo Tomas, twice in Ojos Negros, twice in San Felipe and once in Barstow, Calif. (USA). Motorcycle classes have run in this race every year but 1989 when the race was moved to San Felipe very close to the race date. ECHO 10—SCORE Baja 500 Legends are born at the SCORE Baja 500.  Driver with the most overall wins in the race, Larry “Mr. Baja’ Roeseler is on top with 12 (including nine on a motorcycle, two in an open-wheel desert race car and one in SCORE Trophy Truck). Second is Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart with the most overall 4-wheel victories by far with 10 (and he also has 17 total class wins including the 10 overalls). Third in overall wins with five overall 4-wheel wins is ‘Lightning’ Larry Ragland. With four overall 4-wheel wins each are Bobby Ferro, Robby Gordon and Malcolm Smith (including one on a motorcycle). With three overall 4-wheel wins each are Dr. Bud Feldkamp, Troy Herbst, Rob MacCachren, Mark McMillin, Mark’s brother Scott McMillin, Scott’s son Andy McMillin and Bryce Menzies. With two overall 4-wheel wins each are Brian Collins, Bob Gordon (Robby’s father), Parnelli Jones, Rob MacCachren, Corky McMillin (McMillin family patriarch) and Dan Smith (including one on a motorcycle).      Besides Roeseler with nine, the leaders in overall motorcycle wins are Steve Hengeveld (7), Johnny Campbell, Paul Krause, Bruce Ogilvie, Kendall Norman and Justin Morgan with five each. With four each are Robby Bell and Ted Hunnicutt Jr and with three each are Scot Harden, Jonah Street and Mark Samuels. ECHO 11—SCORE Baja 500      In the battle of manufacturers, several categories are presented. Leaders in overall car/truck wins are Ford Truck (14), Chevy Truck (10), Toyota Truck (8), Funco and Chenowth with seven each and Jimco and Smithbuilt with three each. Leaders in overall Tire manufacturers’ wins for cars/trucks are BFGoodrich Tires (35), Western Auto (5), Toyo Tires (4) and tied with two each are Firestone Tires, Goodyear Tires and Yokohama Tires.      The leaders in overall motorcycle wins are Honda (22), Husqvarna (13), Kawasaki (11) and Yamaha (4). The leaders in overall engine wins for cars and trucks are Ford (16), Chevy (14),Volkswagen (13), Toyota (8) and Porsche (5). ECHO 12—SCORE Baja 500 There are 12 racers who have overall victories in both the SCORE Baja 500 and the SCORE Baja 1000, which celebrated its 55th race last November. Clearly leading with way is legendary Larry Roeseler who has 14 overall wins in the SCORE Baja 1000 and 12 in the SCORE Baja 500. Second is Larry Ragland who has five in each of the iconic SCORE races. The other racers who have overall victories in both races along with their overall wins in each race are Andy McMillin (3 SCORE Baja 500, 5 SCORE Baja 1000), Robby Gordon (4, 3), Rob MacCachren (3, 6), Troy Herbst (3, 2), Scott McMillin (3, 2), B.J. Baldwin (1, 2), Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Vildosola Jr (1, 1), Mark Samuels (4, 7), Justin Morgan (5, 5) and Justin Jones (3, 5). ECHO 13—SCORE Baja 500      In 54 years of this great race, non-U.S. drivers have been the fastest overall 4-wheel winners in this race twice and once in the motorcycle division. Both Mexican nationals, Carlos ‘Apdaly’ Lopez of Tecate was the first non-American winner in 2015 in a Chevy SCORE Trophy Truck and Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Vildosola Jr of Mexicali followed up in 2016 by winning in a Ford SCORE Trophy Truck. In 2017, Francisco Arredondo of Guatemala became the first non-U.S. racer to win the overall motorcycle title as he was rider of record on the winning team of Americans—Shane Esposito/Justin Morgan and Mexico’s Roberto Villalobos of Tijuana. ECHO 14—SCORE Baja 500 Looking at some overall stats from this legendary race, a total of 13,966 vehicles have started the first 54 races for an average of 259 starters per race. A total of 7,776 vehicles have finished the first 54 races for an average of 144 finishers per race. Percentage-wise, 55.7% is the average finishing rate for this legendary race. In the first 54 years, the most ever starters came in 2007 when 492 vehicles left the start line and the second most starters were in 2006 when 438 started the race. In the first 54 years, the most ever finishers came in 2007 when 228 finished race and the second most finishers were in 2006 when 221 vehicles finished the race. In the first 54 years of the world-famous desert race, the fewest number of starters was in 2020 when there were 129 (world-wide-pandemic-impacted race moved to San Felipe) and the fewest number of finishers was the first year in 1969 when there were 73 finishers. Overall, there have been 10 SCORE Baja 500 races with 300 or more starters. ECHO 15—SCORE Baja 500 Las Vegas’ Troy Herbst etched some more history and Larry Roeseler, Boulevard, Calif., added to his legendary status on June 1, 2003, teaming up to come from behind to repeat as the overall four-wheel vehicle champions and Southern California's Steve Hengeveld and Johhny Campbell easily earned the overall motorcycle title at the 35th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race. Racing in the unlimited Class 1, Herbst, 36, and Roeseler, 46, powered the Terrible Herbst Motorsports Ford-powered Smithbuilt open-wheel desert race car to a time of 9 hours, 54 minutes, 46 seconds, averaging 45.69 miles per hour over the rugged 452.93-mile course in the rugged terrain of the northern part of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Living up to pre-race hype, the celebratory atmosphere honoring the 30th anniversary of SCORE’s first race in Mexico saw the most starters in 15 years in the desert classic with 260 racers competing in 24 Pro and 5 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs in front of extremely enthusiastic throngs of spectators estimated at over 100,000 by Mexico tourism officials. In winning Class 22 for open motorcycles in their American Honda XR650R, Hengeveld/Campbell raced in conditions that ranged from fog and 50-degree temperatures on the Baja coast to scorching sun and heat near the century mark inland. Winning their sixth consecutive SCORE race, the talented pair covered the course in 9:33:48, averaging 47.36mph. Testament to the ruggedness of the course, both the overall four-wheel and motorcycle tandems normally average over 60mph. ECHO 16—SCORE Baja 500 In the 2018 Golden Anniversary of the SCORE Baja 500, held over a race-record long race course of 542.12 miles, Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Rob MacCachren, the G.O.A.T. of off-road racing, earned the overall and SCORE Trophy Truck victory in his No. 11 Ford F-150 in a time of 11 hours, 21 minutes and 15 seconds. Leading the motorcycles overall in the 50th anniversary of this race while winning the Pro Moto Unlimited Class was the three-rider team of rider of record Justin Morgan along with Mark Samuels and Justin Jones with a time of 11:54:58 on the No. 7x Honda CRF450X. ECHO 17—SCORE Baja 500 In the 2020 SCORE Baja 500, Dan McMillin became the fifth member of San Diego’s legendary McMillin Racing family to capture an overall victory in this race. Dan, joined his late grandfather Corky McMillin (2 overall wins), uncle Scott McMillin (3), father Mark McMillin (3) and his cousin Andy McMillin (Scott’s son-3) as overall winners of this famous race. This win gave the McMillin family a SCORE-record 12 overall wins in this popular early summer event. In 2021, Larry ‘Mr. Baja’ Roeseler won the Overall in the race in a Toyota Tundra built by Robby Gordon while second was Andy McMillin in his Mason-built Chevy. ECHO 18—SCORE Baja 500 Las Vegas’ Rob MacCachren, the veritable G.O.A.T. of off-road racing, added another amazing accomplishment to his Hall of Fame record on June 4, 2022, overcoming a field of 259 starters and a ridiculously-rugged race course to capture the Overall and SCORE Trophy Truck victory in the internationally-televised BFGoodrich Tires 54th SCORE Baja 500.      MacCachren worked his way to the front of the field in his sturdy and dependable No. 1 Ford F-150 to an admirable error-free, penalty free winning time of nine hours, 22 minutes and 47 seconds with an average speed of 49.37 miles per hour over the gut-wrenching 463.12-mile course. ECHO 19—SCORE Baja 500 While the magnificent mystery of Baja California is infamous, the masters of SCORE Baja 500 have etched their names in the lasting legacy with their class wins in this legendary race. There are 20 racers who have earned seven or more class wins in this event. History shows that the masters of this race are age-group motorcycle racer Jim O’Neal with 23 class wins, the late great Rod Hall and Larry Roeseler with 18 each, Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart with 17 and age-group motorcycle legend Richard Jackson with 15 class wins. While Roeseler leads with 12 overall wins (including nine on motorcycles), Stewart is right behind him with 10 overall victories (all in four-wheel vehicles and seven in PPI Toyota Trucks). Tied with nine class wins each in this race are 4-wheel vehicle drivers Marcos Nunez and Donald Moss while tied with eight class wins each are Mike Cafro, Nick Vanderwey, veteran age-group motorcycle racer Lou Franco and Steve Hengeveld (with seven of his being overall motorcycle wins as well). Nine racers are tied with seven class wins each—Shane Esposito, Sergio Gutierrez, Troy Herbst, Rick D. Johnson, Jeff Kaplan, Larry Ragland, Arnoldo Ramirez, Francisco Septien and Eric Solorzano. Rob McCachren has seven class wins in this race. Of this illustrious group of class winners, expected to race in the 55th anniversary race and add to their legacy are O’Neal, Roeseler, Cafro, Esposito, Franco, MacCachren, Septien and Solorzano. Of the 19 racers tied with six class wins each, expected in this year’s race are Cisco Bio, Ramon Fernandez, and Felipe Velez. ECHO 20—SCORE Baja 500 SCORE Trophy Truck, which debuted in 1994, is celebrating its 30th season as the marquee racing division in the sport. It is the marquee racing division for high-tech, 1000-horsepower, unlimited custom trucks. The SCORE Baja 500 has seen the second largest fields of SCORE Trophy Truck in SCORE history, have 39 starters both in 2007 and in 2010. Winning SCORE Trophy Truck and the overall in 2007 was the team of Larry Ragland/Brian Collins and in 2010, the SCORE Trophy Truck and overall winners were the son/father team of Andy McMillin/Scott McMillin. The next highest total of SCORE Trophy Truck starters in SCORE history was in this race that had 37 starters in 2006, 2013 and 2014. The team of Brian Collins/Larry Ragland won the class and the race in 2006, Robby Gordon won in 2013 and Bryce Menzies won in 2014, his third SCORE Trophy Truck win in this race in a four-year period. ECHO 21—SCORE Baja 500 SCORE Trophy Truck Take 2. SCORE Trophy Truck racers have won the overall in 18 out of the last 19 years in the SCORE Baja 500, including the last 13 consecutive years. The last overall winner in this race not driving a SCORE Trophy Truck was the team of cousins Harley Letner and the late Kory Halopoff who won the overall and the unlimited Class 1 in 2009 in a Chevy-powered Tatum open-wheel desert race car. ECHO 22—SCORE Baja 500      With pre-running opening on Saturday (May 20), SCORE President/Race Director Jose A. Grijalva has put together another memorable race course to challenge the world’s best desert racers. The final distance is 473.67 miles. It will be starting and finishing again on fan-friendly Blvd. Costero adjacent to the iconic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center in the heart of Ensenada. Pre-race Contingency will also be held on Blvd. Costero on Friday, June 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. The course will run in a clockwise direction out of and back to the start/finish line compound in Ensenada, traveling through such noted areas as Ojos Negros, Santa Catarina, the Summit, Cohabuzo Junction, Saldana, La Ventana access, Las Cuevitas Wash, San Matias Pass, Valle de Trinidad, Llano Colorado, Cerro Solo, San Vicente Wash, Erendira, Santo Tomas, Uruapan, Los Encinitos, Rancho El Mezcal and Ojos Negros. The course will have two complete stop physical checkpoints, 187 total virtual checkpoints and 13 speed zones for a total of 58.27 miles. Checkpoint 1 will be located at race mile 211.62 (Laguna Amarga) and Checkpoint 2 will be at rm326.64 (Llano Colorado). All Sportsman classes, Class 11 and Class 7SX will run a reduced course of a total of 440.72 miles. ECHO 23—SCORE Baja 500 Sal Fish, admired as the iconic ‘godfather’ of SCORE desert racing who is a foundational pillar of the organization, is the Grand Marshal of the Year for the entire four-race 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship. Revered all over Baja California, Fish, who turned 84 on May 2, is a former publisher of Hot Rod Magazine and a 2006 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. He led SCORE for 38 years, from 1974 until he sold the organization on Dec. 20, 2012. His footprint left an indelible mark on all of desert racing as he was an extraordinary innovator and visionary for SCORE and the entire world of desert racing. He expanded TV coverage of SCORE races and in 1994 created the SCORE Trophy Truck class, the marquee racing division in the sport of desert racing. ECHO 24—SCORE Baja 500      Ivan Stewart, Alpine, Calif., will be a co-Grand Marshal for this year’s SCORE Baja 500. When it comes to desert racing there is only one ‘Ironman’ standing at the top of the list of solo drivers/riders. San Diego’s iconic Ivan ‘Ironman’ will be celebrating his 78th birthday on June 4, during the conclusion of this year’s SCORE Baja 500. The ‘Ironman’ celebrated his birthday annually over the years with 17 career class wins including a race-record 10 overall 4-wheel vehicle victories in the SCORE Baja 500. Driving most of his career for Toyota Racing Development, Stewart continues as a spokesperson for Toyota Racing Development. ECHO 25-SCORE Baja 500 Johnny Campbell, 52, San Clemente, Calif., will be the other co-Grand Marshal for this year’s race. Campbell is a stellar SCORE motorcycle racing champion with six career class wins including five overall victories in the SCORE Baja 500. He also has a race-record 11 overall motorcycle victories in the SCORE Baja 1000 on his resume. Campbell is also an 11-time SCORE season point champion in the Pro Moto Unlimited class on his Honda CRF450X. He also rode in the 2001 Dakar Rally, finishing eighth overall. Campbell has been inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame (2018) and the Trailblazers MC Hall of Fame (2021). Today he continues as the Off-Road Coordinator for American Honda in addition to running his own successful team—Johnny Campbell Racing/Honda (JCR) with several top desert motorcycle racers. ECHO 26—SCORE Baja 500 BFGoodrich Tires, the official tire of SCORE for 47 years, was honored after the 2022 season as the SCORE Contingency Company of the year for the 32nd time. BFGoodrich Tires has been the choice of 35 of the 54 overall winners of the popular SCORE Baja 500 and 33 of the 55 overall winners of the legendary SCORE Baja 1000. BFGoodrich Tires is also the title sponsor of both iconic races again in 2023. BFGoodrich Tires also has been the choice of 30 of the 36 overall winners of the SCORE San Felipe 250, all three SCORE Desert Challenge races, the lone SCORE Challenge of Champions in San Felipe, the one SCORE Baja Sur 500 and one of the three overall winners in the SCORE Baja 400. This year’s SCORE San Felipe 250 overall victory by San Diego’s Luke McMillin marked the 103rd SCORE Baja overall race win for BFGoodrich Tires. BFGoodrich Tires has posted a contingency bonus for the overall winner of this year’s race of US$10,000.   #SCOREBaja500 –