Baja 500: Series news on pre-running, entries

21 defending class champs return Busy pre-running begins Saturday in Mexico on rugged 441.15-mile race course for 40th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 May 29-June 1 event in Ensenada has entries from 24 States, 7 countries; Official course map...

21 defending class champs return
Busy pre-running begins Saturday in Mexico on rugged 441.15-mile race course for 40th Tecate SCORE Baja 500

May 29-June 1 event in Ensenada has entries from 24 States, 7 countries; Official course map available at www.score-international.com

LOS ANGELES--With the release of the official course map and course notes Monday, pre-race activity steps up significantly starting Saturday when the world's best desert racers officially begin their pre-running and course logistics activities for this month's 40th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500, the second-oldest continuous desert race in the world.

Round 3 of the five-race 2008 SCORE Desert Series, the World's Foremost Desert Racing Series, featuring over 300 entries, competing in 27 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs, will be held May 29-June 1 in Ensenada, Mexico. Traditionally one of the most popular events on the SCORE schedule, over 100,000 spectators are expected to enjoy the world's best desert racers in action at this year's 40th anniversary of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500.

With late entries accepted up to race morning, entries are expected for the 441.15-mile race from 24 U.S. States from Hawaii to Connecticut, Mexico, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The green flag will drop for the elapsed-time race at 6 a.m. on Saturday (May 31) for the motorcycle and ATV classes in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500, followed by the car and truck classes three hours after the last ATV at approximately 9:30 a.m. In the elapsed-time race, motorcycles and ATVs will start one every 15 seconds, while the faster car/truck classes will start one every 30 seconds and the slower ones will start in 15-second intervals. All starters will have a 20-hour time limit to become official finishers.

The talented field of veteran desert racers includes 21 defending class champions out of the 25 Pro classes that had finishers in last year's race that had an all-time SCORE record of 492 starters.

All three overall winners from last year's race are entered and all three have won two consecutive years. Las Vegas' Brian Collins, Las Vegas, returns seeking a third straight overall 4-Wheel vehicle victory with new teammate Chuck Hovey, Escondido, Calif. Collins, who drives the No. 12 Mopar Collins Motorsports Mopar Dodge Ram 1500, won the last two year with Larry Ragland as his teammate.

Returning as the two-time overall motorcycle and Class 22 champs is the team of Robby Bell, Murrieta, Calif./Kendall Norman, Santa Barbara, Calif., on the No. 1x Honda CRF450X. Back to defend their overall ATV and Class 25 victory is the team of Danny Prather, Ramona, Calif./Mike Cafro, Carlsbad, Calif., on the new No. 1a Honda TRXX700. Splitting the seat time with Prather and Cafro this year will be Chad Prull, Laveen, Ariz., and Levi Marana, Hemet, Calif.

Collins/Hovey drew the eighth starting spot in SCORE Trophy-Truck while Bell/Norman will be fourth off the line in Class 22 and Prather/Cafro/Prull/Marana will start seventh in Class 25.

"To win the SCORE Baja 500 overall once is a dream come true, to win it twice amazing and to win it three times would be unbelievable," said Collinsll/Norman will be fourth off the line in Class 22 and Prather/Cafro/Prull/Marana will start seventh in Class 25.

"To win the SCORE Baja 500 overall once is a dream come true, to win it twice amazing and to win it three times would be unbelievable," said Collins, a second-generation SCORE desert racer who has five career SCORE Trophy-Truck race wins including this year's 22nd Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 in March. "Our new Mopar Dodge Ram 1500 is an unbelievable race truck and we could make history."

Besides Collins, Bell/Norman and Prather/M. Cafro, other racers who will be back to defend their class titles are B.J. Richardson, Las Vegas (Class 1, Bunderson-Chevy), Dave Caspino, Woodland Hills, Calif. (Class 1-2/1600, Lothringer-VW), Donald Moss, Sacramento, Calif. (Class 3, Ford Bronco), Carlos Albanez, Mexicali, Mexico (Class 5, VW Baja Bug), Jose Montoya, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 5/1600, 1600cc VW Baja Bug), Dan Chamlee, Summerland, Calif., (Class 7, Ford Ranger), John Griffin, Mission Viejo, Calif. (Stock Full, Ford F-150), Rod Hall, Reno, Nev. (Stock Mini, Hummer H3), Carlos Casas, Chula Vista, Calif. (Class 21, Honda CRF450X), Jim O'Neal, Simi Valley, Calif. (Class 30, Honda CRF450X), Brett Helm, Poway, Calif. (Class 40, Honda CRF450X), Jim O'Neal, Simi Valley, Calif. (Class 50, Honda XR650R).

The five class winners from last year who have switched classes are: Nick Vanderwey, Phoenix (from Class 8 to SCORE Trophy-Truck), Lobsam Yee, Tijuana, Mexico (Class 10 to Class 1), Gus Vildosola Jr., Mexicali, Mexico (Protruck to SCORE Trophy-Truck), Ryan Penhall, Corona, Calif. (from Class 20 to Class 22), and Adolfo Arellano, Chula Vista, Calif. (from Class 24 to Class 25).

The race began in 1969 under the auspices of the old NORRA organization and SCORE began its enduring run on July 26, 1974. This year will be the 35th anniversary of the first SCORE race in Baja.

To date, the Pro 4-Wheel vehicles classes with the most entries are: Class 1 (23), SCORE Trophy-Truck (22), Class 1-2/1600 (19), SCORE Lite (13) and Class 5/1600 (14).

Leading the Motorcycle classes in entries so far are Class 22 (17) and Class 30 (11).

Class 24 leads the ATV classes with 12 entries while Class 25 has 11.

Among the Sportsman classes, SPT Motorcycles over 250cc has 31 entries.

Among the other early entries is venerable veteran Rod Hall, Reno, Nev., who has entered the Stock Mini class in a Hummer H3. Hall, 70, is tied for first with 17 class wins in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500. Hall's son Josh and Chad will driver separate Hummers in the Stock Full class. Josh will drive a Hummer H2SUT and Chad will drive a Hummer H3Alpha.

Several crossover/celebrity racers are already entered in this year's race, led by NASCAR's Robby Gordon. A second generation desert racer, Gordon, who has won this race three times, is a NASCAR team owner/driver and is entered in SCORE Trophy-Truck in the No. 77 Chevy Silverado.

Germany's Armin Schwarz, whose World Rally Championship career saw 119 starts, won Class 1 in this year's Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 with Martin Christensen, Escondido, Calif. and are currently fourth in Class 1 points in a Jimco-BMW. Making his SCORE race debut in Jimco-Chevy in this race will be German Rally ace Armin Kremer.

Arizona real estate mogul Ken Losch, a team owner/driver in the Indy Lights series, will be driving a Ford F-150 in the Protruck class.

Two celebrity drivers who are all SCORE regulars are SCORE Trophy-Truck drivers Cameron Steele and Jesse James.

Steele, San Clemente, Calif., is a TV sports announcer for Supercross and X Games and until the IndyCar merger this year was a Champ Car pit reporter. The Steele family and Desert Assassins race team drew three of a kind for this race as three family members each received the second starting position in their respective classes. Cameron will drive the No. 16 GMC Sierra in SCORE Trophy-Truck, while his wife Heidi will drive a Ford Ranger in Class 7SX (the class she leads in points) and his younger brother Grant will ride a Honda CRF450X in Class 22.

James, whose wife is legendary motion picture star Sandra Bullock, lives in Sunset Beach, Calif., owns the world-famous West Cost Choppers company and was the star of the old Monster Garage television series. He will drive the No. 54 Chevy Silverado in SCORE Trophy-Truck.

Debuting her new race team in SCORE Lite will be prominent Automotive electronic and print journalist Barbara Terry, Clover, South Carolina, who will be the driver of record in a Bunderson-VW for this race and the season-ending Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 in November.

For the first time in the 40-year history of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race, the colorful pre-race Manufacturer's Midway and Contingency, the start and finish line will all be located in the heart of Ensenada, Mexico on Boulevard Costero adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. It will be first time in race history that the pre-race activities and the finish will be held on this historic boulevard.

Pre-race festivities will launch on Thursday, May 29 when Mexico's El Vigia newspaper hosts its annual SCORE Meet the Racers Fiesta from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Ventana al Mar Plaza.

The SCORE Manufacturer's Midway will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 30. Racer registration will again be held in the Grand Ballroom of the San Nicolas Hotel. Registration hours will be from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 29 and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday May 30.

The awards celebration will be held poolside at the San Nicolas on Sunday, June 1 at 10 a.m.

The 2008 SCORE Desert Series also includes the chase for the $20,000 Volkswagen Point Leader Bonus and the run for the Toyota Milestone Awards. Volkswagen has also posted a special $5,000 cash contingency bonus for the highest-finishing VW-powered race vehicle in this race.

-credit: score

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