Baja 500: Series round three summary

By under 5 minutes after over 8 grueling hours, R. Gordon beats B.J. Baldwin for 4-wheel Overall victory at 41st Tecate SCORE Baja 500 Norman rides Honda CRF450X to fourth Overall Motorcycle desert racing victory over 267 starters in Ensenada,...

By under 5 minutes after over 8 grueling hours, R. Gordon beats B.J. Baldwin for 4-wheel Overall victory at 41st Tecate SCORE Baja 500

Norman rides Honda CRF450X to fourth Overall Motorcycle desert racing victory over 267 starters in Ensenada, Mexico

ENSENADA, Mexico--NASCAR Cup team owner/driver Robby Gordon began his double duty race weekend with a sterling overall victory Saturday over defending race champion B.J. Baldwin in the

41st Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race in Ensenada, Mexico. Working his way up the field after starting sixth in the elapsed-time race, Gordon covered the rugged 432.51-mile desert course in a time of eight hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds, averaging 50.31 miles per hour in the No. 77 Team Gordon Chevy CK1500.

Battling closely the entire race with Las Vegas' Baldwin and several other challengers, Gordon finally pulled away in the closing miles to post a narrow victory margin of four minutes, 45 seconds over Baldwin and his No. 1 Baldwin Motorsports Chevy Silverado. With no time to celebrate his ninth career race win in the marquee SCORE Trophy-Truck division for high-tech, 800-horsepower, unlimited production trucks, Gordon immediately flew back to the U.S. for Sunday's NASCAR race at Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

Round 3 of the five-race 2009 SCORE Desert Series, the second-oldest desert race in the world and part of the World's Foremost Desert Racing Series, featured 267 starters competing in 28 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs. It will be held Thursday through Sunday in Ensenada, Mexico. Traditionally one of the most popular events on the SCORE schedule, over 100,000 spectators enjoyed the world's best desert racers in action at the 41st anniversary of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500.

Entries came from 25 U.S. States from Hawaii to Vermont along with the additional countries of Mexico, Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan and Portugal, Romania and South Africa.

With racing continuing in the elapsed-time race that had a 20-hour time limit until 7:12 a.m. Pacific Time Sunday, both the start and the finish line were located in the heart of Ensenada, Mexico on Boulevard Costero adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. It was the second time in race history that the pre-race activities and the finish were all held on this historic boulevard. Mexican tourism officials estimated the race-day crowd spread out along the course at more than 100,000.

The total number of starters (267) was the 19th most in the 41-year history of the popular race. The starting list included 136 cars and trucks and 131 motorcycles and ATVs. There were an amazing total of 195 finishers, equaling 2008 as the third most finishers in the event's 41-year history, for a race-record 73.0 percent finishing rate.

With two victories and a second in three races in 2009 SCORE Desert Series, the impressive victory was Gordon's fifth class win, fourth overall victory and first win in this race since 2005.

"It was a very good run for us. We had a great race with B.J. (Baldwin) -- some of the better racing we've ever had," said Gordon, a second-generation desert racer. "We didn't have radio communication with our team for the last 250 miles so it was really hard. We gave up a bunch of time, probably, not being able to use the true navigation. Still, we just paced it and kept it smooth. I had a couple of strategies in place. If I was close to him and I had enough gap, I was going to stop at (Race Mile) 80 and they were going to stop at 100. That gave me track position on everybody but Rob (MacCachren) and then Rob stopped at like 130 and that gave me track position on him. But, honestly, I just cruised most of the day. Once I was the first truck on the road, I knew they had to pass me to beat me and that would be hard to do."

Third overall and in SCORE Trophy-Truck was the team of Roger Norman, Reno, Nev./Larry Roeseler, Boulevard, Calif., whose first race together was a fifth overall in this race last year, finished just 1:25 behind Baldwin and 6:10 behind Gordon with a time of 8:41:59 in the No. 8 Roger Norman Racing Ford F-150.

With SCORE Trophy-Trucks claiming the first seven and eight of 10 overall 4-wheel vehicle finishing positions, the team of Robbie Pierce/Mike Julson, Santee, Calif., finished fourth overall, edging Las Vegas' Troy Herbst by just 16 seconds. Pierce/Julson finished in 8:51:58 in the No. 35 MasterCraft Racing Chevy Silverado while Herbst completed the course in 8:52:14 in the new No. 19 Terrible Herbst Motorsports Ford F-150.

Earning his fourth consecutive overall motorcycle victory was Kendall Norman, Santa Barbara, Calif., who led his team on the No. 4x Johnny Campbell Racing Honda CRF450X. The defending SCORE Desert Series Class 22 point champion used his experience and the riding assistance of teammates Timmy Weigand, Santa Clarita, Calif./Quinn Cody, Los Olivos, Calif. to overcome JCR teammates Colton Udall/Jeff Kargola, both of San Clemente, Calif., completing the course in 8:30:03, averaging 50.88mph. It was the first overall win in this race for both Weigand and Cody.

Norman and his team had to overcome a crash and other mechanical issues to come from behind against their young teammates, finishing with a victory margin of just one minute, five seconds over the JCR Honda CRF450x of Udall/Kargola.

Riding the fastest ATV in the race for his second win of the season and second straight in this race was the team led by Wayne Matlock, El Cajon, Calif. His co-riders this year were Harold Goodman Jr., Brownstown, Mich./Wes Miller, Fallbrook, Calif./Josh Caster, El Cajon, Calif., on a TRX700XX. Matlock and his team finished in 9:36:23, finishing an impressive 10th overall among all motorcycle and ATV finishers.

Norman started and finished the race, riding a total of 269 miles. Cody rode the second section and Weigand the third leg.

"I put the bike in a comfortable spot and then my teammate (Quinn Cody) fell and messed the bike up pretty good near race mile 200. We got behind our teammates (Colton Udall) and we really had to work hard after we got behind them. The course was really good, I liked it and my part of the race was a lot of hard work but I had a very clean ride and I was able to bring home my fourth straight overall win in the SCORE Baja 500 which is something I had only dreamed of being able to do.

Finishing eighth overall while winning the unlimited Class 1 in a Chevy-powered Tatum open-wheel desert race car was third-generation desert racers Harley Letner and Kory Halopoff of Orange, Calif.

All German Motorsports finished second and third in Class 1 and ninth and 11th overall with three of the four drivers all experienced World Rally Championship drivers and the fourth a veteran SCORE desert racer.

Germany's Armin Schwarz and Martin Christensen, Escondido, Calif. were second in Class 1, two minutes and 7 seconds behind Letner/Halopoff in a Jimco-BMW while Germany's Armin Kremer and Austria's Andrea Aigner were third, just under 20 minutes behind their teammates in a Jimco-Chevy.

Dan Chamlee, Carpenteria, Calif., earned his fourth straight Class 7 race win in this race in a Ford Ranger. It was also his second Class 7 race win in three 2009 SCORE races.

Also earning his fourth class win in this race was John Holmes, Olivenhain, Calif., who captured Class 7SX in a Ford Ranger. It was also his second SCORE Desert Series race win this year.

Mexico's veteran SCORE desert racer Eric Solorzano picked up his seventh career race win in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 when he captured Class 11 in his stock VW sedan.

Winning the Stock Full class performance driving instructor and cancer survivor Joe Bacal, Anthem, Ariz., who drove the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Lexus LX570. It was the first Lexus SUV to ever compete in a SCORE desert race.

Brothers Gavin and Darren Skilton both won their classes, finishing early Sunday morning in Ensenada.

Remaining unbeaten this season with his third race win in the Stock Mini class was Gavin Skilton, Anaheim, Calif., in a Honda Ridgeline. Darren Skilton, Orange, Calif., picked up his fourth class win in this race and first since 2000 by winning Class 3 in a Jeep Wrangler.

Also winning his third race of the season was Kevin Carr, San Diego, who won for the second straight year in this race in Class 5 in his unlimited VW Baja Bug.

Among the other four-wheel vehicle class winners were: Eric Duran, Tecate, Calif. (Class 1-2/1600, Neth-VW) Rodrigo Ampudia Jr., San Diego (Class 8, Ford F-150), Robert Pickering, Las Vegas, (Class 6, Ford Ranger), Alonso Angulo, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 5/1600, VW Baja Bug), Mike Lawrence, Banning, Calif. (Class 10, Lothringer-VW), Lee Banning, Laveen, Ariz. (SCORE Lite, Foddrill-VW), Daniel Reyes, Calexico, Calif. (Class 9, Mayoral-VW) and Rob Kittleson, Palm Springs, Calif. (Protruck, Ford F-150).

Earning his 13th career class win in this race and 12th in the last nine years, Jim O'Neal won Class 50 (riders over 50 years old) on a Honda CRF450X. O'Neal's co-riders in Class 50 were Andy Kirker, Santa Ana, Calif./Dan Dawson, Agua Dulce, Calif./Tim Withers, Pepeekeo, Hawaii/Craig Adams, San Clemente, Calif. It was Adams fourth class win in this race and the team was 12th overall among motorcycle and ATV finishers. It was also the team's second straight class win this season.

O'Neal was also rider of record for a Class 30 (riders over 30) team that finished fourth in class.

Veteran SCORE desert racer Richard Jackson, Acton, Calif., earned his 13th career class win in this race as well, leading a team to victory in Class 60 (riders over 60) on a Honda CRF450X. His teammates in the special racing class were Bill Nichols, Phoenix/Mark Force, Bakersfield, Calif./Dave Olen, Morongo, Calif.

Finishing a surprising fourth overall among motorcycles and ATVs and winning Class 21 was the Shane Esposito-led team on a Kawasaki KX450F. Esposito, Lake Elsinore, Calif., teamed with Brian Pinard, Sun City, Calif./Franciso Septien, Ensenada/Brent Harden, Menifee, Calif.

In Class 40 (riders over 40), Scott Myers, Menifee, Calif., led the talented team of Brett Helm, Poway, Calif./Lou Franco, Sherman Oaks, Calif./Jeff Kaplan, San Diego/Rick Johnson, Trabuco Canyon. They rode a Honda CRF450X to sixth overall among the motorcycle and ATV racers.

Mike Johnson, El Paso Texas and co-rider Rex Cameron, Albuquerque, N.M, captured Class 30 for the second straight race on a Honda CRF450X, finishing 11th overall among motorcycles and ATVs.

In the closest class race of the day, Hector Castillo, Calexico, Calif., won Class 20 for the second straight race on a Honda CRF250X, narrowly edging the team led by Jesus Rios, also of Calexico, by just one second.

In ATV Class 24, Craig Christy, Burbank, Calif., won for the second straight race this season, leading his team on a Honda TRX450R. His teammates were Steve Abrego, Covina, Calif./Dave Scott, Belen, N.M./Andy Lagzdins, Baltimore.

Among the 65 Sportsman racers who competed in six classes, the fastest four-wheel vehicle was again Peter Lang, Santa Rosa, Calif. (SPT Car, Homebuilt-Chevy) while the fastest sportsman motorcycle time was turned in by the team led by Enrique Guerro, Ensenada, Mexico (SPT M/C>250cc, Kawasaki KX450F.

Included in nearly $400,000 in contingency posting and the cash purse for the race, Sunoco Race Fuels, the official race fuel of SCORE, posted a special US$5,000 cash contingency bonus for the overall 4-wheel vehicle winner.

For the second straight year and just the second time in the 41-year history of the Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race, the colorful pre-race Manufacturer's Midway and Contingency, the start and finish line was all located in the heart of Ensenada, Mexico on Boulevard Costero adjacent to the historic Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. It was the second time in race history that both the pre-race activities and the finish were held on this historic boulevard.

This popular SCORE summer race began in 1969 and SCORE began its enduring run with it on July 26, 1974. This year was the 36th anniversary of the first SCORE race in Baja.

In addition to season point class point championships, drivers in the Pro car and truck classes are also racing to earn prestigious SCORE Toyota Milestone Awards given to all drivers who complete every required mile of the five-race season. The awards are being presented by Toyota Motorsports for the 24th consecutive year

Round 4 of the five-race 2009 SCORE Desert Series will be the 14th SCORE Terrible's Primm 300 on Sept. 11-13 in Primm, Nev.

-credit: score

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Series Score
Drivers Robby Gordon , Armin Schwarz , Armin Kremer , Mike Johnson , Larry Roeseler , Darren Skilton , B.J. Baldwin , Troy Herbst , Johnny Campbell , Quinn Cody