Laughlin: Season opener preview

This weekend in Laughlin, Nev., led by Steelein five classes, MacCachrenin three, 19 racers entered in multiple classes for 13th SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge Nearly 250 entrie sready for six-race 2007 SCORE Desert Series starts Thursday with...

This weekend in Laughlin, Nev., led by Steelein five classes, MacCachrenin three, 19 racers entered in multiple classes for 13th SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge

Nearly 250 entrie sready for six-race 2007 SCORE Desert Series starts Thursday with $16,000 SCORE Laughlin Leap

LOS ANGELES--SCORE Trophy-Truck stars Cameron Steele, of Southern California, in five vehicles and Las Vegas' Rob MacCachren in three will lead 19 racers entered in multiple classes in the race-record field of nearly 250 heading to this weekend's season-opening 13th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge in Laughlin, Nev.

For the 13th straight year, motorsports fans and racers from 15 States, Mexico, Canada and New Zealand will flock to Laughlin, the desert resort town along the shores of the Colorado River for the vastly popular SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge. The first major U.S. motorsports event of the year will launch the six-race 2007 SCORE Desert Series, the world's foremost desert racing series.

When late registration is complete, 250 expected entries will compete for nearly $400,000 in prize money and contingency postings during the four day SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge.J A total of 17 different Pro and two Sportsman classes for cars and trucks will be split into eight groups in Laughlin, each running as part of one of separate multiple-lap races over the much-abbreviated 6-plus-mile loop each day. Racing action runs from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The marquee racing division is SCORE Trophy-Truck, featuring high-tech, 800-horsepower, unlimited production trucks along with the unlimited Class 1 for open-wheel desert race cars. Those two classes will run the final two races each day, six laps each, with SCORE Trophy-Truck at 2:30 p.m., followed by Class 1 at 3:45 p.m.

Daily general admission tickets for the primary infield stadium grandstand seating, are $20 each for each day (Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), children five and under are free. Daily VIP tickets are $40 each for each of the three days, good for admission to the Laughlin Hospitality Chalet, including food beverage and special seating.

The stadium seating area will include the immensely popular SCOREvision large-screen LCD display, showing live footage from nearly 95 percent of the race course.

Advance tickets for the Laughlin Events Park are on sale at 800.308.2253.

Tickets will also be available at the gate for the only other spectator area for the event, the popular 'SCORE Hill', which overlooks the infield, start/finish area and the main pits. The SCORE Hill will have grandstands and standing room areas along with vendors, concessions and other public safety services available. General Admission tickets will be $5 per person.

One of the event's most popular features, the SCORE Laughlin Leap, revs up the fun and gets the weekend off to a roaring start at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Drivers and pit crews will share the spotlight at the Laughlin Events Park, competing for a $16,000 purse and the honor of being the 2007 champions. The SCORE Laughlin Leap, a dirt ramp built into the middle of the stadium infield, challenges the most daring of drivers. This year's group will be hoping to break the SCORE Laughlin Leap record set in 2004 by Mark Post in the Riviera Racing Ford F-150 (160' 6").

Because of the race format, several racers will compete in more than one class. Leading the way will be TV motorsports and action sports announcer Cameron Steele, San Clemente, Calif. Steele, who was voted by the SCORE membership as the 2006 SCORE Person of the Year, will be the driver of record in four classes and second-driver in one, including the No. 16 Desert Assassins Ford F-150 in SCORE Trophy-Truck.

"I love racing, plain and simple," said Steele, San Clemente, Calif., whose day job will have him computing to Southern California during the Laughlin event.

"It gives me more time on the track and makes me sharper," Steele added. "I train for motorcycles, so I don't get very tired. On Saturday, I will even ride shotgun for my wife in her race."

Steele, 38, whose wife Heidi Steele will start first in Class 7SX in a Ford Ranger, will also be the primary driver in Class 1, Class 10 and SCORE Lite. Steele will split driving duties in Class 1, Class 10 and SCORE LIte with fellow second-generation desert racers Darren Hardesty in Class 1 and Kash Vessels in Class 10 and SCORE Lite. He is also scheduled to drive one day in Class 10 for his Desert Assassin teammate Brian Burgess.

A veteran TV sports announcer, Steele will pull double duty while in Laughlin, flying by private plane on Saturday early evening from Bullhead City, Ariz., to Fullerton, Calif., where he will broadcast the Amp'd Mobile World Supercross Grand Prix event in Anaheim for the title's sponsor's mobile network. He will leave right after the Laughlin race for a week in Aspen, Colo., as part of the announce team for the Winter X Games. He is also a pit reporter during Champ Car World Series telecasts.

Las Vegas' Rob MacCachren, a seven-time SCORE season point champion who also won the 2001 SCORE Overall season point crown, is officially entered in multiple classes this year for the fourth straight year. MacCachren, who won two classes and finished second in another in the 2004 race, will drive one day in the No. 3 Riviera Racing Ford F-150 in SCORE Trophy-Truck for team owner Mark Post and will drive both days in Class 1-2/1600 in a Fraley-VW and in Class 10 in Will Higman's Kreger-Honda.

"I hate sitting and watching races," said MacCachren, 41, who was a Valet Parking attendant at the Gold Coast Hotel prior to dedicating his career in the early 1980s to becoming one of the very few desert racers who have made the sport their primary livelihood. "There's an opportunity to run multiple classes and I nearly always accept the offer. The more you race, the more you learn the course and, of course, get race wins. When you desert race for a living like I do, it also helps your resume and remind people that I'm still around. I have raced in Class 1-2/1600 since I was a kid and it's kind of extra incentive when I can go back out there with the X generation and show them that while this baby-boomer might not run in their class anymore, I can still come back and spank them occasionally."

MacCachren, who won three races and finished second in Class 1-2/1600 season points in 2005, was voted for the second time in his storied career to the first team of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) All-American motorsports team in 2005 in the at-large category. He was previously selected to the First Team in 2001 and the second team in 2004. He is one of only three SCORE desert racers ever selected to the AARWBA All-America first team, joining Ivan Stewart (1990, 1993, 1995) and Roger Mears (1985, 1991).

Post, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., has two career class wins in Laughlin, one in Class 1 (1997) and the other in SCORE Trophy-Truck (2003).

Steele and MacCachren aren't the only SCORE Trophy-Truck drivers who are racing in at least two vehicles.

Todd Wyllie, New River, Ariz., has also entered two classes, SCORE Trophy-Truck and Class 8. Wyllie won the SCORE Class 8 season point crown in 2004 and 2005.

Josh Baldwin is racing in SCORE Trophy-Truck and Class 1 as is Damen Jefferies, Oak Hills, Calif. while Las Vegas' Kory Scheeler is also racing in the Sportsman Car class.

Among the other drivers entered in two vehicles are: Adam Pfankuch, Carlsbad, Calif. (Class 1 and Class 1-2/1600), Darren Hardesty, Ramona, Calif. (Class 10 and Class 1), Brian Burgess, Riverside, Calif. (Class 10 and SCORE Lite.

Two teams that have entered two vehicles each and plan to switch vehicles each day and will campaign the rest of the season together in whichever vehicles does better in Laughlin are Las Vegas' Sammy Ehrenberg and L.J. Kennedy, Orange, Calif. in Class 1-2/1600 along with San Diego's Tim Noe and Tom Watson, El Centro, Calif., in SCORE Lite.

Hoping to start the New Year just like they did last year, Las Vegas' B.J. Baldwin in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division and Oregon's Gary Weyhrich in the unlimited Class 1 are both returning to defend their titles in the top two classes in Laughlin.

Baldwin, 27, is the returning Overall and SCORE Trophy-Truck winner in his No. 1 Chevy Silverado while Weyhrich, Troutdale, Ore., is the defending champ in the unlimited Class 1 in his Chevy-powered Jimco open-wheel desert race car.

A near race-record 31 vehicles have entered to date in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division, including a total of seven former race winners.

Besides B.J. Baldwin, the other returning SCORE Trophy-Truck Laughlin winners are Las Vegas brothers Ed and Tim Herbst (1997, 1999, 2000), Rob MacCachren (1996), Las Vegas' Brian Collins (2001) and Mark Post (2003).

Collins, a second-generation desert racer from Las Vegas, won the SCORE Trophy-Truck division in the 2001 SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge and will team again this year with veteran Larry Ragland, Cave Creek, Ariz., in the No. 12 Collins Motorsports Chevy Silverado.

Besides defending champ Gary Weyhrich, six other Laughlin Class 1 winners back this year are Las Vegas' Troy Herbst (1999 and 2004, Smithbuilt-Ford), Dale Ebberts, Canyon Lake, Calif. (2003, 2005, Jimco-Toyota), John Herder, Tucson (1998, Jimco-VW), brothers Gary and Mark Weyhrich, Troutdale, Ore. (2000, Chenowth-Chevy) and Steve Sourapas, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. (2001, Jimco-Chevy). Former Class 1 Laughlin winners Ed Herbst (1995) and Mark Post (1997) are both now stars in the marquee SCORE Trophy-Truck division.

Debuting his new No. 143 South Point Casino Chevy-powered Kreger open-wheel desert race car in the unlimited class 1 will be Las Vegas' Brendan Gaughan, a second-generation desert racer who is a NASCAR Truck Series star driver. Gaughan, who last raced a SCORE event at the 2003 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, is in Miami this week testing for the 2007 NASCAR season and will arrive in Laughlin Friday morning.

At least five female drivers are primary drivers in this year's race as well: Jennifer Clemison, Cypress, Calif. (Class 1), Michelle Bruckmann, Lemon Grove, Calif. (Class 5), Bekki Wik, Las Vegas (Class 10), Heidi Steele, San Clemente, Calif. (Class 7SX) and Kelley Renezeder, Laguna Beach, Calif. (SPT Car).

Southern California's Josh Baldwin and Arizona's Byron Ashley received the No. 1 starting positions in the top two classes in the computerized draw for starting positions held, by class, at the SCORE headquarters in Los Angeles on Dec. 28.

Josh Baldwin, 30, Newport Beach, Calif., a veteran SCORE desert racer whose older brother and 2004 SCORE Trophy-Truck season point champion Jason Baldwin died tragically in a 2005 airplane crash, will pilot the No. 86 Baldwin Racing Ford F-150. Josh Baldwin was eighth in SCORE Trophy-Truck points last year and third in 2005. He will also debut his team's new Jimco-Chevy in Class 1.

Bryon Ashley, 52, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., will drive a Chevy-powered Tatum open-wheel desert race car.

With a total of 237 entries to date, Class 1 leads the way with 45 entries to date, followed by Class 1-2/1600 with 34, SCORE Trophy-Truck with 31, SCORE Lite with 23, and Class 10 with 22.

Drawing the first starting positions in those high-entry classes were Ashley (Class 1), Josh Baldwin (SCORE Trophy-Truck), Aaron Hawley, Las Vegas (Class 1-2/1600), Randy Ross, Oak Hills, Calif. (SCORE LIte) and David Reyes, National City, Calif. (Class 10). It is the second straight year Reyes has drawn the first start in Class 10.

The Laughlin Events Park with grandstand seating, vendor's village and food court is just minutes from the destination's nine resorts and includes an infield packed with switchbacks, woop-t-doos, minijumps and the Laughlin Leap.

The 13th annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge is sponsored by the Laughlin Tourism Committee, the Laughlin Visitors Bureau, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in association with Las Vegas Events. The race is sanctioned and produced by SCORE International of Los Angeles.

-credit: www.score-international.com.

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Series Score
Drivers Rob MacCachren , Jason Baldwin , Brendan Gaughan , Roger Mears , B.J. Baldwin , Mark Post , Larry Ragland , Tim Herbst , Troy Herbst , Heidi Steele