Baja 500: Round three preview

Entries from 32 States, 13 Countries Largest entry list in SCORE history includes 102 racers with 273 career class wins in this weekend's 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 NASCAR's R. Gordon one of 9 racers who have 15 combined 4-Wheel Overall wins,...

Entries from 32 States, 13 Countries

Largest entry list in SCORE history includes 102 racers with 273 career class wins in this weekend's 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500

NASCAR's R. Gordon one of 9 racers who have 15 combined 4-Wheel Overall wins, 7 others have 21 combined M/C Overalls

LOS ANGELES--Not only is the entry list that is rapidly approaching 525 vehicles the largest in the long and storied three-decade-plus history of SCORE International, this weekend's 39th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race is also filled with the most former class winners ever in a SCORE race with 102 competitors who have combined for 273 class wins. Included in that illustrious group of former class winners are nine SCORE desert racing daredevils who have combined for 15 Overall 4-wheel vehicle titles and seven riders who have combined for 21 Overall motorcycle crowns in the world's second oldest desert race. The pacemakers in the huge field are Rod Hall and Larry Roeseler, who each have 16 career class wins in this race--the most among active racers, second only to the race record of 17.

Round 3 of the six-race 2007 SCORE Desert Series, the World's Foremost Desert Racing Series, featuring a all-time SCORE record lineup of entries competing in 28 Pro and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs, will be held this weekend in Ensenada, Mexico. Ensenada is located 65 miles south of the U.S. Border at San Diego. The race will be filmed for television by Aura360, SCORE'S TV production partner, to air later this year as a one-hour special on The Outdoor Channel in the U.S. and ESPN International worldwide.

Several crossover/celebrity racers are also entered in this year's race, led by NASCAR's Robby Gordon and Brendan Gaughan. Both second generation desert racers, Gordon, Mooresville, N.C., who has won this race three times, is a NASCAR Cup Team Owner/Driver and is entered in SCORE Trophy-Truck while Las Vegan Gaughan, who is a NASCAR Truck Series driver, is a SCORE regular this season in the unlimited Class 1.

Gordon, whose most recent win in this race was 2005, will again be pulling double-duty, competing this week in the SCORE race in Baja and the NASCAR Cup race in Dover, Del.

"I am utterly speechless with the interest in this year's 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000," said Sal Fish, SCORE CEO/President since soon after it was founded in 1973. "And, if you know me, I am never at a loss for words. This race began our love-affair with Baja and its people back on July 26, 1974 and what a tribute this year is to the legacy of this great race."

Starting and finishing in Ensenada on the majestic Baja California peninsula, this year's tight and technical 420.11-mile course will run in a clockwise direction, running East into the middle of the peninsula, then South, followed by a West travel section, turning north, then East, North, Northeast and back West for the final charge back into Ensenada.

With late entries accepted up to race morning, entries are from 32 U.S. States (from Hawaii to Rhode Island), Mexico, Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa. The SCORE record 510 vehicles entered to date include 286 cars and trucks, 224 motorcycles and ATVs.

The green flag will drop for the race at 6 a.m. on Saturday 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 10 a.m. The motorcycle and ATV classes will start one every 15 seconds, the faster car and truck classes will start one every 30 seconds and the slower 4-wheel vehicle classes will start one every 15 seconds in the elapsed-time race. All vehicles will have a 20-hour time limit to complete the course and become official finishers.

For the first time in race history, Volkswagen of America officially entered two of its Dakar Rally factory teams. Driven by American Mark Miller and South African Giniel de Villers, the two turbo-diesel VW Race Touareg SUVs will compete in a special SCORE Int'l Truck class. They will start between SCORE Trophy-Truck and Class 1.

Miller, who has won the SCORE Trophy-Truck class twice in the SCORE Baja 500 (in 2002 with Larry Ragland and in 2003 with Ryan Arciero) was fourth overall in this year's Dakar Rally while de Villers won four stages in the rally and finished 11th overall.

Back to defend their overall 4-wheel vehicle and SCORE Trophy-Truck title is the team of Larry Ragland, Cave Creek, Ariz./Brian Collins, Las Vegas, in the No. 12 Collins Motorsports Chevy Silverado. Returning as the 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 No. 1a Honda TRX450R.

Added firepower for Bell/Norman in Baja on Team Honda will be Honda desert racing star Steve Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., who sat out the Tecate SCORE Baja 250 while recovering from a seriously broken right arm he injured in mid-January. Hengeveld has six class wins and five overall titles in this race.

Bell/Norman also won this year's SCORE motorcycle season opener in March at the Tecate SCORE Baja 250.

Also leading the field will be the Overall and SCORE Trophy-Truck race winners from this year. B.J. Baldwin, Las Vegas, won the season-opening SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge in the No. 1 Baldwin Racing Chevy Sivlerado and the team of Mark Post, San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Rob MacCachren, Las Vegas, won March's Tecate SCORE Baja 250 in the No. 3 Riviera Racing Ford F-150. SCORE Trophy-Trucks have won the overall 4-wheel vehicle title in 10 of the 13 years they have been the marquee SCORE racing division.

In all, 20 of 22 class winners return from last year's Tecate SCORE Baja 500 that had a current SCORE Baja race-record 438 starters.

Besides Ragland/Collins, Bell/Norman and Prather/M.Cafro, other racers who will be back to defend their class titles this year are Larry Roeseler, Hesperia, Calif./Troy Herbst, Las Vegas (Class 1, Smithbuilt-Ford), Gerardo Iribe, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 1-2/1600, Curry/ISRT-VW), Donald Moss, Sacramento, Calif. (Class 3, Ford Bronco), Marcos Nunez, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 5/1600, 1600cc VW Baja Bug), Dan Chamlee, Summerland, Calif., (Class 7, Ford Ranger), John Holmes, Olivenhain, Calif. (Class 7SX, Ford Ranger), Nick Vanderwey, Phoenix (Class 8, GMC Sierra), Eric Fisher, Ensenada, Mexico (Class 9, Garibay-VW), Tim Noe/Tom Watson, El Centro, Calif. (SCORE Lite, Jimco-VW), Terry Henn, Walnut, Calif. (Stock Full, Hummer H2), Rod Hall, Reno, Nev. (Stock Mini, Hummer H3), Rob Reinertson, Woodside, Calif. (Protruck, Ford F-150), Jason Trubey, Bullhead City, Ariz. (Class 21, Suzuki RMZ450), Jim O'Neal, Chatsworth, Calif. (Class 50, Honda XR650R).

The four class winners from last year who have switched classes are: Darren Hardesty, Ramona, Calif. (from Class 10 to Class 1), Dave Bonner, Norco, Calif. (from Class 5 to SCORE Lite), Chad Erl, Huntington Beach, Calif. (Class 20 to Class 21) and Jim O'Neal, Chatsworth, Calif. (from Class 40 to Class 30). The venerable Rod Hall, 69, Reno, Nev., who earned his first Tecate SCORE Baja 500 class win in 1970 and his most recent last year, is the favorite in the Stock Mini class in his Hummer H3. Hall is the only person who has raced in all 39 previous Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 races in a 4-Wheel vehicle, where he has the most class wins of anyone with 18.

Roeseler, 49, Canyon Lake, Calif., has 11 overall wins in this race including nine on a motorcycle, earning his frist class win 1972 and his most recent last year. This year Roeseler is the driver of record for Troy Herbst, Las Vegas, in the unlimited Class 1 in a Smithbuilt-Ford open wheel desert race car. Together Herbst and Roeseler earned three straight Class 1 wins in 2002, 2003 and 2004 prior to last year's win. Troy Herbst has seven class wins total in this race.

Marcos Nunez, Ensenada, Mexico, has eight class wins in this race and is entered in Class 5/1600 in a 1600cc VW Baja Bug as does Jim O'Neal, Chatsworth, Calif. who is entered in both Class 30 and Class 50.

Racers entered this year with six career class wins are George Erl (Class 21), Steve Hengeveld (Class 22), Larry Ragland (SCORE Trophy-Truck) and Eric Solorzano (Class 11).

Racers entered with five class wins are Rob MacCachren (SCORE Trophy-Truck), Mark McMillin (Class 1), Scott McMillin (SCORE Trophy-Truck), George Seeley (Class 5), Eric Fisher (Class 9), Kurt Pfeiffer (Class 40), Scott Pfeiffer (Class 40), Carmen Cafro (Class 25) and Nick Vanderwey (Class 8).

With four class wins each are: Robby Gordon (SCORE Trophy-Truck), Steve Sourapas (Class 1), Rick D. Johnson (Protruck), Jerry Penhall (SCORE Lite), Donald Moss (Class 3), Mike Cafro (Class 25), Fred Willert (Class 21), Scot Harden (Class 21), Kirk Schrier (Class 25) and Jeff Kaplan (Class 40).

The eight racers with three class wins entered this year are: Rick Ellison (Class 1), Pancho Bio/Cisco Bio (Class 1-2/1600), J. David Ruvalcaba (Class 30), Hector Sarabia (SCORE Lite), Lance Schoonmaker (Class 25), Greg Row (Class 25), Darren Skilton (Stock Full) and Eizaburo Karasawa, Japan (Class 50), The starting line area will once again be in front of the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center on Boulevard Costero in downtown Ensenada, Mexico. The finish line will be where it was last year--inside the Campo de Softball Jose Negro Soto stadium at 11th Street (Calle Once) and Espinoza Avenue in Ensenada. The stadium is located approximately 1.5 miles east of the start line area.

Pre-race festivities at the 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will include the colorful SCORE Midway and tech inspection adjacent to the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Friday. Racer registration will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the San Nicolas Hotel from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

The mandatory racer's briefing will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Cathedral Room at the Riviera del Pacifico Cultural Center. At 11 a.m. Sunday, the awards celebration will be held at the San Nicolas Hotel.

While there are numerous female co-drivers/riders, the five ladies who are driver/rider of record in this year's race are: Michelle Bruckmann (Class 5), Heidi Steele (Class 7SX), Anna Jo Cody, leading a 3-rider all-female team in Class 21, Jessica McCreary who will be riding solo in the Sportsman Motorcycle <250cc class, and Brianna Mancillas (Class 24). Among the female co-riders are Nancy Emde (Class 50) and Brittany Sanchez (Class 5/1600).

Besides Gordon and Gaughan, leading the lengthy list of celebrity/crossover racers is seven-time World Rally Championship race winner Armin Schwarz of Austria is returning to Baja for the second time to race in Class 1 and Pikes Peak Hill Climb record holder Rod Millen of New Zealand is back again to race in the Stock Mini class.

Supercross and AMA motocross legend Ricky Johnson, Encinitas, Calif., has signed on as a second driver in this race and the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 with Alan Pflueger, Honolulu, in SCORE Trophy-Truck.

Millen's son Rhys Millen, also a Pikes Peak Hill Climb veteran and a national drifting champion, will be a co-driver for Chet Huffman, Northridge, Calif., in SCORE Trophy-Truck.

Jamie Galles, of Albuquerque, N.M., a former Trans Am and Toyota Atlantic racer, will be a co-driver for Josh Rigsby, Santa Fe, N.M., in Class 1.

Shawn Highland, Temecula, Calif., a star of the international tour, will co-ride with Marc Burnett, Chula Vista, Calif. and 2005 SCORE Baja 500 overall motorcycle winner Mike Childress, Wrightwood, Calif., on the No. 15x Suzuki RMZ450. Trigger Gumm, Mission Viejo, Calif., is a motorcycle long jump former world record holder who is entered in the unlimited Class 1.

Mike Lafferty, Temecula, Calif., a 7-time AMA National Enduro champion, and Brent Harden, Sun City, Calif., was the 2006 AMA District 37 Enduro Series champion, will ride with Brent's father Scot Harden, Menifee, Calif., a three-time overall Tecate SCORE Baja 500 winner, in Class 21 on the No. 111x KTM 450XC.

The three celebrity drivers who are all SCORE regulars are Cameron Steele, Jesse James and Max Thieriot.

Steele, San Clemente, Calif., who is a TV sports announcer for Supercross, X Games and Champ Cars and whose wife Heidi Steele races in Class 7SX, has entered three classes once again--SCORE Trophy-Truck, SCORE Lite and Class 22.

James, Sunset Beach, Calif., whose wife is legendary motion picture star Sandra Bullock, is the CEO of the world-famous West Cost Choppers company and was the star of the old Monster Garage television series. He races in SCORE Trophy-Truck.

Thieriot, 18 of Petaluma, Calif., is a budding Hollywood actor with several supporting roles to his credit, races in Class 1 with his father Cam Thieriot and Glenn Harris, Camarillo, Calif., who are both veteran desert racers. Max Thieriot's film credits include The Pacifier (2005), Astronaut Farmer (2007) and a co-starring role in this summer's release of the Nancy Drew mystery movie. He drew the first starting position in the unlimited Class 1 which has a race-high 54 entries. Besides Thieriot, noted chassis builder Mike Julson, journeyman Marc Francke and veteran desert racer Carmen Cafro also drew pole positions in their respective classes during the April 20 computerized drawing for starting positions for the popular race.

Julson, 49, of Descanso, Calif., will drive the No. 20 Jimco Racing Chevy Silverado SCORE Trophy-Truck built in his Jimco raceshop. Jimco is the leading car chassis builder in desert racing and has earned SCORE Original Buggy Chassis Manufacturer of the year award 13 times. Leading a veteran team that includes Dale Herron, James Hall and Jimmy Roberts, Francke, 32, Venice, Calif., drew first start in Class 22 to lead all of the motorcycle and ATV classes into the Baja desert. His team will ride the No. 2x Honda XR650R.

Cafro, 45, Vista, Calif., will lead a team of ATV champions to Mexico. Besides Cafro, teammates Lance Schoonmaker and Earl Thigpen all have ATV class wins in this race and they will ride the No. 2a Temecula Motorsports Honda TRX650 in Class 25. Between them in this race, they have eight class wins. To date, the Pro 4-Wheel vehicles classes with the most entries are: Class 1 (54), SCORE Trophy-Truck (39), SCORE Lite (27), Class 1-2/1600 (26) and Class 5/1600 (21).

Leading the Motorcycle classes in entries so far are Class 22 (25), Class 21 and Class 40 (22 each) and Class 30 (20). Class 25 for open ATVs has 16 entries. Among the Sportsman classes, SPT Motorcycles over 250cc has 58 entries and SPT ATV has 23.

-credit: score

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Series Score
Drivers Robby Gordon , Rob MacCachren , Rod Hall , Steve Hengeveld , Brendan Gaughan , Larry Roeseler , Darren Skilton , B.J. Baldwin , Mark Post , Larry Ragland , Mark McMillin , Scott McMillin , Troy Herbst , Heidi Steele