Baja500: 34th Annual event teams draw starting position

Computer drawing Friday in LA. Racers from across U.S., Mexico, Japan and France all hope to draw first 'starts' for 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 500. Round 3 of 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series May 31-June 2 in Ensenada, Mexico LOS...

Computer drawing Friday in LA.
Racers from across U.S., Mexico, Japan and France all hope to draw first 'starts' for 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 500.

Round 3 of 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series May 31-June 2 in Ensenada, Mexico

LOS ANGELES--Whether weekend warrior or factory-sponsored racer, all the early entries in next month's 34th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 desert race have one goal in mind for Friday's drawing for starting positions--first in their respective classes. In a motorsport where there are no qualifying sessions, SCORE will hold it's regular pre-race computerized drawing for starting positions, by class, Friday afternoon at SCORE's Los Angeles headquarters.

"Starting positions are probably more important in SCORE desert racing than any other form of motorsports, but by the nature of our sport we aren't able to have traditional qualifying runs, so the drawing is the system that has been used since the inception of this sport in the late '60s," said Sal Fish, who has been the SCORE President and CEO since 1973.

"From a racer's perspective, it's part physical and part psychological. To start first, or near the front of your class, gives you a slight advantage in that there's less dust and traffic to contend with in our elapsed-time races where vehicles start one every 30 seconds. Mentally, a racer has more confidence at the front of the field. Drivers and riders in SCORE races are faced with many more obstacles and challenges than in any other form of motorsports."

While entries will be accepted up to race day, the majority of the anticipated field of nearly 240 vehicles competing in 24 Pro classes and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs will be part of Friday's drawing. Late entries will be assigned the next available starting position within each class.

Round 3 of the six-race 2002 Duralast SCORE Desert Series, the 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 will be held May 31-June 2 in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

While the final course is expected to be an almost exact duplicate of last year's 489.9-mile route, SCORE officials won't release this year's official map until early May.

Long one of the most popular of all SCORE races, the entry field will include numerous former class champions along with all of the current SCORE class point leaders.

Among the former champs entered are three from San Diego's McMillin family. All entered in separate vehicles in the unlimited Class 1, family p atriarch Corky McMillin and his sons Mark and Scott have a total of 12 class wins in the SCORE Baja 500, including six overall titles as the vehicles recording the fastest times of all finishers. Mark is the defending overall and Class 1 champion in the race.

Topping the list of current SCORE point leaders entered are the team of Dan Smith and David Ashley in SCORE Trophy-Truck and Steve Hengeveld in Class 22 for open motorcycles.

The Smith/Ashley duo, both of Riverside, Calif., have won a record five consecutive races in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division in their Enduro Racing Ford F-150. Between them, the pair has 11 class wins in the SCORE Baja 500.

Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., has won the overall motorcycle and Class 22 titles the last two years on his American Honda factory-sponsored Honda XR650R.

As with every SCORE race, numerous first-time racers are drawn to the sport. In just his second SCORE race, former Indy car drivers Mike and Robbie Groff have entered their BFGoodrich/Toyota-powered Jimco in Class 1 to lead this year's 'rookie' class to Mexico.

Pre-race festivities will center around the Riviera Convention Center in downtown Ensenada on Friday (May 31) and the race will start on the boulevard adjacent to the Riviera Convention Center and finish on the outskirts of town at the end of Avenida Ruiz. Traditionally drawing large crowds, the pre-race Manufacturer's Midway will be held adjacent to the San Nicolas, near downtown Ensenada. The colorful pre-race manufacturer's midway and display of all the race vehicles will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day before the race.

With nearly 240 vehicles expected to take the green flag, the legendary race will feature 23 different classes. Motorcycles and ATVs will begin the race at 6 a.m. (PDT) on Saturday, June 1, with the cars and trucks starting their trek at 7:30 a.m. (PDT). Vehicles will start one every 30 seconds in the elapsed-time race.

For more information, contact SCORE International at its Los Angeles headquarters 818.225.8402 or visit the official Duralast SCORE Desert Series website at www.score-international.com.

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Drivers Steve Hengeveld