Entries pouring in for Baja 500

Nearly 240 racers expected May 31-June 2 Racers from 14 States, Canada, France, Guatemala, Japan Mexico start practice Friday for 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 500 Round 3 of 2002 SCORE Desert Series in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico LOS ...

Nearly 240 racers expected May 31-June 2
Racers from 14 States, Canada, France, Guatemala, Japan Mexico start practice Friday for 34th Tecate SCORE Baja 500

Round 3 of 2002 SCORE Desert Series in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

LOS ANGELES--Hoping to find the fastest grove in a 473.62-mile race course over the rugged terrain and around the tire-crushing boulders of the northern part of Baja California peninsula, desert racers from 14 states and six countries begin official pre-running Friday for the upcoming 34th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500. Round 3 of six-race 2002 SCORE Desert Series will be held May 31-June 2 in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

While open pre-running is no longer allowed in the United States because the infamous desert tortoise continues to be included on the endangered species list, the opportunity to preview the race courses for three SCORE races held annually in Mexico has become an even bigger tradition. Under guidelines established by Mexican government along with Mexico's ever-watchful Department of Ecology, SCORE racers can spend the better part of nearly two weeks practicing and planning pit and race strategy. The first 56 miles of the race course, from Ensenada to Ojos Negros (which is also used to complete the race course) can only be pre-run starting May 24 and ending the day before the race. Racers can practice on the balance of the challenging course May 17-19 and then again May 24-31.

"Without the pressure of race-day competition, racers and their crews spend several days practicing on the course, usually breaking it open into bite-size sections," said Sal Fish, SCORE President and CEO during a break from his week-long course-marking expedition. "Teams are also planning race strategy, deciding what locations to switch drivers or riders, and where are the best locations for them to set up pits. Pre-running also provides a good opportunity for more testing of race vehicles and it's always been a wonderful time for the teams to enjoy the beauty of Baja as well as get to meet the locals who almost treat our SCORE races as national treasures--they're so popular."

While entries will be accepted up to race day, 205 of the anticipated field of nearly 240 vehicles competing in 24 Pro classes and 6 Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs have entered as of May 13. 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. In a motorsport where there are no qualifying sessions, SCORE held a computerized drawing for starting positions (by class) on April 19. Late entries are assigned the next available starting position within each class. Southern Nevada has 15 entries so far.

Jesse Jones, a 36-year old Arizona aviation machine-shop owner, and Keith Mayes, a 29-year old Southern California geologist, have drawn the first starting positions for four-wheel and two-wheel vehicles respectively for the popular race, which has been around just one year less then the legendary SCORE Baja 1000, which will be held for the 35th time this Nov. 20-23.

Jones, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., will drive the first four-wheel vehicle to leave the starting line--a new Ford F-150 in the featured SCORE Trophy-Truck division in Round 3 of the 2002 SCORE Desert Series. Mayes, of Fresno, will ride a Honda XR650R motorcycle in the open Class 22.

A total of 13 vehicles are entered to date in the star-studded SCORE Trophy-Truck class while the unlimited Class 1 and Class 10 both have the most total entries so far with 25 each. A total of 50 entries thus far, have combined to post 111 class wins in this race including nine who have combined for 22 overall wins (nine in four-wheel classes and 13 in motorcycles).

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 No. 1 Enduro Racing Ford F-150. Between them, the pair has 11 class wins in the SCORE Baja 500. They will start third in the class.

Hengeveld, Oak Hills, Calif., has won the overall motorcycle and Class 22 titles in this race the last two years on his American Honda factory-sponsored No. 1X Honda XR650R. His team drew the third motorcycle starting slot.

Other top racers in SCORE Trophy-Truck include Las Vegas brothers Ed and Tim Herbst, Mark Miller of Carefree, Ariz., Scott Steinberger of Cypress, Calif., Darren Skilton, Lakeside, Calif., the team of Mark Post, San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Jerry Whelchel, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. along with the team of Las Vegas' Brian Collins and Larry Ragland of Phoenix. The Herbsts, Steinberger and Post/Whelchel all race Ford F-150 trucks while Skilton pilots a new Kia Sorento. Miller, and the Collins/Ragland teams drive Chevy Silverado race trucks.

Among the entries in Class 1, for unlimited open-wheel desert race cars, are Las Vegas' Troy Herbst and San Diego County racers Mike Julson and the McMillin Racing entries of father Corky McMillin and along with his sons Mark McMillin and Scott McMillin. The McMillins have a total of 12 class wins in the SCORE Baja 500, including six overall titles. Mark is the defending overall and Class 1 winner in the race.

Herbst, who has three class wins in this race, is the defending five-time SCORE Class 1 season point champion. Julson, who builds the extremely popular Jimco race car chassis, won Class 1 and was second overall at the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 in March.

Rick Ellison, Selma, Calif., in Class 10 and Mexico's J. David Ruvalcaba in Class 30 for motorcycle riders over 30, both have three straight class wins in the Tecate SCORE Baja 500.

As with every SCORE race, numerous first-time racers are drawn to the sport. In just their 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 and display of all the race vehicles will be held adjacent to the San Nicolas Hotel, near downtown Ensenada. It will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day before the race.

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

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Series Score
Drivers Mark Miller , Steve Hengeveld , Keith Mayes , Darren Skilton , Mark Post , Larry Ragland , Tim Herbst , Scott McMillin , Troy Herbst