Fort Mill, SC – May 30, 2012 – Team GT travels to Ensenada, Mexico this week for the 44th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 and veteran driver Rick D. Johnson is leading the charge. With five class (Trophy Truck) wins to his credit, Johnson wants to make it an even six-pack this week when he pilots the No. 71 General Tire Ford F-150 over 450-miles of rugged terrain that is sure to test even the most experienced of drivers. Johnson will compete against more than 250 drivers from 34 states and 15 countries and the competition is as tough as it’s ever been.

For the past three years Johnson has posted a top-10 finish in the overall including a second-place in 2009. For this year’s race, Johnson has recruited fellow Team GT member Mikey Childress to help co-pilot the No. 71. The depth of experience between these two drivers runs deep and the duo are expected to be a top-contender as they make the famous loop that starts and finishes in Ensenada. We talked to Johnson before he left to pre-run the 450-mile trek and here’s what he had to say:

Q: Are you familiar with this year’s Baja 500 course? Have you raced it before?
A: Very familiar. Ninety-five percent of the course has been the same trails for the last four Baja 500’s.

Q: What are some of the challenges of the course that lie ahead?
A: Starting as deep as we are in the field by missing the San Felipe 250, we are not included in the top-12 starting positions. Passing is going to very difficult but I know we have a strong Ford F-150 and great Generals that will help us with the task.

Q: How much does the Baja 500 help you prepare for the 1000?
A: We are here to win but our secondary goal is to finish in the top 12 in the Trophy Truck class to get a top starting position for the Baja 1000.

Q: We hear Mikey Childress will be there with you. What role will he play and how big of an asset is his experience?
A: Mikey will bring his Baja winning experience from the Pro Bike class to help navigate the torturous Baja terrain. I’m really excited to have him on-board for this race.

Q: How do you prepare the vehicle and yourself for 500 miles in the Baja desert?
A: Preparing the General Tire Team71 Trophy Truck takes enormous resources and a huge team effort to prepare for this race. As far as preparing myself, it’s eating right, hitting the treadmill five times a week, and getting hydrated a week before the race starts.

Q: How would you describe the race to a new fan that had never been there or watched the race?
A: The first thing that people notice is that the start of the race starts in downtown Ensenada on the main street. We then race up to the mountain tops outside of town down to an enormous dry lake bed over to the Pacific side of the country where we race along the beach back to Ensenada. The temperature will range from the forty’s in the mountains to 120 on the dry lake bed. There are a lot of extremes throughout the course of this 450-mile race.

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