2011 SCORE Challenge of Champions

Sep. 12, 2011 By Art Eugenio, Photos by Art Eugenio
Jessica McMillin with help of her brother Andy took the win in ProTruck.

Since the California 200 last year, desert racing has become one of the most difficult things to promote in the United States. SCORE International is just one of many race sanctioning bodies having to deal with the aftermath of that accident.

The annual SCORE Primm 300, held in Nevada, ran into a virtual road block this year for more than a few reasons. Be it insurance or the BLM, it doesn't really matter. What did matter is that the show had to continue, and it did in Baja. SCORE returned back to San Felipe for the second time this year for the first annual SCORE Challenge of Champions.

As always SCORE contingency is an event in itself but high humidity kept the crowds in inside the bars with A/C.

Since the venue change was a last-minute decision, SCORE chose to run the same course it ran in March. As always, San Felipe was brutal. The course is 250 miles of sand, four-foot deep holes and whoops, miles of treacherous washes and now add 100+ degree temperatures. There were 77 vehicles that lined up to take the start, a record low for SCORE, but that didn't mean the racing would be anything less.

Rob MacCachren took everyone to school with a clean run, besting his previous overall winning time by more than 5 minutes.

The first truck off the line for the inaugural race was Rob MacCachren, who was the overall winner the previous San Felipe race this year. MacCachren put on a clean run taking the overall and Trophy Truck win, and despite battling with Tavo Vildosola he still bested his previous overall time by more than 5 minutes.

Matt Cullen had a heated battle all day edging out a win over class champion Sergio Salgado in Class 10.

"The pace this morning was really quick and the truck was working great at the start. It just felt so good," MacCachren said. "We were just really going. When we got up to San Matias, (Gus Vildosola Jr.) was getting close and when we pulled in and got gas. He went by us. At about mile 198, we were probably about a minute or so behind him and his left rear (wheel) came off, and once that happened, we got to the other side and started getting reports of where we were. Then we just backed down and made sure we got it in here."

Dan McMillin and co-driver Chuck Hovey took their first win as team in Class 1.

Taking his first win in Class 1 was Dan McMillin. "We had no problems today," McMillin said. "It wasn’t even that hot. Chuck Hovey started and did a fantastic job. He had no problems and the car never got hot, really, and we made it here (to the finish). It looks like we got first and (fourth) overall looks pretty good. It’s a good day.

Kory Holopoff and Harley Letner ran a good race finishing second in Class 1.

Class 1 points leader Justin Davis had a rough day after losing his power steering and finishing 7th in class.

“The only three cars ahead of me when I got in the car were (Randy) Wilson, (Steve) Appleton and then (Harley) Letner (in the No. 100 car). Wilson broke early when I got around him, Appleton was in the wash, broken, and then Letner was parked. I got the lead at about race mile 205 or 210. Letner was parked and then he got going again and was about a minute behind me, and I put like two minutes on him the last 10 miles. It was a good race. It was fun. I cruised the whole race. The last 20 miles, when I knew Letner was there, I pushed it. But I really, honestly, cruised because I wanted to keep the car cool. I think I passed a lot of cars that were overheating."

Kevin Carr took the win in Class 5.

Arturo Velazco took first in 1600.

Taking Class 1600 was Arturo Velazco. Velazco started and drove to race mile 91, Esteban Cruz drove from mile 91 to mile 167, and Abel Velazco drove from mile 167 to the finish.

"The car was in perfect shape, it could not have been better,” Cruz said. “We had no problems at all. I got in the car and Arturo said, ‘the car’s running clean; just go.’ I did all my section with no issues at all. I just maintained the car, basically. At that point, we were running in second but we were maintaining the distance behind (Rick) Boyer until right before I gave the car to Abel.

“This is our first San Felipe win. We all grew up together in Ensenada and we’re like brothers. This is our first San Felipe win and we’re really proud of it. Co-driver Abel Velazco said: It was just one of those flawless days: No dust, no flats, no nothing. I saw Boyer in the pits and I knew he was broken and then it was just maintaining that little gap we had. It was a clean race; it couldn’t have been better."

Justin Matney played the numbers entering in multiple classes ultimately earning him a win in Class 8.

Sharing the driving duties with brother Andy and father Scott, Jessica McMillin took the win in Pro-Truck. "It was a good day." Jessica said. "We had no flat tires. The power-steering was pretty dicey toward the end but I made it last. It was tough to drive at the end. The course was rough; we got some dirt over the hood a couple of times because there were some really big whoops out there. But it was super fun; I had a blast.”

Jessica also has the added benefit of learning from her accomplished desert racing family.

Rafael Navarro and Vic Bruckmann took second to Zach Langley in SCORE Lites (Class 12).

“Driving with my dad and Andy helps me a lot,” she said. “I’m still learning from them so anytime that they offer to drive with me or I get to ride with them is a huge advantage for me. Yes, I would like to drive by myself, but as long as I have my dad and my brother to learn from, I might as well take advantage of it."

Justin Matney played the numbers entering as the driver of record in five classes, and he earned the win in Class 8 at the Challenge of Champions.

"Really, all the credit has got to go to Rudy [Iribe]," Matney said. "I’ve got a pulled disk in my back so I wasn’t able to drive far. I’m just taking it easy and getting ready for the Baja 1000 – that’s really going to be a big push for us. We just wanted to get through this race and get ready for the Baja 1000. My back doesn’t feel bad right now but I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow.”

Tavo Vildosola pushed hard and lead a good part of the race until loosing an axle.

Co-driver Rudy Iribe talked about the issues the team had to deal with during the race. "At race mile 150, we lost the fuel pumps and we went to a mechanical pump and we limped it in from race mile 150. At race mile 8, we hit a really big whoop and my co-pilot was hurt and we had to stop and take about a five-minute breather. Everything else did really well. We had no flat tires."

Zoo Road crowds are always a spectacle ...

There will be some people that will complain about SCORE's decision to move the race from Nevada to Mexico, taking note of the low number of entries in the race. Some may blame the heat or even the Southern California blackout. All in all, whether the race be in Primm, Nevada or San Felipe, SCORE still put together a solid race in preparation for the granddaddy of off-road races, SCORE's Baja 1000 held in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. For most, that is the only race that counts. We will see if SCORE's move of the Primm 300 will change anything. Only time will tell.

For more information, visit www.score-international.com.

Pro Cars & Trucks
1. Rob MacCachren, Las Vegas, Ford F-150, 4:12:21 (59.94 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

2. Gary Weyhrich/Mark Weyhrich, Troutdale, Ore., Ford F-150, 4:21:41 (57.80 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

3. Bryce Menzies, Las Vegas, Ford F-150, 4:24:23 (57.21 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

4. Daniel McMillin, La Mesa, Calif./Chuck Hovey, Escondido, Calif., Jimco-Chevy,
4:29:23 (56.15 mph) (Class 1)

5. Clyde Stacy, Bristol, Va./Juan Carlos Lopez, Tecate, Mexico, Tenn., Chevy Silverado, 4:32:24 (55.53 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

6. Kory Halopoff/Harley Letner, Orange, Calif., Alpha-Chevy, 4:34:26 (55.12 mph) (Class 1)

7. Cameron Steele, San Clemente, Calif./Cody Stuart, Capistrano Beach, Calif., GMC Sierra, 4:40:06 (54.00 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

8. Nick Vanderwey, Phoenix/Curt LeDuc, Cherry Valley, Calif./Michael Vanderwey, Phoenix, Chevy Silverado, 4:52:35 (51.70 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

9. Brian Parkhouse/Cody Parkhouse, Long Beach, Calif., Jimco-Chevy, 4:59:19 (50.53 mph) (Class 1)

10. Adam Householder, Orange, Calif., Chevy Silverado, 5:08:59 (48.95 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

11. Conan Barker, Whittier, Calif./Scott Zeppenfeldt, Brea, Calif./Brad Fauvre, Pacific Palisades, Calif., Porter-Ford, 5:12:12 (48.45 mph) (Class 1)

12. David Greenhill/Crowley, Texas/Mike Boone, Garden Grove, Calif., Jimco-Chevy, 5:14:06 (48.15 mph) (Class 1)

13.Jesse Ashcraft, San Marcos, Calif./Adam Ashcraft, Oceanside, Calif., Ford F-150, 5:16:50 (47.74 mph) (SCORE Trophy-Truck)

14. Jessica McMillin/Andy McMillin, National City, Calif., Ford F-150, 5:23:58 (46.69 mph) (PROTRUCK)

15. Matt Cullen/Mike Lombardi, Long Beach, Calif./Chuck Sacks, Canyon Lake, Calif., AlumiCraft-VW, 5:34:10 (45.26 mph) (Class 10)

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