|Andy McMillin and father Scott earned the overall victory at the 2009 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.|
Andy McMillin’s last SCORE Trophy Truck victory came in 2006 when he drove with Robby Gordon. Although the two didn’t race together this year, both were winners at the end of the 42nd running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
McMillin earned another Baja victory with his father Scott sharing driving duties. This was Scott’s first Baja 1000 overall victory and third class win in SCORE Trophy Truck.
Gordon entered the race with a massive points lead in the Trophy Truck class, so much so that he essentially needed to cross the finish line for the 2009 SCORE Desert Series Championship. But the competitive racer who splits his time between NASCAR and off-road racing wasn’t looking to limp across the finish line at the 1000.
Unfortunately, Gordon had some technical issues that prevented him from staying at the front of the pack, whereas the father-and-son team of Scott and Andy McMillin scored their Baja 1000 win and were one of very few teams who had a trouble-free day.
“The plan was to kind of take it easy and let the race come to us,” Andy said at a press conference after the race. “We knew Sal laid out a really rough, tough course this year. And we knew it was going to take one truck that didn’t have any problems to get the win. So that was our plan all day was just to stay smooth, and not have any down time and no flat tires.”
Andy drove the first leg of the race to mile 200, and his father Scott drove the San Felipe loop and up past Mike’s Sky Ranch, with Andy getting in and bringing it home the last 175 miles or so.
“My dad got me a hell of a lead, so it was pretty easy,” Andy said.
Scott went on to thank the crew that worked tirelessly over the last year to help the team get to this point.
“A Baja 1000, you just don’t come down here and decide to race this thing a month in advance,” Scott said. “This takes a whole year of planning. We have a dedicated team back at our shop of about five core guys that work full time on this, and plus there’s another 20 volunteers that are with us at all the races, all the pre-running, all the planning … we just couldn’t have done it without all of them.”
|Check out the photo gallery from the 2009 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.|
|Roger Norman was surprised the team performed so well despite running into early issues when co-driver Larry Roeseler tangled with BJ Baldwin early in the race.|
Despite having a major tangle with BJ Baldwin just after 100 miles into the race, the team of Roger Norman and Larry Roeseler were still able to put forth an impressive performance to finish in second place 31 minutes and 37 seconds behind McMillin.
|For the story on the Baja 1000 motorcycle winners, click here.|
“Larry and BJ got their bumpers tangled,” Norman said. “BJ jumped out of his truck and ran down to some guys, and he came back with a Cherokee with a tow strap to help get us out. I think BJ lost his transmission after that. We just had handling problems the whole way. It felt like we had no rear shocks at all, like we were just on springs.”
Rick D. Johnson led much of the race, but like many other racers in the Trophy Truck field, the rough course took its toll on his vehicle.
“It was a brutal day, we just had to fight some issues,” Johnson said. “The steering, I got feedback so bad that I couldn’t hang onto the wheel. We lost the GPS for a long time, in [San Felipe] I believe.”
Still, Johnson was able to bring his truck across the finish line to take the last podium spot in Trophy Truck. Robby Gordon crossed in fourth but actually finished in fifth place on corrected time behind Gustavo Vildosola, Jr.
|NASCAR/off-road racer Robby Gordon battled mechanical gremlins throughout the day and was unable to compete the win toward the end of the race. He finished fifth in the Trophy Truck class at the Baja 1000, but he wrapped up the season Overall Championship just by crossing the finish line.|
"Right off the bat our strategy was working," Andy Grider, navigator for Robby Gordon. "We got our little pit strategies going and we got up toward the frton. We had a flat tire on the backside of the summit, around mile 130, and we had troubles from then on. Our spare tie didn't have lug nuts on it, and we're used to having lug nuts on them, so when we whipped the bad one off we just let hte lug nuts fall on the ground. Well, we could only find four of them, and we had to pull over at our next pit and get lug nuts stuck on and another spare tire, so we lost a couple fo spots there - I think that's where McMillin got by us. Cameron Steele came up and battled with us for awhile. Then we got going again, and we got up there third or second on the raod, and then we had brake issues ... we never got them resolved. It took us about a half hour to get back going."
When asked if it was any consolation that they earned the overall SCORE Trophy Truck title, Grider said he and Gordon were happy but they definitely were dissapointed they couldn't win in Baja.
"It feels really good to get the championship, but maybe it hasn't settled in yet, because I came here to win the race and I didn't get to win the race," Grider said. "I'm kind of dissapointed with that, but I'm sure tomorrow when I wake up it'll be a different story knowing we got the #1 plate."
As for the future plans of Team Gordon in off-road racing, Grider said their focus is off-road but their priority may not necessarily be defending their SCORE title.
"Right now at Team Gordon, as far as I know, our efforts are the Dakar," Grider said. "We're 100 percent Dakar, and the Dakar conflicts with the SCORE series next year. We're gonna miss Luaghlin, so I don't know what that's going to do for the whole series; I don't know if we're going to come to San Felipe and Primm, but we'll definitely be here for the 500 and the 1000."
|The McMillin team celebrates their victory at the finish line in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.|
In Class 1, after the All German Auto team Armin Schwarz and Martin Christense led the field for much of the race, the team of Jerry Penhall and Dan Martin moved into the lead after Schwarz had mechanical issues and maintained it to earn the Class 1 victory, finishing just 2 hours and 10 minutes behind McMillin on corrected time. Schwarz needed to finish in first place to win the overall championship, but a transmission leak took too long to repair and the team got behind and was unable to recover.
Penhall, a reputed buggy chassis builder in the off-road arena, took the Class 1 win on the same night his nephews Ryan and Connor Penhall were runners up for the overall in the motorcycle class. Schwarz was the next Class 1 vehicle to cross the line behind the Penhall, but he was over 13 minutes behind the team.
Here is a list of the unofficial finish positions and times for the class winners (by driver of record) of the 42nd running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. The number at left indicates their overall finish.
1. Class 22: Kendall Norman, 13 hours, 27 minutes, 50 seconds
4. Trophy Truck: Andy McMillin, 14:19:50
11. Class 1: Jerry Penhall, 15:38:19
12. Class 21: Ronnie Wilson, 15:42:08
15. Class 40: Scott Myers, 16:12:31
21. Class 25: Wayne Matlock, 16:54:52
22. Class 50: Jim O'Neal, 17:03:37
27. Class 30: Mike Johnson, 17:33:44
32. Class 1-2/1600: Eric Duran, 18:10:57
34. Class 8: Juan Lopez, 18:16:30
40. Class 20: Jesus Rios, 19:00:18
47. SCORE Lite: Brent Parkhouse, 19:30:22
48. Sportsman Motorcycle: Brian Garrahan, 19:35:02
55. Class 6: Heidi Steele: 20:27:52
61. Sportsman UTV: Fred Sobke: 20:49:44
62. Class 24: Tom Wright, 20:54:14
73. Baja Challenge: Nick Baldwin, 21:42:05
75. Protruck: Rob Reinertson, 21:59:24
76. Dan Chamlee, 22:01:16
77. Stock Full: Chad Hall, 22:48:40
91. Class 5/1600: Marcos Nunez, 23:15:24
95. Sportsman Buggy: Rory Ward, 23:22:29
96. Class 5: Kevin Carr, 23:22:56
100. Class 10: Mikey Lawrence, 23:28:45
113. Class 3: Darren Skilton, 24:11:29
117. Sportsman UTV: Reid Nordin, 24:32:37
129. Class 4: Jeff Offutt, 25:44:52
155. Class 26: Reid Rutherford, 30:19:53