Bryce Menzies Wins SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge

Jan. 17, 2011 By Josh Burns, Photos by Art Eugenio
Bryce Menzies earned the overall win after two days of racing in Laughlin, Nevada.

The Laughlin Desert Challenge is a crucial race for the SCORE season. As veteran racer Rob MacCachren reiterated on Saturday and again after the race today, if you don’t finish this race is will haunt you the entire year. The points earned at this race have proven to be crucial for the overall championship in recent years, and because of this, many racers played it safe on Saturday.

More SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge:

Photo Gallery

Day 1 Racing

Laughlin Leap

With the laps on both days of racing combining, racers still needed to reach the finish line at all costs today, but the battles definitely got fiercer today. When the Trophy-Trucks kicked off the lines, yesterday’s two fastest racers, Jesse Jones and Bryce Menzies, were the first off the line, and they literally set a pace that no one could match. With Jones holding a mere 4-second lead on Menzies from Saturday’s 8 laps, Menzies simply had to stay close enough to make a move at the end. Since Jones helped mentor Menzies and the two won the Baja 500 together (Menzies’ only other SCORE race before this weekend), the two have a friendship off the track and they both spoke about their side-by-side starting spot beforehand.

“We talked to each other before the race and we said, ‘Let’s just run five laps consistently and then from there, let’s go,’” Menzies explained after the race.

Menzies actually was able to take a small lead on Jones for the first half of the race, and it was roughly between 4-6 second, or right at the time difference between the two from Saturday’s racing. In the end, Menzies was able to pull away from his mentor to earn the win at the first race of the 2011 SCORE season, and also take his first individual desert race victory.

“I think it was good that we were just pacing ourselves from the start and we were just running away from the field,” Menzies said. “We didn’t think we were going to be up here – we wanted to leave Laughlin with a top five but we’ll take the win, for sure.”
Jesse Jones had mechanical issues toward the end of the race but was still able to cross the finish line in second. Photo: Josh Burns

Jones did have motor issues late in the race, but the two racers were so far in front of the pack that he was able to cruise to second place. He was disappointed he didn’t earn the win but also proud of Menzies’ accomplishment.

“We stuck our nose in there a couple times to let him feel us, but we didn’t have anything for him,” said Jones, who noted that the key to last year’s overall championship was consistency. “We definitely have to just be consistent. Finish every single lap of every single race, and you know that’s the biggest thing just to be smart, and to just make sure we drive our own races and make sure we don get sucked into these things like what I did today and make the motor go away.”

Finishing in third place was last year’s Baja 1000 winner Gustavo Vildosola Jr.

“Yesterday after the second lap we had to back it down,” Tavo said of the transmission issues the team had yesterday. “Yesterday the goal was to finish, and today we thought we could mount a good run for fourth place. When Mark Weyrich dropped off that put us in third place because we passed a couple guys at the beginning. And at the end we just cruised it. These guys were putting on a scorching pace and we weren’t going to catch them. So you take your wins and you just go on to the next race. Third place is the best we’ve done here at Laughlin, so we’re happy with it.”

MacCachren earned fourth place overall at the Laughlin Desert Challenge despite some major issues with his truck yesterday that he didn’t know until after the race.

“Yesterday we barely made it to the finish line,” he said. “After we got back we took the truck apart and we have a torque converter problem, and also the clutch plate was cracked all the way around and we had some other issues. So we were actually really, really lucky to make it to the finish line with the truck.”

Fresh-faced Justin Davis, overall winner in SCORE Lites last year, took his new Class 1 racecar to victory at the Laughlin Desert Challenge. The weekend wrapped up with Class 1 taking on a very chewed-up Laughlin track. Despite the crews coming in between racing and prepping the course, the Class 1 racers definitely saw the Laughlin track at its worst on Sunday.

Yesterday’s second-place finisher Justin Davis was off the line first next to Armin Schwartz, who took over driving duties on Sunday for teammate Martin Christensen. Davis, racing for the first time this weekend in his new Class 1 racecar, jumped out in front and pulled away from the field for the first half of the race. Pete Sohren, who removed his front panels on his Trophy-Truck to race it in the open-wheel class (finishing in fourth in both classes on Saturday, to boot), moved up from the third row into second place behind Davis. Unfortunately, Sohren lost valuable time after losing a tire and being forced to ride on the rim before being forced to pull and to fix it.

“It couldn't be more disappointing,” he said of the race. “I thought I had it won. I passed them all and I got a flat right here in the infield and you can't go to your pit or change a tire here in the infield unless you have one on the car and I didn't have one. I had to go backwards all the way to the hot pit and get it, so I was out.”

Harley Letner was unable to make up the time needed to catch Davis, and after earning the 100 plate last year, he knows the importance of finishing in strong second place at Laughlin.

The second half of the race was a battle of time between Davis and Harley Letner, as Letner tried to make up the 1- minute deficit he was behind Davis from the day before, but a poor draw on the reshuffled starting positions made it tough for Letner to work through the pack of talented racers on the rough course.

Max Thieriot came down wrong off the "Laughlin Leap" jump and flipped his car a few times. Fortunately, the team was fine, and they were able to get back up and running as well.

“I just wanted to make it to the end and try and finish every race again this year,” Letner said. “We are going for points. We've got the 100 plate now so finishing is key, and that's what I went for today.”

Justin Lawson, yesterday’s winner, lost a front wheel during the race and unfortunately was unable to finish the race. 

“You can’t say it was heartbreaking,” he said after the race. “We went into this race doing something unknown: We put 37-inch tires on this car and there is no Jimco out there that’s running 37s right now, so we knew we had a weakness in the spindles. We were hoping they would live but they didn’t It’s no fault to Jimcos – they built an awesome racecar and we were out there hauling it. It’s just one of those things – that’s racing.”

More SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge:

Photo Gallery

Day 1 Racing

Laughlin Leap

Class Winners

Trophy Truck
1. Bryce Menzies
2. Jesse Jones
3. Gustavo Vildosola Jr.
4. Rob MacCachren
5. Pete Sohren
6. Adam Householder
7. Gary Weyrich
8. Mark McMillin
9. Lloyd Sproule
10. Jesse Ashcraft

Class 1
1. Justin Davis
2. Harley Letner
3.  Dan Martin
4. Armin Schwarz
5. Pete Sohren

Class 10
1. Michael LaPaglia
2. Alex Mendez
3. Edgar Avalos
4. Sergio Salgado
5. John Langley

Class 12 (SCORE Lites)
1. Jaime Huerta
2. Francisco Villagomez
3. Rafael Navarro IV
4. Perry McNeil
5. Otoniel Huerta

Class 1/2-1600
1. Daniel McMillin
2. Arnoldo Ramirez
3. Mario Gastelum
4. Luke McMillin
5. Robert Archibald

Class 11
1. Justin Matney
2. Matt Cullen

Class 3
1. Donald Moss

Class 6
1. David Caspino 
2. Jeffery T. Holmes
3. Heidi Steele

Class 7
1. Dan Chamlee
2. Brandon Walsh

Class 7SX
1. Elias Hanna
2. John Holmes

Class 8
1. Justin Matney
2. Noah Ostanik Newsletter
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