SoCal’s Hall of Famer Larry Roeseler captured one for the ages when he was declared the overall and SCORE Trophy Truck winner of Saturday’s BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4 Wheel Parts. Clocked before penalties, the legendary 64-year old Desert racing warrior was the third vehicle to reach the finish line in the elapsed-time race.
Roeseler, 64, of Boulevard, California, climbed to the top of the ladder in his No. 43 Baja Jerky Cantina Racing Toyota Tundra built by ID Designs. He finished the grueling 466.00-mile race in a winning time of 10 hours, 16 minutes, and two seconds with an average speed of 45.39 miles per hour.
“We knew it would be tough, I knew it would be ten hours, but it was every bit of what we expected, it was fantastic”, stated the champion, Roeseler. “I bet no one was disappointed. There were some good battles out there. There were places we were doing 130 and there were places we were doing two miles per hour just because of the rocks.”
“We started tenth and just kept pushing. I went back and forth with John T. Lennon (No. 73) a couple of times and then Ampudia (Alan Ampudia, No. 10) crashed, Tavo (Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Vildosola Jr, No. 21) got a flat and we saw Menzies (Bryce Menzies, No. 7) in the pit around race mile 300 and we realized we were fourth,” Roeseler continued. “We had no flats and didn’t do anything to the truck outside of sliding off the road a few times. It was just a very memorable race for us. My very first SCORE Baja 500 was in 1972 – I rode a 175cc motorcycle.”
“And here I am, over 40 years later and still hitting it. This is a very, very awesome finish and we’re really, really happy,” Roeseler finished. “Hats off to SCORE for producing another spectacular SCORE Baja race. I have been part of the development of this sport for over 40 years and I can really appreciate all that SCORE continues to do to improve the quality of its races.”
For the iconic ‘Mr Baja’, the victory is his 12th overall win in this race and his 18th class triumph. He earned his first class win in the SCORE Baja 500 in 1972 and earned his first overall in 1975 riding with the late Bruce Ogilvie on a Harley-Davison motorcycle.
LR, as he is also known, won his first two 4-wheel overalls in this race in 2002 and 2003 as the second driver for Troy Herbst in the legendary Class 1 ‘Land Shark’ open-wheel desert race car.
For Roeseler, a member of both the AMA Hall of Fame and the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of fame, nine of his overalls in the SCORE Baja 500 were on motorcycles, two were in unlimited Class 1 open-wheel desert race cars and this was his first in the marquee SCORE Trophy Truck division for high-tech, 950 horsepower unlimited custom trucks.
He also now has earned four career SCORE Trophy Truck race wins. His last SCORE Trophy Truck overall was in the 2008 SCORE Baja 1000 peninsula run from Ensenada to La Paz when he was the second driver for Roger Norman.
For his victory at the SCORE Baja 500, Roeseler also earned the $15,000 contingency bonus that was posted for the overall winner by BFGoodrich Tires.
Change Of Place
Subsequently, the Competition Review Board (CRB) met two times and recommended penalties for SCORE to confirm and execute to San Diego’s Luke McMillin and Andy McMillin who drove the first two vehicles that physically crossed the finish line. The CRB, an advisory group comprised of current and former desert racers, made their recommendations to SCORE President/Race Director Jose A. Grijalva.
Subsequently, Grijalva announced today that Luke McMillin, the reigning SCORE Trophy Truck season point champion, has been disqualified for a serious rule violation on the course, and Andy McMillin, the 2019 SCORE Trophy Truck season point champion, was penalized with 30 minutes added to his finish time for passing under unsafe conditions in a controlled speed zone section of the racecourse.
“SCORE appreciates the diligent work of the CRB in assisting in adjudicating these more challenging situations that can arise during one of our SCORE Baja races,” said Jose A. Grijalva, SCORE President and Race Director. “SCORE will continue to review and enforce the rules that are designed to keep racers, crews and spectators all safe.”
“Unfortunately, these two special decisions have impacted two of the most prominent and well-respected racers in the entire sport of desert racing and this is an example of the transparency SCORE has with the help of the CRB in these special situations,” Grijalva continued. “While the race results are now official, SCORE is continuing to address some additional activities involving chase trucks that occurred during the event.”
With the penalty, Andy McMillin finished second in a time of 10:19:59, averaging 45.13 mph in his all-wheel-drive No. 31 McMillin Racing Chevy Silverado built by Mason Motorsports.
Joining Roeseler and Andy McMillin on the podium was Mexico’s Gustavo ‘Tavo’ Vildosola Jr. who took the final spot in third place. Driving his No. 21 Vildosola Racing Ford Raptor, Vildosola Jr, 39 of Mexicali, finished in a time of 10:18:09, just 15.3 seconds on corrected time behind A. McMillin.
After receiving the penalty, Andy McMillin commented, “I not only fully accept, but I also respect the decision made by SCORE in conjunction with the Competition Review Board. I feel very bad if I endangered anyone during this maneuver. I want SCORE Baja racing to continue for generations to come and unfortunately, I made a poor decision in the heat of the battle in the latter part of the race. These things happen, we must learn from our mistakes and move forward.”
Andy McMillin also remarked about his cousin Luke racing within three seconds of each other for over 100 miles to the finish, saying, “It was an amazing battle with Luke coming to the finish – what a driver, what a talent. We came all the way to the finish just trying to make up time and to keep as close as possible to him. Hats off to him for coming out with a brand-new truck and just laying it down. There’s no one I’d rather battle with than my cousin and my family. It was close all the way in, we were pushing really hard. It was just an amazing race.”
“Thanks to SCORE and everyone for putting this race on given the circumstances,” Andy said. “For us to be able to come down here and do what we do and represent our sponsors, win or lose, days like today are why we race. It’s about battling all the way to the finish, pushing your vehicle, pushing your body, pushing your mind, that’s why all of us do it. What a way to cap off a long pre-run, hard work getting to the race, with all the logistics and the planning…it was one hell of a race day.”
At the finish line, Luke McMillin commented, saying “Mason Motorsports did a great job building this brand-new truck to come out to the SCORE Baja 500 – it ran flawlessly. It’s really impressive to come out with a brand-new truck and don’t have any sorts of issues. Everyone that helped put it together, we got to thank them because they’ve put together a great truck. It’s the first race for it, we’re on the podium, and that’s always good. It was a little bit frustrating because I had a big learning curve driving it. The all-wheel drive is very different and that makes it even more difficult.”
In regards to his course deviation, Luke McMillin said, “I made a big mistake and I’m very sorry. The last thing in the world I want is for anyone to be hurt at a race (no one was). I will accept any decision SCORE makes.”
There were 240 official starters, with 146 official finishers for a surprising 60.83 percent finishing rate considering the difficulty of the course in the elapsed-time race.
SCORE Trophy Trucks have now won 25 overalls in the SCORE Baja 500 in the 28 years that this premier class has been part of this race. In this year’s race, SCORE Trophy Trucks captured seven of the top 10 overall finishing positions.
Next On The List
Round 3 of the four-race 2021 SCORE World Desert Championship will be the 2nd SCORE Baja 400, presented by VP Racing Fuels. It will be held in Ensenada, Mexico from Sept 14-19. The race will also be a qualifier for starting positions for the season-ending BFGoodrich Tires 54th SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4 Wheel Parts in November.
For more information regarding SCORE, visit the official website of the SCORE World Desert Championship.