I honestly don’t even know where to start this one …
At the beginning of the 2015 season Score International had said there would be two Baja 500 races this year and we could race either one of them. I had the understanding that you didn’t have to race both of them. I was under the impression that the best finish from the two races would apply towards the season’s point’s championship. We finished with a strong third place at the first race (Baja Sur 500) but we knew with the guys we were racing against that might not be good enough. We decided to try and better a third place finish at the Baja 500. So, we started prepping and planning our best race yet all the while knowing that we needed to better our third place finish.
The team got the car cleaned up from the Silver State 300 race and started working on it as things came up. I told them “I don’t care what we need to change or replace I want it 100%, every time!” As the race drew close I knew that nothing had been over looked or considered ‘good enough’. It was the best we could do, nothing short of that. About two weeks prior to the race Branden Sims, Eric Ringler, Craig Hammar and myself loaded up a couple of Polaris RZR’s and headed down to Baja for some pre running. We started right outside of Mexicali and finished the first day at race mile 300, when we were done we headed over to Horse Power Ranch for the night. During the trip Branden and I cannot help but reminisce over our past races. Every hour or so I would remind him of a race that I got lucky and passed him in. To which he would reply with “Yah, but remember I won the Brand New Polaris RZR at the UTV World Championship” and I quickly shut up as he put me back in my place. The next day we head back to race mile 300 to start pre running Branden Sims’ section of the race course. As it turns out I kept teasing him that my 270 mile section was brutal and his was a smooth rally road. Neither of us really cared as long as we got to race! We had a good time pre running and again had zero problems with our two Polaris RZR XP 1000’s. So we loaded up and headed back to El Centro California for a fine dinner at Jack in the Box. As we ate at this fine dining establishment they were providing some music to enhance our dining experience when in walks a young presumably stoned young man. He stood in front of the counter for a moment, staring at the menu. Then all of the sudden the music and Baby Jesus overtook all control of his body! He started shaking, then he did a hand stand, a quick backflip and some other crazy convolution moves as he danced his way into the parking lot. He obviously was needing more room to let loose! We finished our meals and all agreed not to drink the water in El Centro. From here we decided head to the hotel room for the night and then back home tomorrow.
As race day nears we take our Polaris RZR XP 4 1000 racer to Wolf Designs to get a new wrap installed so the car is looking sharp for the Baja 500. Thursday Moring rolls around and we all meet at my place at 5AM to head out to the Baja 500. Along the way we happen to meet up with the LoneStar Racing Team of Cody Nygren and Dan Fisher. We caravan thru the border with them arriving around 1PM to our favorite taco stand for some tacos. After lunch we then head to the hotel to get unloaded and pre run the start and finish 40 miles or so of the race course. You can only pre run on Thursday or Friday so Branden and I jump in the race car. I drive my section out and he drives his section back in. Our Polaris RZR XP 1000 is feeling great! We call it a day and head back to our rooms to get some rest for the big weekend we have ahead of us.
Friday: Nate gets up early and takes our car to contingency at 6AM. We sit there until the line starts moving around 10AM. It does move very fast so we get all done around 3PM. I think to myself ‘Next time I’m getting in line at 3PM when the line is moving and we should be done by 6PM’, did I mention I hate standing or sitting in line?
Saturday: So race day is finally upon us! We meet outside at 7:30AM, I have already been at the coffee shop having my morning coffee, so I walk back to the hotel. We send the first truck off to Ojos approx. race mile 35 just in case we need something as we are heading out of town. I head back to the hotel room to put my race suit on and relax for a few minutes before I need to strap into the race car for the next 8 or so hours. We are told to line up at 8:30AM, so about 9AM I head over to line up, remember I hate waiting, LOL. Anyway… We are supposed to be off the starting line around 11:00AM but a car that started the race before us has spun out and hit a power pole. So now we have to wait even longer, I am guessing it was right around Noon when we started.
The green flag dropped and we started 6th off the line. I was feeling great and figured I would take it easy for the first 30 or so miles as we are leaving town. Around mile 25 we all got stopped behind a few racers that where getting stuck on a small hill section. We had to stop and wait in line for our turn to go up! Well, most of us waited in line… Cognito (#1918) figured they didn’t have to as they drove passed a bunch of us waiting in line. As they pulled up and realized we were not waiting for sandwiches and iced cold beverages they cut in front of Cory Sappington, who then proceeded to give the Cognito car a bump to push him forward a bit. I was sitting back and enjoying the show as a couple of pissed off locals tossed rocks at the Cognito car. As the hill cleared, the pile of cars was caused by Cognito passing everybody. It kind of helped us out as the truck in front of Cognito didn’t move and they couldn’t get around. Cory (Desert Toyz) passed them and I followed Cory up the hill. Due to the traffic jam going into Ojos we were all packed together pretty tight for the next 80 miles or so to La Rumorosa. We were eating dust the whole way and around that area we made it to La Rumorosa Hill and where the first ones down. While racing through a rocky section we got passed by Wayne Matlock as he picked a little smoother section right around race mile 130. He beat us to the pits at race mile 145 where we stopped for fuel and have the guys check our car over as it had been making a ticking noise. They checked the car over and we pulled out about a minute after Matlock. After a few miles we caught him back while they were both out of his car checking something out.
The next 40 or so miles was a brutal, nasty, whooped out section straight from Hell. We took the beating and pushed hard to make sure we could get the car to my co-driver Branden at race mile 270. Anyhow, right around race mile 200ish my car just died. We coasted off the track with some of the worst noises we have ever heard it make. We jumped out of the car as the smoke was pouring out of the side of the hole in the transmission. We call the guys in the chase truck to tell them we had blown the transmission and to haul ass to get to us. Little did we know it would take the guys two and a half hours to get to finally make it us at race mile 200.
In the mean time I started a camp fire to ward off the Chupacabra’ and keep us warm. It was about 99 degrees outside in the sun still but I was bored. I heard the next UTV coming and knew they now would be the race leaders. I ran out to the race track, unzipped my fire suit, and shot him the MOON ass, we would call it trying to distract and cheer him on, LOL, and I’ll never grow up.
So as we sat there looking at the car and trying to trap rats for dinner, I noticed our transmission fill plug had come out. This caused us to lose all of our transmission oil and take us out of the race.
What a way to go. You can only imagine how something like this would make you feel.
Back to the beginning of the story; I figured we already had a third place from the first Baja Sur 500 race and knowing that we would not beat that finish there was no reason to change the transmission and continue on. So we packed up and towed the car out of the desert. We headed to the finish line to see how everybody did. We ended up talking with the Murray’s at the finish line and they asked what had happened. I told them the story and they proceeded to tell me that Score changed the rules on the throw out race. Now you can throw out any race during the season. With that new information I knew I had just made the biggest mistake that might cost us the season championship… Damn, I have been kicking myself for the last few days wishing we would have swapped the transmission and finished the race. It’s a little too late now so we will just have to win the next two races!
Thank You Polaris RZR, UTV INC, Lone Star Racing, Method Wheels, ITP Tires, Wolf Designs, Rigid Lights, and everybody else that plays the tiniest part in our race program.
Without you we wouldn’t be racing!