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Dan McMillin takes SCORE Trophy Truck and Overall Win at Baja 500

     SAN FELIPE, Baja California, Mexico – As five stars of the sport dueled in the simmering desert heat Saturday, San Diego’s third-generation desert racer Dan McMillin teamed with Las Vegas’ Justin ‘Bean’ Smith to earn a hard-fought overall and SCORE Trophy Truck victory at the BFGoodrich Tires 52nd SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4 Wheel Parts. The race was held this week for just the second time in its storied history in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.

     McMillin, 32, and Smith, 36, split the driving in the grueling race through the rugged Baja terrain with temperatures hovering in the 90s with 60% humidity along the Sea of Cortez, covering the 493.00-mile desert race course in eight hours, 29.17 seconds with an usually high average speed of 58.08 miles per hour. They pair the No. 23 McMillin Racing Chevy C1500 built by Mason Motorsports.
     San Felipe is the peaceful village on the Sea of Cortez, 125 miles south of the U.S. Border at Calexico, Calif. Both 2020 SCORE races will be held on Mexico’s magnificent Baja California peninsula for the fifth consecutive year.

     When the green flag fell, a total of 129 vehicles left the start line early Saturday morning with racers from 19 U.S. States along with host country Mexico, Bolivia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands and New Zealand.

     When the course closed at 4:06 a.m. PT on Sunday, there were 77 official finishers for a very high 59.69 finishing rate, especially considering the difficulty of the race course. The results were made official following complete data tracking review of the devices on each vehicle in the event on Sunday morning.

     Competition included classes for cars, trucks UTVs, motorcycles and quads for the internationally-televised BFGoodrich Tires 52nd SCORE Baja 500, presented by 4 Wheel Parts.

     The race will be televised on a delayed basis as a one-hour special on the ABC Network World of X Games programming and syndicated internationally to as many as 25 countries.

    With a legacy started by the late family patriarch Corky McMillin, Daniel McMillin added to the Big Blue M rich history with his first career victory in the marquee SCORE Trophy Truck division for hi-tech, 950-horsepower unlimited custom trucks. Mark Racing earned two podium placements as Daniel’s brother Luke McMillin finished third overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck.

     Running in a pack of five monsters of the desert for the majority of the race, the duo pulled away at the end. After penalties were assessed by SCORE adjusting the finishing times of nearly all finishers, McMillin/Smith earned a victory margin of five minutes, 34 seconds over the second-place truck. Daniel McMillin started the race and ran to race-mile 329 where Smith got behind the wheel and powered to the finish line at the El Dorado Ranch resort.

     With his victory, McMillin also earned a $25,000 contingency bonus from long-time SCORE sponsor and race title sponsor BFGoodrich Tires offered to the winner of this year’s race. It marked the 33rd victory for BFGoodrich Tires-shod overall winning race vehicles.

    Besides his late grandfather Corky, Daniel McMillin’s champion family members include his brother Luke McMillin, who finished third overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck in this year’s race, his dad Mark McMillin, his uncle Scott McMillin, and his cousins Andy McMillin and Jessica McMillin.

     The lead pack of five SCORE Trophy Truck warriors were in each other’s dusty tracks most of the race. Including in the group were Dan McMillin, Tim Herbst/Pat Dean, Dan’s brother Luke McMillin, brothers Alan and Aaron Ampudia along with Robby Gordon.

     Joining Dan McMillin, who has won in other classes in SCORE races, on the 52nd SCORE Baja 500 podium were Las Vegas’ Tim Herbst/Pat Dean and Daniel’s younger brother Luke McMillin, 27, who also lives in San Diego.

     From another of the legendary racing families in SCORE racing history, Las Vegas’ Tim Herbst, 57, and his second driver Pat Dean, also of Las Vegas, finished first unofficially but the review of their data tracking device automatically gave them a couple of time penalties that ultimately cost them the top spot.

     With veteran Dean driving from the start to race mile 280 and Tim Herbst handling the wheel the balance of the way, the pair recorded an adjusted time of 8:34:51 in their No. 19 Monster Energy Terrible Herbst Motorsports Herbst-Smith built Ford F-150.

     Daniel McMillin was unofficially second until the No. 19 truck was penalized more than McMillin was with one-time penalty.

     San Diego’s Luke McMillin, 27, another third-generation desert racer, mixed it up with his older brother Dan throughout the race, finishing in third place overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck with a time of 8:45:15 in the No. 83 Mark Racing Racer-built Ford F-150.

     Besides podium finishers D. McMillin, Tim Herbst and L. McMillin, five of the top 10 overall finishers were also SCORE Trophy Trucks along with three from Trophy Truck Spec and two from the unlimited
Class 1 for open-wheel desert race cars.

     Finishing fourth overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck was Ensenada brothers Alan Ampudia and Aaron Ampudia (No. 10 Ford 150 built by ID Designs) while eighth overall and fifth in SCORE Trophy Truck was Robby Gordon, Charlotte, N.C. (No. 77 Chevy Silverado (Custom).

     With three finishers in the top 10 overall 4-wheel vehicles, winning Trophy Truck Spec was the team of Santiago Creel, Mexico City/Jorge Sampietro, Ensenada (No. 260 Jefferies-Chevy). Second in the class and ninth overall was the team of William Hedrick Jr and William Hedrick, both of Vicente Guerrero, Mexico (No. 295 ID-Chevy), and third in their class and 10th overall was Clay Lawrence, Banning, Calif. (No. 285 LMS-Chevy).
     Winning Class 1 and finishing fifth overall was Cody Parkhouse and his father Brian Parkhouse, Long Beach, Calif. (No. 127 Jimco-Chevy). Finishing second in Class 1 and seventh overall was the team of Brendan Gaughan, Las Vegas/Buddy Feldkamp, Redlands, Calif. (No. 162 HMS-Chevy). Parkhouse is a second-gen desert racer as are Gaughan and Feldkamp. Gaughan, who won his class in last year’s SCORE Baja 1000, is in his final year of NASCAR Cup racing with one race left on his farewell tour.

     Enjoying his victory celebration at the finish line, Smith said, “Dan McMillin started the race and he did a phenomenal job, got us the truck in the top-five. He did great, so when we got in we just tried to play it smart, push what we could push and bring it to the finish. We tried to go fast when we could go fast and just save the truck when we had to do it.”

     “Our goal here was to get a good starting spot for the SCORE Baja 1000 and it looks like we’re there. We played it smart and we will start the SCORE Baja 1000, the granddaddy of them all, in a good spot. The whole team did awesome and I’d like to thank all of them for the great job and also to thank SCORE for making this happen. There were a lot of doubts out there and they put on a great race for us in the lovely town of San Felipe, so it was good.”

     In the SCORE Legend class for SCORE Trophy Truck drivers over 50 years old, Phoenix’s Nick Vanderwey survived the carnage in his class of five starters to win his class as the substitute driver for driver of record Clyde Stacy, Bristol, Va., in their RPM Racing No. 5L Chevy V16 built by Geiser Brothers. Vanderwey drove from the start to race-mile 360 and Jeff Geiser took it from there to the finish for the team’s second straight victory in the SCORE Baja 500.

    The race featured a course, finalized and plotted by SCORE President/Race Director Jose A. Grijalva of 493.00 miles. It ran both North and South of San Felipe in a counterclockwise direction on the East side of the Baja California peninsula.

     The historic race course was another memorable example of all that Mexico’s Baja California has to offer, including high-speed dirt trails, sandy, rocky and silty natural terrain, dry lake beds, majestic Baja washes and canyons, stretches along the ocean with elevations from sea level to over 3,000 feet. The course was another jewel reflecting the stark beauty of Baja California.

     There were three physical full-stop checkpoints and 198 virtual checkpoints. Checkpoint 1 is at race mile 155.63 (Laguna Salada), CP2 is at rm278.11 (Laguna Amarga) and CP3 is at rm459.11 (Camino altura Percebu). There were just six speed zones for a total of only 8.65 miles.

     The SCORE Baja 500 is one of the top motorsports events in the world. It was started originally in 1969 by the NORRA organization.

     With tremendous assistance from Ensenada tourism advocate Nico Saad, Mickey Thompson and his fledgling SCORE International organization were invited by the Mexican government to take over the event starting in 1974. Sal Fish ran and later owned and produced the SCORE Baja 500 for 39 years until he sold SCORE in December of 2012.

     Prior to this year, only four times has the race not been held in Ensenada at all. Because of continuing friction between the government and land owners, Sal Fish moved the 1984 race to the desert near Barstow, Calif., USA and again in 1989 for the same reason Fish moved the race to San Felipe.

     A distinguished group of Mexican dignitaries, led by Baja California State Governor Jaime Bonilla Valdes, visited San Felipe for the start of the race to welcome the racers back to Baja and world-wide fans via live streaming of the race.

     Joining Governor Bonilla were Mexicali Mayor Marina del Pilar Olmedo, Secretary General of Mexicali Netzhualcoyotl Jauregui, State Secretary of Sustainable Economy and Tourism Mario Escobedo Carignan, State Undersecretary of Tourism Ivette Casilla Rivera and Ensenada Mayor Aramando Ayala Robles.

     Joined by several Cabinet members at the race, Governor Bonilla held an extensive live streaming media conference in the Pavilion at the Eldorado Ranch Resort where the raced started and finished.

     The group lauded SCORE for all of its efforts in putting together the first SCORE Baja race since last November’s SCORE Baja 1000 in Ensenada, especially adhering to the strict Baja BioSecurity protocols in place during this challenging time of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic.


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