by NSSN StaffLAUGHLIN, Nev. — With fire in his eyes, hunger in his belly and new tires on his race truck, Las Vegas; B.J. Baldwin was able to keep his new year’s resolution by winning the overall and SCORE Trophy victory at Saturday’s season-opening SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge by diligently racing his No. 97 Baldwin Motorsports Chevy Silverado to a winning time of 53 minutes, 45 seconds averaging 55.81 miles per hour over eight laps of the rugged 6.25-mile desert race course.
With entries from 15 U.S states along with Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany and Mexico, Round 2 of the five-race 2012 SCORE Desert Series will be held Sunday along the banks of the Colorado River in the Southern Nevada resort destination of Laughlin. Competition is being held for 20 Pro and three Sportsman classes for race buggies and trucks.
The classes are divided into groups for five multi-lap races each day. The start/finish line area and main pits will once again be located at the Laughlin Events Park just off of Casino Drive in Laughlin. The day-long second race of the weekend will start Sunday at 7 a.m.
Baldwin, who won both the 2006 and 2008 SCORE Trophy Truck season point titles, survived a tight battle for the five laps with fellow Las Vegas Rob MacCachren, finally pulling away on the sixth lap when MacCachren was had to stop to change a flat tire. Baldwin, who was also the fast qualifier for the race and started first Saturday, led physically the entire race although on corrected time he was in a dead heat with MacCachren after three laps and had a 10-second lead after five laps before MacCachren had to stop to change a tire.
Winning the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge for the third time in the last seven years, Baldwin did not finish any of the four races he ran in last year’s SCORE Desert Series and made a strong commitment to himself and his team to changes things in 2012.
“I made a personal commitment to myself and my team at the end of 2011 to never let anything get in the way of pursuit of a victory,” said Baldwin 32. “Running our race team like a business has sometimes gotten in the way of that and I’m over it, my team’s over it and we are done losing. 2012 is going to be our best year. I’d like to thank everybody that lives here in Laughlin and everybody that lets us race down here. This is a wonderful place to put on an event.”
“We were going to try and go slow for the first three laps because it is so hard on equipment but Rob MacCachren just wouldn’t let us do that. He was pushing the pace and I was trying to go as slow as I can but still go fast. He was catching me a second a lap and then on one of the laps I put three seconds on him and then the next lap he got a flat. To lose to Rob would be awesome but to beat him is even better.”
With SCORE Trophy Trucks, the premier SCORE racing division for high-tech, 850-horsepower unlimited production trucks earning eight of the top 10 overall finishing positions, winning the unlimited Class 1 for open-wheel desert race cars and finishing fifth overall was Adam Pfankuch, Oceanside, Calif., teammate of driver of record Steven Eugenio, El Centro, Calif., drove a Chevy-powered Jimco to the class win in 56:12 while averaging 53.38 mph.
Finishing second over and in SCORE Trophy-Truck was RPM Off Road driver Juan Carlos Lopez, Tecate, Mexico, who crossed the finish line1:06 behind Baldwin in 54:51, averaging 54.69 in the No. 18 Chevy Silverado while third, 25 seconds behind Lopez and 1:31 behind Baldwin was Gary Weyhrich, Troutdale in the No. 98 TSCO Racing Ford F-150.
Steven Strobel, Clarks, Neb., finished fourth overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck in the No. 94 Strobel Motorsports Ford F-150 in 55:38 with an average speed for the eight laps of 53.92mph.
With nine entries in this year’s SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge, RPM Off Road of Bristol, Tenn., won five classes in addition to Lopez’s second in SCORE Trophy Truck.
Mexico’s Eduardo Laguna and Rodolfo Iribe won Class 6 (Chevy Colorado) and Class 8 (Chevy Silverado) respectively for RPM Off Road while driver of record Clyde Stacy, Bristol, Va. was credited with two class wins (Class 2-PSD-Chevy and Class 5-1600-VW Baja Bug) although Steve Arlia, Phoenix and Thomas Fernandez, Ensenada, Mexico, both drive Saturday and Stacy will drive both on Sunday to remain eligible for season points. RPM’s fifth class win Saturday was earned by Derek Fletcher, Abingdon, Va., in Class 4 in another PSD-Chevy.
In the closest class race of the race, Clemson University freshman Rafael Navarro IV, the defending season class champ in his class defeated Otoniel Huerta, San Luis, Ariz., in SCORE Lites by just two seconds in his Jimco-VW.
Adding to his record of most class winners in the this race was Donald Moss of Sacramento, Calif. who won Class 3 for the ninth time in a Ford Bronco.
Earning his fifth class win in Laughlin was San Diego’s Kevin Carr (Class 5, unlimited VW Baja Bug).
Besides Baldwin, also winning his class for a third time in Laughlin was Dan Chamlee, Carpenteria, Calif. (Class 7).