Baja 1000: Winners and also-rans

Image by Boyd Jaynes/SCG

Baja 1000: Winners and also-rans

Off Road

Baja 1000: Winners and also-rans

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Winner: Brendan Gaughan

It took decades for 44-year old Brendan Gaughan, the son of pioneering racer and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Michael Gaughan, to finally bring a Baja victory back to their Las Vegas home. A NASCAR journeyman in both the Cup and Xfinity series, Brendan returned to his off-road roots this year, driving an older Class 1 buggy sponsored by his family’s South Point Casino.

For the Baja 1000, Gaughan teamed with young phenom R.J. Anderson (who won September’s huge Red Bull Crandon Cup short-course race) and desert veteran Buddy Feldkamp. The effort over-came tough conditions that took out better equipped Class 1 competitors, earning an unexpected victory and 20th overall in the final standings.

Baja delivered an emotional boost Gaughan never got from NASCAR. Image by Get Some Photo

Gaughan was visibly moved at the finish, saying that the win “was way better than anything I have experienced in the last 20 years in NASCAR.” The only blemish on their performance was that two of the traditionally slower Class 10 buggies (limited displacement) of Chase Warren and Eliseo Garcia beat them back to Ensenada on time. Congratulations to all.

Winner: Glickenhaus/SCG Boot

History will record that Class 2 at the 2019 SCORE Baja 1000 was won by Darren Skilton, Viry Felix and John Krellwitz in an SCG (Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus) Boot (pictured, top of page). Coordinated by Skilton and created by Southern California’s Armada Engineering for Jim and son Jesse Glickenhaus, the revamped Baja Boot project lit the imagination of the racing community and media (traditional and social) in a big way.

After months of getting things ready for the Boot’s Baja 1000 debut, the team scratched and clawed its way around the 800-mile course, overcoming several issues including a broken spindle just nine miles from their goal. All of that persistence must have pleased the Baja racing gods, because when the timing clocks stopped, they achieve an official finish by just 16 seconds after 33h59m14s of racing.

Glickenhaus Boots old and new. Image by Boyd Jaynes/SCG

That alone made them winners, but what stood out to so many was the way rookie Glickenhaus and his troop executed the entire program. From beginning to end, they paid tribute to Baja 1000 history and the Boot, blending old and new with a retro mentality that extended from their Steve McQueen-inspired driving suits to a deep respect for the entire undertaking. Better yet, watching Jim and Jesse drive the priceless original Baja Boot around Ensenada like a well-used Prius set just the right tone. They came, they saw, and they conquered. Better yet, they understood.

Also Ran: Ford Bronco R

On the other side of the coin was the well-publicized Ford Bronco R factory effort. From the onset, the program seemed a bit disjointed, with the finished race vehicle clearly the result of too many cooks in the fabrication and engineering kitchen. The exercise was a collaboration between Ford, Ford Performance, Geiser Brothers Engineering and Cameron Steele’s Desert Assassin team. While everyone was very pleased and grateful to see a factory effort back at Baja, at the same time it was miles away from a program as polished as the recently ended Ganassi Ford GT campaign.

With an army of top-flight drivers, co-drivers, mechanics, engineers, media guests, PR and marketing staff, the Ford folks were everywhere in Baja. That didn’t help when myriad of apparently non-production parts and silly mistakes like too light of a skid plate (they had to fabricate on in the field using a nearby stop sign) forced the team to quit and head back to Ensenada.

Was the Bronco’s “finish line portrait” a marketing step too far?

All that is just racing, but then someone at Ford or SCORE or both decided it was OK to have the Bronco cross the finish line and take official photographs. While there were no checkered flags to be seen, with all due respect the PR stunt was a completely inauthentic move, and disrespectful of every other race team that had literally poured their lives into reaching Ensenada and earning their right to enjoy time in the spotlight as official finishers. This is the world’s toughest endurance race, not a marketing exercise.

The good news is that just before the race Ford announced its official support of SCORE International as the official truck and SUV of the series through the 2022 Baja 1000. That will give Ford ample time to better understand off-road racing culture and get the highly anticipated Bronco R to the finish line for real.

Click on the thumbnails for more images from the 2019 Baja 1000…

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