At last November’s SCORE Baja 1000, off-road star Bryce Menzies’ face at the Ensenada finish line said it all. As his Red Bull teammate Andy McMillin finally crossed the race’s finish line after a deflating loss, Menzies’ frown reflected the pain of deflated expectations.
The pairing of the Menzies and McMillin was money, a sure bet sidelined when Bryce made a rare mental error that overturned the race truck and the well-placed hopes for victory.
Not one to rest on laurels or adversity, at today’s second annual Toyo Tires Desert Invitational for the unlimited T-1 (Trophy-Truck) class, Menzies looked like a man possessed, parlaying this morning’s dominating qualifying performance into a huge comeback victory at the 2020 King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley, California.
Piloting his newly completed No. 7 Red Bull/Toyo Ford all-wheel drive built by Mason Motorsports, Menzies and co-driver Oren Anderson navigated the rocky and treacherous 300-mile Desert Invitational course with blazing speed and a fluid style.
Their winning performance underscored the rapidly emerging trend of all-wheel trucks being the vehicles to have as the sport moves into 2020, a paradigm brought into sharper focus on the tight and twisty deserts that are just a short drive from Palm Springs.
“Man, that course was tough and just so rocky,” shared Menzies from the podium. “After the first lap, I just wanted to play it smart. The last section was like a cliche — I kept hearing all these noises. But it was all good. The Toyo tires were incredible; we had just one flat all day.”
Not only was the victory good for Menzies’ mindset, but his racing account as well thanks to a winning payout of $100,000 for the day. When asked what he would do with the money, he didn’t hesitate, stating “I am going to take all my guys out back home in Las Vegas for a really big time; they deserve it.”
For the Menzies Motorsports camp, the victory was also a highly sentimental one as the event represented the final desert race for longtime team crew chief Charlie Schelive. A resident of iconic Crandon, Wisconsin, the cousin of Crandon International Raceway President Cliff Flannery was instrumental in forging the effort’s winning heritage.
Through the first lap, Menzies was pressed hard by none other than Red Bull/Toyo teammate Andy McMillin, who had qualified second in his nearly identical Mason all-wheel drive. An error in the race’s first pit stop (McMillin overshot his pit slot) and an electrical gremlin set him back, forcing the San Diego native to push hard to regain ground. A short while later, McMillin rolled his truck, ending his day.
Upholding the McMillin name was Andy’s cousin Luke, the defending race champion. Luke enjoyed a trouble-free day in his No. 83 4WP/BFGoodrich Racer Ford, but was clearly outpaced thanks to his machine’s traditional two-wheel drive configuration.
“I gave it all I had. I drove this truck for all it was worth,” stated Luke, who is expecting the delivery of a new Mason all-wheel drive truck in the near future. “We are consistent, and we will win some races this season. Bryce can drive, I have to hand it to him.”
Rounding out the top three was Las Vegas resident BJ Baldwin and his No. 97 Monster Energy/Toyo Toyota. The performance was long in coming for the ever-popular social media sensation, as his ability to post top-three finishes has suffered in recent times.
In all, just six entries finished from a starting field of 16 trucks — a testament to the event’s world-renowned reputation for being the toughest single-day off-road race.
Tomorrow morning, more than 130 unlimited Ultra4 class 4400 machines will take on that challenge for the 2020 King of the Hammers race, an event won last year by three-time winner Jason Scherer.