As five stars of the sport dueled in the desert heat Saturday, San Diego’s third-generation desert racer Dan McMillin teamed with Justin B. 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-mile desert race course in eight hours, 29.17 seconds with an usually high average speed of 58.08mph. They pair the No. 23 McMillin Racing Chevy C1500 built by Mason Motorsports.
With significant Biosecurity Protocols established, approved and initiated because of the COVID-19 pandemic including no spectators for the contingency, start and finish line area at the Eldorado Ranch resort in San Felipe, it was the first SCORE Baja race since last November’s SCORE Baja 1000.
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 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 5m34s 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 at $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, Dan 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 father 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 D. 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 podium were Tim Herbst/Pat Dean and Daniel’s younger brother Luke McMillin, 27.
From another of the legendary racing families in SCORE racing history, Tim Herbst, 57, and his second driver Pat Dean 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 8h34m51s in their No. 19 Monster Energy Terrible Herbst Motorsports Herbst-Smith built Ford F-150.
Dan McMillin was unofficially second until the No. 19 truck was penalized more than McMillin was with one-time penalty.
Luke McMillin mixed it up with his older brother Daniel throughout the race, finishing in third place overall and in SCORE Trophy Truck with a time of 8h45m15s in the No. 83 Mark Racing Racer-built Ford F-150.
Riding the No. 1x Honda CRF450X, Mark Samuels, 30, and his three-rider team and his three-rider team raced to the overall motorcycle victory for his ninth consecutive overall motorcycle win in the SCORE World Desert Championship and his fourth overall win in this race. The trio crossed the finish line in 10h50m11s at an average speed of 44.76mph.
Morgan split the riding with Justin Morgan, 30, who won his fifth overall motorcycle crown in the last six years in this race and Justin Jones, Murrieta, Calif. who won his second consecutive SCORE overall motorcycle title in this race.
Samuels started and quickly switched to Morgan, who rode to race mile 236. Mark Samuels rode from race mile 236 to race mile to 395. Justin Jones rode from race mile 395 to race mile 459. Mark Samuels rode from race mile 459 to the finish.
For Honda, it was the 22nd overall motorcycle victory in the SCORE BAja 500.
Besides the podium finishers, 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 were 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 (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 Cree/Jorge Sampietro (No. 260 Jefferies-Chevy). Second in the class and ninth overall was the team of William Hedrick Jr and William Hedrick (No. 295 ID-Chevy), and third in their class and 10th overall was Clay Lawrence (No. 285 LMS-Chevy).
Winning Class 1 and finishing fifth overall was Cody Parkhouse and his father Brian Parkhouse (No. 127 Jimco-Chevy). Finishing second in Class 1 and seventh overall was the team of Brendan Gaughan/Buddy Feldkamp, (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.
Defeating 36 total UTVs to win the overall UTV win title and her Pro UTV NA (Naturally Aspirated) in this year’s race was Kristen Matlock, a racing mother of two and wife of PRO UTV FI star Wayne Matlock, with a winning time of 10h49m02s in her No. 2971 Polaris RZR XP4 1000. No stranger to the SCORE winner’s circle and podium, she amazing once again drove solo to the victory.
The race will be televised on a delayed basis as a one-hour special on the ABC “World of X Games”