Turning the tables on last year’s results, San Diego’s third-generation desert racer Luke McMillin topped Las Vegas’ Bryce Menzies as he roared through the Baja desert to defeat a voluminous 273 starters in Saturday’s King Shocks 35th SCORE San Felipe 250.
McMillin, 29, drove solo to power his No. 83 Mason-built all-wheel drive Chevy 1500 to lead the third-largest number of starters in race history to an inspiring error-free, penalty-free winning time of four hours, 25 minutes and 21 seconds over the sun-drenched, rock-filled, silt-strewn 277 miles for a remarkable average speed of 62.63mph.
Under sunny skies, light winds and mild temperatures in the mid-70s, McMillin had plenty of competition behind him in the superb field of 42 of the marquee SCORE Trophy Trucks and 269 starters, third-most in the 35-year history of the race. Ahead of him were fast qualifier Menzies, second-qualifier Justin Lofton and 273 total starters. Finishers called it “one of the most beautifully brutal courses ever” in the history of this race.
The season opener of the four-race SCORE World Desert Championship was held in San Felipe, the peaceful village on the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico, 125 miles south of the U.S. Border at Calexico, Calif.
The race will be televised as a one-hour special on the World of X Games program on ESPN2. The first air date is scheduled for Sunday, May 15.
Menzies, 34, was fast qualifier for the second straight year in San Felipe and ended up finishing second in the race, driving his No. 7 Menzies Motorsports AWD Ford Raptor built by Mason Motorsports in 4h27m30s, with an average speed of 62.13mph.
Rounding out the podium in third place was the team of Mike Walser, 55, Comfort, Texas/Jax Redline, 17, Amarillo, Texas in a time of 4h29m19s in their AWD Mason-built No. 89 Chevy Silverado with an average speed of 61.71mph.
Following in the dusty tracks of his grandfather Corky McMillin and his father Mark McMillin in desert racing, Luke McMillin, who qualified third behind Menzies and Lofton, closed in on Menzies after getting by Lofton fairly early in the race. The battled raged for well over 100 miles as McMillin got by Menzies when the later had stopped to change a flat and then Menzies got by McMillin when the No. 83 had an issue while pitting and McMillin passed Menzies for the last time when the No. 7 had another flat.
After losing by just 15.54 seconds to Menzies last year, McMillin won this year with a victory margin of two minutes, nine seconds. It was McMillin’s first SCORE San Felipe 250 race with his AWD Mason SCORE Trophy Truck which debuted at last year’s SCORE Baja 500.
After winning the SCORE Baja 1000 in both 2020 (splitting driving with Larry Roeseler) and 2022 (splitting the driving with Rob MacCachren), McMillin drove solo to earn his first SCORE Trophy Truck win in San Felipe. He also won in the unlimited Class 1 10 years ago when he was just 19 years old.
McMillin has now earned three career SCORE Trophy Truck race wins and he also has four career SCORE season point championships include 2020 in SCORE Trophy Truck.
Congrats to Luke McMillin, the Unofficial SCORE Trophy Truck Winner of the @kingshocks 35th SCORE San Felipe 250! #sanfelipe250 #bajacalifornia @BFGoodrichTires @MonsterEnergy @PolarisRZR @RacelineWheels @VPRacingFuels @Ford @pciraceradios @4WheelParts @OptimaBatteries pic.twitter.com/tvoXDDiJz7
— SCORE International (@SCOREintl) April 2, 2022
“It feels really, really good — we ran clean today, and had no issues at all. We just kept moving all day. We picked off Lofton (Justin, No. 41) going up north and then there was some back and forth with Bryce (Menzies, No. 7) on a couple of occasions. We passed them on the lake bed when they were changing a tire. We had a little hiccup on our pit and they got by us. We were 30 seconds behind him and we passed them as they pulled over. It was just cat and mouse.
“I want to give a big shoutout to BFGoodrich Tires. This is their 100th SCORE Baja race win and that’s amazing. BFGoodrich Tires really helped us win this race today along with the rest of our sponsor partners. BFGoodrich Tires are a key ingredient to racing success in the desert. It was rocky and rough. This is a heavy truck and our BFGs held on and now we’re here in first place. What a spectacular way to start the season.”
Switching from the unique Pro Moto Ironman class for solo riders after winning two straight season class point championships, Bolivia’s legendary athlete and Dakar Rally veteran Juan Carlos Salvatierra teamed up with Mexico’s Arturo Salas and USA’s Shane Logan and the three-nation team was the Overall Motorcycle and Pro Moto Unlimited Class winner in this year’s SCORE San Felipe 250.
With Salas starting, Logan, of San Diego, taking the second section, Salvatierra, 40, finished up for the impressive victory on his KTM 450SX-F.
After Logan crashed, Salvatierra rode the final section of the race course with no seat.
“San Felipe is always extremely demanding because of all the whoops and the rocks. It’s a course that always demands riders to be physically fit and extremely aware of everything,” Salvatierra said. “We prepared really well and I’m very thankful for my mechanics that prepared the bike and my co-riders. They all did a fantastic job.
“Arturo started really well and built a good gap for us. Shane had a crash and lost the seat and some other parts and handed me a half-bike, but we made it. The final section was really fun and enjoyable. It wasn’t that fast, but it was very technical.”
Veteran Southern California SCORE champion racer Wayne Matlock beat 55 UTVs competing in five different classes including 10 in his Pro UTV Open class.
Matlock, 44, of Alpine, Calif., drove solo in his No. 1871 Matlock Racing Polaris RZR Pro R to the UTV Overall title in a time of 6h08m50s while averaging 45.06mph. This was his eighth career SCORE San Felipe 250 class victory. He also have seven career SCORE season class point titles, including five on quads and two in UTVs.
Racing against her husband in the same class for the first time, SCORE champion racer Kristin Matlock, 41, finished eighth in her Polaris RZR Pro R. It was her first race in Pro UTV Open class. The three previous San Felipe races (2018, 2019, 2021), she won the Pro UTV NA (Naturally Aspirated) class.
Winning the Pro UTV FI (Forced Induction) class that had 29 starters was Justin Lambert, 46, in his No. 2918 Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo S. Atop the Pro UTV NA class was SCORE veteran motorcycle champion Joe Bolton, 64, in his No. 1957 Polaris RZR XP1000.
Capturing the checkered flag in the Pro UTV Stock class was Brent Stowell, 60, Gilbert, Ariz. in his No. 3910 Can-Am X3.