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53rd SCORE Baja 1000: Race Preview

In a trying year for all forms of motorsport, that we’ve still got a SCORE Baja 1000 to look forward to is a testament to a massive effort by all parties involved. The most iconic, and final major, desert race of the year concludes an abbreviated two-race SCORE schedule for 2020, with hopes high among all parties that 2021 will represent a return to normalcy.

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A rough and technical 898.4-mile loop, the longest loop course in event history, awaits the 178 vehicles entered in this year’s event. Starting and finishing in Ensenada, teams will have 40 hours to complete the grueling route, which features some portions of the course that SCORE used for the 52nd Baja 500 in September.

Not since Rob MacCachren in 2016 has this race seen a back-to-back overall winner, with Apdaly Lopez coming out on top in 2017, Cameron Steele conquering the race two years ago, and brothers Alan, Aaron, and Rodrigo Ampudia taking the win last year. After winning the Baja 500 earlier this year, Dan McMillin will look to extend that streak in the premier Trophy Truck class. McMillin beat Tim Herbst by more than five minutes in that race, with brother Luke a further 11 minutes behind. They’ll start first, second, and third in the race.

But with a number of superteams in the starting lineup, who comes out on top this weekend is anyone’s guess. Bryce Menzies and defending SCORE champion Andy McMillin will team up, while MacCachren welcomes Josh Daniel into the driver’s seat after Jason Voss’ massive crash at the BlueWater Desert Challenge. And that’s not even counting Concrete Motorsports’ full-time duo of Kevin Thompson and Harley Letner, who clinched the Best in the Desert title last month.

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The Class 1 battle includes Baja 500 winner Cody Parkhouse and defending Baja 1000 class winner Brendan Gaughan starting first and second, while Justin Lofton will team up with Mario Fuentes at fourth off of the line in a Jimco Hammerhead. The Trophy Truck Spec entry list sits at 17 trucks, with Santiago Creel leading them off the line to pair with his Pro Moto Unlimited entry. Chase Warren tops a deep field of 13 Class 10 vehicles in hopes of making up for a DNF in the Baja 500.

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Pro UTV Forced Induction equals the Trophy Trucks with a race-high 23 entries, with Matt Burroughs and Jason Murray carrying their first and second place finishes from the Baja 500 into this weekend’s starting order and former SCORE World Desert Champion Wayne Matlock electing to start from the back. Kristen Matlock will do the same in Pro UTV Normally Aspirated after taking her second overall UTV victory in the Baja 500 in three years.

Class 2, meanwhile, will see Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus’ Baja Boot and Ford’s BroncoR go head-to-head once more, with Darren Skilton and Cameron Steele listed as the drivers of record, respectively. Round one went to the Boot at last year’s Baja 1000 after the BroncoR took a DNF, but can Ford’s all-star team that includes Shelby Hall, Johnny Campbell, Curt LeDuc, and Jason Scherer even the score?

Finally, on two wheels, Mark Samuels and Santiago Creel will resume their battle in the premier Pro Moto Unlimited class. The earliest-starting division in the event will kick things off on Friday at 4AM local time, six hours before Dan McMillin leads the four-wheel classes into the desert at 10AM.

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The 53rd SCORE Baja 1000 will air on ABC’s World of X Games in the coming months. After the conclusion of the event, racers will begin preparations for the 2021 SCORE World Desert Championship, which commences with the return of the 34th SCORE San Felipe 250 on February 9-14.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.