CORONA, Calif. --
This will be the first venture in the classic desert race for both drivers and their anticipation is only exceeded by their desire to perform well in the event. Earlier this week, the tandem headed to Barstow, California after the Las Vegas NHRA race to participate in some practice runs getting acquainted with the car and feel of the rough terrain.
This year marks the 40th annual running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000. This year's race will cover nearly 1,300 miles of the roughest most unforgiving terrain the famous Mexican desert has to offer. Held in Mexico's majestic Baja California peninsula, the race will start in downtown Ensenada on the morning of November 13 and runs non stop through the mountains, desert, sand washes, coastlines and towns to the finish line at the tip of the Baja peninsula in Cabo San Lucas.
In this year's event it will be a race that three NHRA competitors won't forget. It all started when John Spar formerly of B&M Racing asked two of the sport's Top Fuel superstars, Morgan Lucas and J.R. Todd to join him in the race. Spar who has competed in the race for many years on a motorcycle had signed on to drive a state of the art 2008 Penhall Class 1 Diablo for Hullinger Motorsports based in Southern California. Spar discussed the concept of doing some cross over marketing with some of his NHRA comrades. Hullinger agreed and the team was set. Lucas and Todd have since had time to get in the car for some prerace testing. Following the final race in Pomona the entire team will undergo hundreds and hundreds more miles of pre-running in Mexico and many countless hours of strategic race planning and driver education on the brutal 1,300 miles of race course.
The team is going to split the driving duties between Hullinger, Lucas, Todd and Spar throughout the race to keep them fresh and focused during the 25-plus hour race. "Team leader, John Spar really handled it right," said Lucas. "He gave us a couple of tidbits leading up to more information. His partner, Ed (Hullinger) and the guys on the team really took care of us. They were patient with our learning curve and it went pretty smooth once we got there. When we first arrived, John Spar took us on a ride and showed us some of the potential of the vehicle. He showed us how to drive, how to approach certain landscape and how to be aggressive and what to watch for on the surface and to keep an eye on the big rocks on the course.
"It's just finishing the SCORE Baja 1000 and it's more about that than how fast can you go. There are a lot of variables here that you don't have to worry about in drag racing. With the way we were shown, you have a lot different respect for the race and what you're driving. We started slow and steadily increased our progression of how to drive to match the circumstances. We know when we go to Mexico everything will be different. You never know what you will find going over a jump and that you will have to be ready for just about anything." J.R. Todd didn't ever think that a drag racing career would lead him into this meaningful desert race excursion, but he probably thought the same thing when his friend Lucas asked him to participate in the Bodine Bobsled Challenge last year pitting the young NHRA talents against some of NASCAR's finest.
"Oh, no, never," said NHRA five-time winner, J.R. Todd when asked of racing in such an event. "I've seen the race on television plenty of times thinking it would be plenty cool to ever drive in it. Morgan and I were fortunate to be able to go out on Tuesday night and drive a desert race vehicle in Barstow (Calif.). It was so much fun and it's hard to put it into words. We're looking forward to heading down to Mexico to compete. Hopefully, we'll come out in one piece along with the race car and who knows; maybe we'll finish off with a top five finish. My main goal is to go out and complete the race and have some fun. It will be quite the experience, I'm sure that I will be talking about it for many years to come."
Lucas and Todd will be tackling the first section tearing out of Ensenada driving the first 200 miles before handing over the Penhall-Chevy over to Spar and Hullinger ending the first of 10 sections split up between the drivers.
"I'll be driving first leg and there will be five driver changes throughout the race," said Lucas. "We get to be the ones driving by all the people when we're leaving town. Our big worry is to not to stall the car at the start and be sure not to hit anything. Once we get going, that should be a milestone in itself. Spar and Hullinger will be driving at night. I've watched this race numerous years on television and have heard the stories of the pitfalls and antics some people will do. Being the 40th anniversary of the race means just that much more for me. It's going to be nationally televised. We're all competitive and we all want to race hard, but honestly, we want to have fun and who knows if we'll get a chance to race in the 50th.SCORE Baja 1000."
The Hullinger Motorsports team and car will be wearing the Lucas Oil and Torco Race Fuels colors with support from K&N Filters, BFGoodrich Tires, Impact Racing, Auto Meter, XRP, Legendary Aircraft, Creative Image, Stable Imaging & Walsh Financial Services.
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