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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The 2009 San Felipe 250

The 2009 San Felipe 250
by Bob Ham

The first motorcycle team of Robby Bell and Mike Childress, riding a Kawasaki this year, took the green flag promptly at 6 a.m. Each minute thereafter, another motorcycle racer was given the start signal until all motorcycles and ATVs had left the start line. In order to give all the motorcycles time to get well under way before the larger (and often faster) trucks are started, there was a three-hour lull before the first trophy truck started the grueling 232.4-mile course.

At 10 a.m, after getting a personal “good luck and be safe greeting” from SCORE President Sal Fish, the first trophy truck driven by Damon Jeffries of Apple Valley, California, took the green flag and was quickly racing into the desert towards the famous Zoo Road and eventually through three different washes south of town before racing back to the start/finish line at the Arches. NASCAR star Robby Gordon, who is taking advantage of a weekend off on the NASCAR schedule, started 7th in truck number 77, and last year’s winner Brian Collins went off three minutes later.

Brian Collins, driving a Dodge truck, was the first Trophy Truck to finish, followed by Robby Gordon, and then the class 1 buggy driven by longtime racers Ronny and Rick Wilson of Long Beach. For the next several hours, lasting well into the night, the racers who were competing in slower classes or trophy trucks and class 1’s who ran into trouble along the course continued to finish well into the night.

“It was a perfect day,” according to Collins, his BF Goodrich tires “survived with absolutely no flats.” He also gave kudos to his navigator Billy Goerke. “I put a plan together, being patient, and I told Billy that’s what we’re going to do and he monitored my speed all the time down the really tough parts.” For his part, second place finisher Robby Gordon said he suffered a flat at about race mile 40 and the jacks didn’t work. “I got back in the car and drove about a mile and a half on a flat tire to some locals who had a floor jack and were pitting their car. I had a breaker bar and that was our flat tire changer. That was the only problem we had,” Robby said.

Ronny Wilson, the first buggy and third place overall, followed a similar strategy to Collins. “We had zero problems, we stuck to our game plan, we drove 75 percent to the 61 mile mark, then we started pushing. It’s always a good sign when the Herbst helicopter is coming back to see where you are. We chased them and we passed them when they were getting fuel at (race mile) 92 and were just on a mission after that.”

By the time all the finishers were in, of the 226 starters, 162 racers took the checkered flag for an extremely high 71.6 percent finisher rate. The winner covered the 232.4-mile course in just 3 hours, 47 minutes, 49 seconds for an average speed of 61.21 miles per hour.

The next race in the SCORE Baja series will be the Baja 500 that will start and finish in Ensenada the first weekend of June, with the actual running of the race set for Saturday, June 6. If you plan to go to Ensenada to watch any part of this Baja Classic, make your reservations early as the hotels in town fill up by race day.