Friday, November 23, 2007

Baja 1000 Race Reports from Watson Imperial County

The 40th annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 was good to some but a grueling race for others.For some locals, the record 1,296.39-mile race provided glory and several stories that will be told for generations. Tom Watson of El Centro and his team are celebrating their fourth consecutive SCORE Lite Class points championship after winning their class at the Baja 1000.
It was also the team’s second consecutive Baja 1000 win in its class — a first in the class since it started in 1997. To make that more exciting, the team entered the race with a two-point lead over the second-place team. “They were 30 seconds behind us at mile marker 1,200,” Watson said. “We had to race them the very last quarter.” While Watson and his team saw victory, the other team saw disappointment. The team ran off the road two miles from the finish line. To make things more difficult, Watson’s vehicle lost its third gear early in the race. We had to shift from first to second to fourth for 1,100 miles,” Watson said. “It was, really, a heart-breaker for those guys, but happy that every thing went good for us.” Calexico’s Carlos Albañez and his team also brought home the Class 5 points championship after finishing second in the class at the Baja 1000.
It was the team’s first points championship, and like Watson, the team faced major problems.
With about 800 miles to go, the car went down for about five hours with suspension problems.
“We thought we were sure going to choke,” Albañez said. The team went into the Baja 1000 in second in its class and needed only to finish in front of the first place team. “You’re right there, you see all the cars passing you by and you think you’re not going to do this,” Albañez said. But the team was able to fix the suspension and as luck would have it, the first-place team had major engine problems and didn’t finish. “I want to thank the whole team … I wouldn’t have been able to do anything and it really worked out,” Albañez said. One of the co-drivers, Mario Gastelum of El Centro, brought in the car for the last 200 miles. “He had most of the pressure,” Albañez said.

In the Protruck Class, Brawley’s Jimmy Nuckles helped his team win the race and points championship in that class. “They gave me the truck in the lead and all I had to do was win it — I had the easy part,” Nuckles said in a press release from SCORE. Nuckles and his team also won the race in the same class in 2005. For Imperial’s Jeff Carter and Chris Williams, the Baja 1000 was about getting experience. It was Carter’s first Baja 1000 while driving a KORE vehicle in the Stock Full Class and finished fourth at the race. “It was nice to finish. Those trucks go through a lot of punishment,” Carter said. “We’re real happy with it and we hope to come back again next year and do better.” The team doesn’t compete in the season series, just the Baja 1000. “It was a really great race; a little bit longer than usual, but for the 40th anniversary it was worth it,” Williams said. “I think any more and people would have been sick of it.”

Baja Racing