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Round 1, 2005 SCORE Desert Series
11th Annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge
SECOND DAY RACE NOTES AND QUOTES - Sunday, January 16, 2005

Chris Bowman (519), Upland, AZ, needed to make up four and half minutes to win the class championship against the winningest driver in Laughlin Desert Challenge history, as George Seeley, Jr. (500), Glendale, AZ, has won six titles. Bowman managed to do that as Seeley broke down on the final lap. “I can’t believe this!” exclaimed Bowman. “I raced SCORE races in the late ‘70s, then took a 25-year absence and now I’m back. I couldn’t do this without everyone’s help – my complete crew did a great job. Thanks to George Seeley too – he is a true gentleman. And two thumbs up for Laughlin – I love it!”

CLASS 5/1600
Jeff Sack
(555), Huntington Beach, AZ, was third in Sunday’s race, but his overall time gave him the class championship by 21 seconds over Billy Gereghty (551), Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “Billy is a real close friend, and it was a two-car race,” Sack said. “This is my sixth year racing Laughlin and you have to pay respect to your first lap. You really have to take a look at it before you really give it a run. We turned it up a notch. I started first, which was really important to me.”

Gereghty, a former start line official who followed in his father’s footsteps in working SCORE events, made up some time from his Saturday race deficit, but only enough to move into second place in the final race position. “Trying to make up a minute and a half against Jeff is nearly impossible,” Gereghty said. “I led the first lap but then Jeff got by me.”

Eric Fisher
(900), Ensenada, Mexico, repeated his feat of winning in Laughlin, as he was the only competitor in Class 9 to successfully finish last year’s race. This year he not only had to complete the four laps, but worry about time as well. “It’s was a very smooth race,” Fisher said through an interpreter. “It’s a good way to start the year. The course was rough – it’s hard for Class 9.”

Scott Pellerin
(1103), Romoland, AZ, reclaimed the Class 11 championship he won in 2002 and 2003. “Today the jump was nothing,” Pellerin stated. “The desert is nasty though, that’s where all kinds of stuff happens. But it was fun.”

Robert Naughton
(1213), Flagstaff, Ariz., stood in fourth place in Saturday’s tight race, which saw the top six drivers finish within 1:20 of each other. Sunday’s version was just as close, with the top six finishing within 1:14 of each other, but it wasn’t the same six vehicles as Saturday. Naughton’s time on Sunday was nearly a minute slower than his Saturday time, yet it was good enough to give him the fastest combined time in the class.

James Golden (1203), Newport Beach, AZ, was in second place by just five seconds on Saturday, then placed fifth in Sunday’s competition yet still maintained his second-place spot combined. “We rolled on lap three but we put it back on it’s wheels and started up again,” Golden said. “We tried to keep a good pace. We were on a high-speed stretch and my adrenaline was pumping too much when we rolled it. I don’t think my navigator has an ounce of fear in his body.”

Jake Batulis (1201), San Clemente, AZ, led Saturday but his fifth-place finish Sunday put him in fifth place overall in the class. “I wanted to get ahead of Rob (MacCachren, who was piloting the 1206 car) because we started together, but I didn’t,” Batulis said. “I tried chasing him. I saw him pull over and got excited and looked over. I hit a rock and got a flat.”

Jimmy Nuckles
(288), Brawley, AZ, and co-driver Jeff Dickerson, Brawley, AZ, claimed their third straight Laughlin title, as Dickerson steered his way to a third-place spot in Sunday’s race. The winner of Sunday’s leg was Gustavo Vildosola Jr. (204), Mexicali, Mexico, who was ninth on Saturday. “We had a great time,” Dickerson said. “Laughlin is a great town and a great race. We had a trouble-free race and that’s all you can ask for. It’s going to be a tough class this year, there’s a lot of talent out there.”

Todd Wyllie
(800), New River, Ariz., succeeded in becoming the sixth different class winner in this event in as many years. “Zero problems, zero flats,” Wyllie said afterwards. “I just wanted to hold my time and I came in first. The course is a lot tougher than yesterday, and a lot different.” Wyllie was trailing after three laps in Sunday’s race by nearly a minute, but pulled out both the day’s win as well as the class championship.

Craig Turner
(710), Yorba Linda, AZ, was the fastest finisher both Saturday and Sunday. The 2002 Laughlin Desert Challenge winner, Turner also won three events last season, but placed second in the season points standings. “We started in the back of the pack but we went through them,” Turner said afterwards. “It was a good day. This one bit us in the butt last year – it took us out of the championship. We just want to finish all the races this year. Today we knew we just had to keep a steady pace and it paid off.”

John Holmes
(739), Olivenhein, AZ, trailed Saturday’s race after falling behind the first two laps and making up some time on the third and final lap. Determined to move out of his second-place standing, he registered the fastest times during each of the three laps on Sunday and won the combined time by over two minutes.

Greg Zamarripa
(728), San Diego, did a last minute switch from Class 7S and it paid off. His time would have put him fourth in Class 7S, but instead he won his class.

Terry Henn
(861), Walnut, AZ, took his spot in the winner’s circle after winning the races both days. “We had a good crew that got us crew,” Henn said. “It was a lot rougher for us, we don’t have the suspension that the other trucks do.”

For the fourth straight year, Donald Moss (300), Sacramento, AZ, was crowned class champion of the Laughlin Desert Challenge. He drove Saturday while brother Ken handled Sunday’s driving chores. “We had a 10-minute lead from yesterday, so we just wanted to keep them in sight,” Ken said. “It was a lot rougher than the pre-run, that’s for sure. It wasn’t too bad though, being wet, there wasn’t as much dust.”

Kash Vessels
(1008), San Marcos, AZ, showed that consistency pays off, and that equates to cash money. Saturday’s race saw the top seven racers cross the line all within 1:33 of each other. Perhaps that was because of the added incentive for the Jason Hunter Memorial Class 10 race was the $25,000 bonus purse posted by Hunter Motorsports to honor the memory of the 2001 SCORE Rookie of the Year who was killed in an automobile accident on Jan. 4, 2004. Starting with $10,000 for first, the purse will pay down to seventh. Vessels was fifth on Saturday and third on Sunday, but the two other racers he trailed today were both behind him in Saturday’s race. “It was a lot rougher than yesterday,” Vessels observed. “I didn’t get one flat tire, but I was missing shifts – we lost fourth gear on the last lap. I took it easy the first day and I shouldn’t have – I paid for it today. My planning today was just go crazy and I did.”

Darren Hardesty (1021), Ramona, AZ, used a strong second-place finish on Sunday to place second in the combined times. Hardesty began the day in eighth place, but needing to make up just 1:44. Hardesty survived the attrition that claimed the top four vehicles from Saturday, and five of the top six, as all of those failed to complete the necessary four laps. Hardesty ended up in second place by 15 seconds in the two-day total. “I had a lucky draw (starting first on Sunday), and I’m excited about that,” Hardesty said. “There was no dust until the last lap when we caught lapped traffic. It was a pretty clean run. Today we just went for it. The car is brand new – it’s just the second race with it – and so far, so good. Whew – that was fun!”

GROUP #5: CLASS 1/2-1600
Adam Pfankuch
(1629), Carlsbad, AZ, trailed last year’s Laughlin Desert Challenge winner Rob MacCachren (1612), Las Vegas, by 26 seconds after Saturday’s race. But Pfankuch seized his opportunity and posted the fastest time on Sunday to lay claim to the class championship. “My plan was to go as fast as I could the first three laps,” Pfankuch said. “If I couldn’t pass him (MacCachren), then I would take second. But Rob had some trouble so it worked out. He was pulling time on me the first lap but he had trouble on the second lap.” MacCachren sported the class’ fastest times in laps one, three and four, but his troubles on the second lap cost him the title and he was forced to settle for second place.

Travis Fletcher (1602), Westminster, AZ, was third in Saturday’s race, second in Sunday’s contest, and second for the combined. “It was a perfect day,” Fletcher said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. I worked on my shocks last night to prepare for the course today. I got third last year and second this year. Today I was kinda conservative in some areas. In the areas I wanted to push it I saw cars upside down, so I had to be more conservative.”

Gary Stairs (1621), Saugus, AZ, was listed as placing 45th out of 46 starters, but yet a co-driver of his won an unofficial award. His son, 16-year old Garrett, was assuredly the Laughlin’s Largest, as he measured in at 6’9”.

Dale Ebberts
(126), Canyon Lake, AZ, won the class championship for the third time, and was the overall champion for the second year. Entering Sunday’s race in third place, Ebberts averaged 55.77 mph over the 88-mile course to bring home the trophy. Ebberts finished as the only driver to complete each of his eight laps in under 12 minutes, with a slim range of 11:45 to 11:58, and amazingly the fastest times (11:45) were accomplished on the last two laps on Sunday, after 228 other vehicles had torn up the course for two days. “It went good,” Ebberts understated. “We just stayed consistent with the leaders. The two guys ahead of us had troubles. We pushed real hard the last lap to make sure we had the times to win. Nothing too exciting happened but it’s real crazy out there. It was going to take (Brian) Ickler having some troubles. Every lap you’re just pushing harder. You pre-run on Friday and it’s a pretty smooth course and then it definitely changes on Saturday and again on Sunday. Laughlin is the most intense, thrilling thing you can do.”

Mark Weyhrich (118), Troutdale, OR, was 11th in Saturday’s race but had the second fastest time on Sunday to move up to third place in the class. “The first day coming off the Leap I got out-horsepowered, and on the ensuing turn a rock came off and took my visor off – that cost me some time,” Weyhrich said. “I fought back from 11th place today. There was no dust yesterday, but it was dusty today – a bad day to start 11th. There was a lip on the Leap and they watered it down below – I almost flipped it. I only hit it at about 55 (mph), and I usually hit it at 85.” Weyhrich finished right behind (17 seconds) his brother Gary Weyhrich (121), Troutdale, Ore.

In another close family battle, the three generations of McMillins placed fifth through seventh in Sunday’s competition. Mark McMillin (105), El Cajon, AZ, was fifth in combined times, while his nephew Andy (123), Poway, AZ, was sixth, with six seconds splitting the two drivers. “My goal was just to finish, just be steady,” Mark said. “I’m happy with that. After the first lap I was thinking ‘it’s way too slow.’ The Leap is a ton of fun – it looks scarier than it really is.” Andy experienced some troubles which had his last two laps almost three minutes slower than his first six laps. “Our spare tire fell off on the first lap,” Andy said of Sunday’s race. “Then coincidentally, almost right where it fell off, on the second lap we got a flat. The fourth lap we had no rear suspension.”

Brian Ickler (104), Poway, AZ, had exactly a two-minute lead following Saturday’s race. His time of 44:48 was also good for the fastest overall time of any vehicle. His times on the four laps varied by just nine seconds, with the fastest one taking 11:09 and the slowest 11:18. The next fastest lap that any competitor in any class did was 11:35. On Sunday, Ickler had a flat tire on the third lap, and was still ahead of Ebberts by 1:30. But because of an error, the wheel fell off and Ickler was unable to complete the fourth lap.

Dale Dondel
(11), Hemet, AZ, won the SCORE Trophy-Truck class championship, winning both day’s races. Until easing up on the eighth and final lap, he had posted seven straight sub-12:00 laps, joining another Dale (Ebberts, the overall champion from Class 1) in that feat. “Probably the last mile we were running out of gas so our hearts were pumping,” Dondel said. “We got a bit of a lead then took it easy. We worked hard yesterday – even though we won (Saturday’s race), it wasn’t smooth. It was a great day of racing today. Everything’s starting to come together. We’ve been racing a year and half in SCORE Trophy-Truck and it’s our first win. The course changes from lap to lap – there’s rocks, carnage, fenders, upside down pick-ups. I got oil all over my feet and my feet were slipping all over the place. On the Leap, that’s probably the most out of control I’ve been in a while.” Laughlin has now seen six different winners in as many years in this class.

Steve Sourapas (6), Rancho Santa Fe, AZ, placed second in the class despite a fifth-place ranking in Sunday’s race. He trailed Dondel by just 19 seconds after the first day of racing, but could not keep pace with the class winner. “Dale put a can of whoop ass on us,” Sourapas said. Once I found he was two minutes ahead I just had to stay in the hunt. I wanted to make sure I got the truck to the finish line. For this thing to bottom out it means it’s really rough out there. Two times we did the Leap really good and once I thought we were going to lose it.”

On Saturday, Scott Steinberger (7), Cypress, AZ, was in seventh place out of the 26 starters in SCORE Trophy-Truck. During Sunday’s race, his time dropped and he was eighth in that heat. However, because of the attrition and parity (his Saturday time was within two and half minutes of the leader) in this featured class, his final combined time put him at third. And nothing could have made him happier. “We jumped in this race with a new tire manufacturer,” Steinberger said. “We wanted to use this race to test this tire. Toyota jumped in but these are stock tires, anyone can go in a store and buy these. The bottom line is, we had fuel pressure problems both days. We ran a lot harder today. Yesterday we were more worried about the tires, but today we knew they would hold up. We almost got hit a couple of times because our car kept shutting down. I’m pretty happy with a third place finish here, especially with new tires and a wounded car.”

For information contact:
SCORE International at its Los Angeles headquarters
(818) 225-8402 or visit
the official 2005 SCORE Desert Series website at:

For Sponsorship Information, contact:
  Mark Handley (760) 750-1905

Next Race:
June 5-7 2009: Baja 500

2009 News:
10/25: Score: We're back & Racing the Baja 500

News Archives:
10/25: BitD: HT400 Deciding Race of Season
10/24: SCORE: 18 True Grit Drivers Remain
10/20: SCORE: 300 Baja 1000 Entries Expected
10/17: Solar: Help-U-Sell Sponsorship
10/10: SCORE: Legendary Baja 1000
10/06: SCORE: Baja 1000 Draw
09/30: Solar: Bay Club Sponsorship
09/23: SCORE: 2006 Schedule Announced
09/22: SCORE: Baja 500 Prime Time Special
09/19: SCORE: NBC & OLN TV Schedule
09/16: Solar: Primm 300 Race Recap
09/16: Solar: Nevada Desert Takes Its Toll
09/15: SCORE: Point Leaders after Primm
09/13: Solar: Prime Synthetics Sponsorship
09/12: SCORE: Collins Captures Overall
09/12: SCORE: Primm 300 Notes & Quotes
09/07: BitD: Vegas To Reno Letter & Updates
08/24: Solar: Lincoln Electric Sponsorship
05/27: SCORE: Final Races to Appear on TV
03/25: SOLAR: Another Magazine Appearance

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