Carr races to SCORE Baja Bug title every bump of the way

Carr races to SCORE Baja Bug title every bump of the way

Carr races to SCORE Baja Bug title every bump of the way

The flagship of modern off-road racing is the Trophy Truck – the high-tech, 800-horsepower pickup prototypes that fly across the toughest terrain.

But Trophy Trucks are not the foundation of desert racing.

Long before there were one-of-a-kind pickups, enthusiasts were converting old VW Beetles into sand buggies in garages across Southern California. The air-cooled engine in the rear of the Beetle was the perfect starting point to hand craft a desert machine.

The Baja Bug was there for the birth of off-road racing.

Much has changed in four decades of off-road racing. But the Baja Bug lives on. Just ask San Diego’s Kevin Carr, who recently won SCORE’s Open Baja Bug title for the fifth straight season – hitting almost every rut of the season.

“Racing a Baja Bug is like being a pebble inside a Coke can,” Carr joked earlier this week. “It hurts.”

While the Trophy Trucks and open-class buggies fly over many obstacles, the short-wheelbase, 125-horsepower Baja Bugs bounce from rut to rut. The air conditioning found in the $100,000 Trophy Trucks is absent in the dust-filled cockpit of the Baja Bug.

And the pounding absorbed by any off-road racer lasts twice as long for a Baja Bug driver.

“That’s part of the attraction,” said Carr. “The Baja Bug excels in the technical areas of off-road racing. They can go anywhere. But there is a lot of bouncing along the way. Racing a Baja Bug is punishing, which is part of the attraction . . . the emotional attachment.”

Since 2006, the 42-year-old Carr has teamed with off-road racing veteran Perry McNeil to form one of SCORE’s most successful teams, although Carr doesn’t really know how successful. Aside from winning the five season championships and three class wins in the Baja 1000, Carr has lost track of his wins.

“I’ve got a wall of trophies, but I don’t really keep track of how many races I’ve won,” said Carr. “We race for the love of it.”

In addition to winning his class title this season, Carr finished 15th in SCORE’s overall points rankings – the highest finisher by a San Diegan this season. And he picked up a Toyota Milestone Award for finishing every mile of the season.

Plus, Carr and McNeil form one of the sport’s most popular teams south of the border. Carr, who spent much of his youth living in Tijuana, owns a small electronics factory in Tijuana. McNeil, of Lemon Grove, also owns businesses in Tijuana.

Carr runs the season’s shorter races solo. He and McNeil team in the long-distance races. And Carr’s Amigo Tech Racing also fields buggies in two classes. Carr might switch from Baja Bugs to the less-punishing 1650cc buggies next season.

“I love the Baja Bug,” said Carr. “But the idea of going faster and finishing sooner looks better as I get older. And it’s getting extremely hard to find parts for Baja Bugs.”

Other SCORE finishers

Besides Carr, the only other pro racer to win a SCORE points title in 2012 was rider Ron Wilson of Encinitas. He teamed with Jeff Kaplan of Thousand Oaks to win the riders-over-30 motorcycle title.

El Cajon’s Randy Swink (truck) and Chula Vista’s Carlos Sanchez (450cc motorcycles) won sportsman titles.

El Cajon’s Luke McMillin finished 20th overall in the final four-wheel standings. Brother Dan was 24th overall.

Other top class finishers:

Third – Justin Fisher-John Holmes (San Ysidro, modified open mini-pickups) and Wayne Matlock-Josh Caster (El Cajon, open ATVs).

Fourth – Luke McMillin (open buggies); Robert Archibald (El Cajon, 1600cc buggies); Brandon Walsh (Encinitas, open mini-pickups), and Robin Fawcett-Doug Eichner (El Cajon, open ATVs).

Fifth – Vic Bruckmann (Lemon Grove, SCORE Lites buggies).

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