2016 BAJA 500 Race Report from Justin Quinn
I want to start this race report off giving you guys a little insight on what went on before we even got to Mexico. John approached me with the idea of building him a car to race this year and with me starting my new business, of course I was all for it!
We started the tear down on John's 2014 Polaris RZR XP1000 somewhere around the beginning of April and had planned on the first race being Vegas to Reno... We formulated a team of guys' that would work on the car: John and myself, Nick Hooey, Jim Quinn, Dave Kinnison and Robert Smith. After that, we went to town brainstorming ideas, looking at other peoples' cars and seeing what was working well, and started full throttle on it. We had countless hours into the build; long nights after our day jobs, a lot of stress wondering if we would get all the parts in, etc. We were looking very good for Vegas to Reno, but then we all decided that we thought we could make it for the Baja 500 in a couple weeks, what could possibly go wrong?? We knew it would be down to the wire but we got it done, and even had a couple test sessions. John and I were feeling very confident about how the car was working and were ready for it to make it's racing debut!
You have to remember this is a brand new team that hasn't raced yet, so it wasn't just building the car, it was putting spare parts together, bolt bins, chase trucks, an enclosed trailer, the list goes on.
I have to thank everyone who helped on the car, I know I couldn't have done it myself, everyone put their lives on hold just so we could all go do what we love, race.
Now that I've got all that said, let's get to the good part!
We came down to Baja a week early on May 28th to get some pre-running in and to do some final testing and tuning on the racecar. Monday morning rolled around and we met up with the Justin Smith of Shock Therapy and his team and headed out to race mile 40. It was not allowed to pre-run the first 40 miles until Thursday. We had heard that the "summit" was nasty, and couldn't wait to pre-run so we knew what to watch for. We got through it all, and it was every bit as nasty as people said! We took a break at RM173, and were running into some overheating issues with the prerunner, so we decided to call it a day and head to San Felipe for the night. The next day we woke up bright and early, ate breakfast and had the plan to pre-run back to Ensenada (my section), but we ended up experiencing the same issues with the pre-runner, so John and I made the decision to not push it. We decided to load it up, and hope for the best come race day.
We got back to Ensenada Tuesday night, and all Wednesday and Thursday was spent going over the car with a fine tooth comb, getting all three of our chase trucks buttoned up, getting the car pre- teched, and fueling up.
Contingency day rolled around, and we got up early to get the car and display it in the Raceline Wheels booth thanks to Ryan Edwards. This was actually very nice, we were able to relax all day and then push the car thru tech and be done with it. We met a lot of great people, and handed out a ton of "steekers", which is like currency down there!
Friday night after the Drivers Meeting, we had a team meeting to go over the plan again making sure everyone was on the same page; who was in what truck, where each truck was going, who was staying with the car, and any last minute details we missed and then called it an early night.
Our plan for the race was to survive, plain and simple, we knew if we could make it to the end we would do well.
We all met down at the trucks at 6am, we wanted to all get out of town early and get to where we needed to be without having to rush anything on the roads.
We made sure John and Nick were good to go and took off; one truck to RM40, one to RM70, and one to RM162.
We were expecting to take off the line somewhere around 11:30-12ish, but there was a tragic incident with a trophy truck that had put the race on hold for a couple hours. John and Nick took off from the starting line shortly after 1PM. They were going good but then ran into the "bottleneck" around RM23, causing an hour and a half setback. With all this happening, John and Nick stayed calm and got through it and passed race mile 40 with no issues and continued on to RM70 for a quick fuel stop/check of the car before the summit. At that point we were running 4th physically in our class, and knew the leader had a huge lead (almost 2 hours on us). Knowing we had our work cut out for us we never strayed from the plan, John was driving great, keeping the car in one piece and getting through the brutal first 150 miles of the race with Nick Hooey as his navigator. Due to the severely delayed start and time that was lost at the bottleneck, we changed the plan a little bit. I was supposed to get in at race mile 240, but we ended up changing at 202, which was no big deal. When John pulled in at RM202, we were sitting in 3rd place physically, which was awesome. He maintained a great pace and stayed in contention, the pit stop was fairly quick; just did some preventative maintenance, a little shock tune and driver change. The car was in great shape, I was super impressed.
So me and my co-driver Mikey Novich got in the car and started rolling. Like I said before we didn't get to prerun my section so I wasn't sure what to expect. The first 50 miles were just horrible whoops all the way into San Felipe. I remember talking to Mikey saying "man, we do this for fun!?!?" I was taking it very easy, knowing if I were to go any faster something was going to give. After San Felipe, it didn't get much better terrain-wise, but we kept pushing, passing cars. At one point I was in some dust that I just couldn't get out of, so we started pushing pretty hard to get through. After about 15 miles of not really seeing where I was going, relying on my co-driver to tell me where we were going, we finally caught up and got around Kristen Matlock for 2nd place. We still knew we were pretty far behind the leader, so we started pushing hard, but also staying very conscientious of just finishing the race without any break downs. Around race mile 450, I hear my dad Jim Quinn get on the radio saying "you guys are right behind the leader". So initially I get all worked up wanting to just go balls to the wall and catch him, but I kept telling myself, "we came this far I'm not going to ruin it now"! We knew we were close, but didn't exactly know how close, so pulling through the wash and coming around to the finish line to see Alonso right in front of us, we were stoked! Knowing it was a close finish, we weren't sure what was going to happen. We ended up only finishing 4 minutes behind him after 500 miles of BRUTAL racing... And I think that's pretty damn good!
This whole experience wouldn't have been possible without John Estrada especially, but also our whole crew. Nick Hooey and Mikey Novich as co-drivers for John and I. Our chase teams including:
Jim Quinn, David Kinnison, Robert Smith, Chris Rickey, Bob and Teresa Russell, Kelly Collier, Zach Adams, Tony and Maricela Moad.
Also have to think all the great sponsors and products that made the car badass!
Arizona Specialty Demolition LLC
Iron City Polaris
All About Signs, Inc.
I want to personally thank everyone who was a part of it. It will be a memory to last a lifetime, and I look forward to more adventures with J3 Racing!!
Justin Quinn Racing