LAUGHLIN — Recent road trips by racers Robby Gordon and B.J. Baldwin should not be confused with the antics of John Candy and Steve Martin in the 1980s movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."
The journeys of Gordon and Baldwin were planned and no trains were involved. But they did have their share of twists, turns and crashes.
The pair logged 5,600 racing miles the past two weeks in South America in the world’s most challenging off-road race spanning Argentina and Chile.
A couple of hours after Saturday’s international Dakar Rally ended where it started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, they flew 6,500 miles to be at Sunday afternoon’s second and final leg of the annual SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge desert race.
They were intent on arriving in time to race and to entertain a few thousand fans.
Gordon won last year’s overall and SCORE Trophy-Truck titles in Laughlin; Baldwin won the two previous years.
But it turned out to be easier for them to fly from Buenos Aires to Miami to Bullhead City, Ariz., than it was to complete eight 6.25-mile laps in Laughlin on the last of two days that were dominated by San Diego’s Andy McMillin.
Gordon, an accomplished NASCAR and Indy-car racer, finished sixth despite breaking and replacing two wheels during Sunday’s leg. His overall race position was ruled a "did-not-finish" because substitute driver Steve Kendall did not complete Saturday’s eight laps in the required 80 minutes.
"No, I’m not happy with my result. We came here to win," said Gordon, who has not secured financing for his NASCAR Sprint Cup team beyond the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.
Baldwin, a Las Vegas native, started Sunday’s session third thanks to the effort of his Saturday fill-in, Chad Ragland of Phoenix. But Baldwin’s day ended after two miles because of a mechanical problem.
Gordon had planned to run Dakar, held in South America for the second year, with Las Vegan Ronn Bailey. When Bailey was unable to compete, Gordon offered the ride to Baldwin.
"Robby called me on Christmas and said he might have gotten me a ride," Baldwin said, adding that Dakar was "the toughest racing I’ve ever done."
Gordon and Baldwin race 800-horsepower, specially-built Chevrolet Trophy-Trucks in SCORE. Baldwin said modified Hummer H3s used in Dakar produce about 300 horsepower.
"The best off-road racers in the world are in that race and they train all year for it," Baldwin said.
Baldwin moved from starting 53rd to 19th on the first day of Dakar but ran off a cliff and rolled "five or six times" the next day. From there, he raced as a support vehicle for Gordon, who finished eighth — about six hours behind winner Carlos Sainz of Spain.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at 702-383-0247 or email@example.com.