Primm 300 relocated as SCORE heads south of the border

The SCORE International off-road racing web site says it all with a post stating that the group’s next event will be Sept. 9-11 in Baja Mexico at a venue to be determined. Formerly scheduled for August in Primm south of Las Vegas, the move of the Primm 300 to Mexico was apparently the result of high fees required for the event in Southern Nevada along with restrictions placed on SCORE because of the desert tortoise.

However, there is a much deeper lesson to be learned in the move to Mexico in that off-road racing in the United States is under pressure big-time following the tragedy which killed eight and injured at least 12 northeast of Los Angeles last year.

Legendary race promoter Sal Fish, who has been presenting races in Mexico for decades, simply washed his hands of the issues in Primm and moved yet another race to Mexico which opens its arms to the sport.
SCORE now has a five-race series and four of the events are in Mexico. The other – the Laughlin Desert Challenge in January – is the only event held in the United States.

The loss of a major racing event in Southern Nevada is a huge blow considering that SCORE generally attracts at least 200 vehicles and crews generating good amounts of revenue. In the case of Primm, the move to Mexico is a big loss to yet another small town struggling to survive in a miserable economy.

The Bureau of Land Management which overseas off-road racing events has been under attack since the crash in Southern California and every off-road promoting group now faces stricter guidelines as it relates to insurance and the rest.

In the case of Fish, enough was enough before he pulled the plug and headed for Baja long considered a great place to gather for both the scenery and the competition. The Primm event reportedly included greatly increased fees and Fish simply wiped his hands and headed south.

As off-road racing promoters continue to grapple with increased fees; along with environmental and safety concerns, Southern Nevada will continue to see events like SCORE’s Primm 300 moving on to other venues.

Primm becomes the second small Southern Nevada town to lose an off-road event after many years. Caliente, a charming little town situated about 180 miles north of Las Vegas, lost the Dusty Times 250 after more than two decades when the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts lost the permit to the event to a Utah promoter which is reportedly moving the event to another Nevada town.

Then, too, SNORE is facing its own problems with the BLM following the running of the Mint 400 earlier this year. The club was forced to move its annual Midnight Special event to the Moapa Indian Reservation July 20-31 after first planning to run it in Jean.

In any case, the exit of Sal Fish and SCORE from Southern Nevada off-road racing – with the exception of the Laughlin Desert Challenge each January -- is not only a huge loss but also a sign of the times when it comes to discussing the future of the sport which has been a part of the area for more than 50 years.

And for those who feel that Mexico is unsafe, at least one freelance writer and former resident of Southern Utah disagrees.

“It’s safer in Baja than Southern Nevada, to be honest,” said Ed Kociela, a veteran journalist who moved to Baja several months ago. “The ace is over more rugged terrain and a much better gig than Primm. But that stereotype about Baja is just so much BS. Try Mexico near the Texas border.

“Violence? Ever been to South Central Los Angeles? Would you not go to Disneyland because of the criminal activity in the inner city? We feel safer in Baja than in North Las Vegas. Sorry, Baja is a peaceful, wonderful place filled with cordial, nice people. The only time I feel uncomfortable is when I see the drunken “ugly Americans” throwing money, attitude and disrespect around Cabo or San Jose; or start rattling off about how wonderful the Americans are without realizing Mexico and Canada are part of America, too. Some people just don’t’ have a clue.”

Considering Kociela’s comments, Sal Fish may not have had such a tough decision to make after all. With the heavy handed BLM cracking down on everything from off-road racers to wild horses, sounds to me like Fish just might have the right idea in the first place.

In the words of one prominent off-road executive, “It won’t be long before all off-road racing events are in Mexico.”

Credits: Mike Henle