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Tijuana Desert Challenge in Tijuana, Baja California Mexico

Cam Steele Scores First SCORE Trophy Truck Win

Sep 292018

The wait is finally over for Cameron Steele. The veteran off-road racer and popular television announcer has been chasing victory in the SCORE Trophy Truck division for over a decade, but everything finally came to fruition on September 23rd at the one-of-a-kind Lucerna Hotels & Resorts Tijuana 22nd SCORE Desert Challenge. Steele piloted his Monster Energy Desert Assassins Chevy Silverado through two days of racing over a grueling track on the outskirts of southeast Tijuana, where consistency and strategic race tactics helped lead the San Clemente, California, resident to victory.

Steele and his Monster Energy supported team have been giving their all in SCORE Trophy Trucks since 2005, and while they’ve been a perennial contender virtually every time they take to the desert, a win has managed to elude them. After knocking on the door of victory for as long as they have, it was only a matter of time before Steele broke through, and the two-day Desert Challenge was the ideal setting.

With two individual race days combined for an overall classification, strategy was paramount as the race unfolded. From the get go Steele and the Monster Energy Desert Assassins kept close tabs on everything taking place around them, and pounced whenever they found an opening to pick up the pace. As a result, they emerged from Day 1 with the lead and established a bit of a cushion after posting the single-fastest lap of the entire event. With the race in their control, Steele and his crew chose to go for the win on Day 2, getting aggressive when they needed to, and finished the 134.8-mile race with a total time of 3:21.36. Victory was finally his.

As thrilling as the victory was for Steele and his dedicated team members, it was also bittersweet. Cam has endured through the recent loss of his father, but like any racer he continues to persevere through the pain with his unwavering passion for competition, racing in the memory of his dad and doing all he can to make him proud.

Monster Energy caught up with one of its longest-supported athletes to learn how it all went down in Tijuana, and to get Cam’s thoughts on the upcoming Baja 1000, the granddaddy of them all.

Cam, this was your first SCORE Trophy Truck victory. As a veteran of the sport who’s been doing battle in the desert for more than a decade how does it feel to break through at off-road’s highest level?


“It’s pretty cool. We finally got there. I kind of joke around saying even a blind hog can find an ear of corn in a cornfield, but the truth is we’ve been running up front for the past three years. [Over] the last year of races we haven’t finished outside the top five, except for one time when we had a rear-end failure. We’ve been feeling it was coming; it’s just really cool to finally get there and put the ol’ family name and the Monster Energy Desert Assassins on top of the class. It’s a little bittersweet because my dad passed away a couple months ago and he wasn’t able to be there with us [to celebrate], but he was definitely on all our minds up there.


“We’ve been fortunate enough to win other Trophy Truck races, but not in SCORE, which is the pinnacle of the sport. For sure there is very little that compares to winning a SCORE Baja race.”


Given how well you’ve been running for several years now, what ultimately played the most crucial role in pushing you over that edge that finally resulted in a win?


“To be brutally honest, it’s almost been three years since we went to BFGoodrich [tires] as a partner, and they’ve made all the difference in the world. In those three years we’ve really ran up front quite a bit, but we’ve had to learn some of the things that other teams that were running at that pace had already learned. It took us [through] a little bit of a learning curve to get over the hump of having the best tire on the planet and being able to do longer segments, and be able to do the things we wanted to do.


“That was the big part, that transition, and the time it took for the rest of the program to catch up. That was the biggest milestone that we’ve had, that change on November 1, 2015.”


This race presented a unique format with two race days and a combined elapsed time for the overall classification. How did that play into not only your approach to the race, but also in how you responded as things unfolded?


“We went to the race with the thought that we were just going to try to podium and points race. Not lay up, but not go crazy. It’s a two-day race so you got to really focus on finishing both days, and a lot of people get caught up in the sprint racing. That’s a tough track because of all the vertical changes. Every mile you’re going up or down the other side of the hill, and it’s really hard on the trucks and your drivetrain and tires because of all the climbing. So what ended up happening on Day 1 is the truck in front of us broke and gave us a little running room to make up some time. Our times looked really good and at the end of the first lap our guys had us leading, but it was kind of close.


“What ended up happening on Lap 2 was the truck in front us dropped out as we were trying to chase him down, which gave us a ton of running room, so we made a decision to throw the points racing out the window and go for it [the win]. We spooled it up while we had clean air because we knew we could make up time, and that’s what we did. We went for it and we ended up winning by I think 5:20. We were thinking we would get caught up in dust the next day, like everybody else, and it would be hard to make up that much time.


“On Day 2 we went in knowing we were going to have a little bit of blocking in front of us and the pace wasn’t going to be as quick, so we made the decision on Lap 1 to not get crazy and just stay the course. We started getting nervous because we felt like the pace was too slow, but when we got around to the Start/Finish line to start the second lap we were only 1:15 out of the day’s win. We had beaten the guy that was winning by 6:03 the day before, so we had about 4:45 to give. We got a little bit nervous because the pace slowed down even more where we were at, and we started to think about making a move to break through, but that was risky on this one-lined course. What ended up happening is a truck pulled over out of the way, and because they had been running slower we had 3 minutes of clean dust in front of us, so we picked up the pace and we ended up losing the day by only about a minute. The strategy was to come in and play it mellow, but when the opportunity presented itself to try and gain time that’s when we went ahead and went for it.”


You’ve competed in several different classes during your career. What makes the Trophy Truck division so special? What’s the biggest challenge you face in the division?


“I think nowadays the reason it’s so tough is that there are 10 real teams that can run the pace, have the logistics, and have the organization. Then there’s other teams that have the pure speed, so it’s just gotten tough. There’s a lot of good teams. I think what makes it special is that it’s the pinnacle of our sport, being totally unlimited, and everybody aspires to be there. A lot of the best drivers in the history of our sport are there, and I think that’s what makes it special to win. That’s what makes it hard to win [as well].


“The thing that makes it hardest to win, and people might not be able to fathom this completely, but when our team raced the 1600 Class we raced pretty much as hard as we could all day a long and could get to the finish line. If you ran the Trophy Truck as hard and fast as it would go, you would obliterate the truck. There’s no way that the equipment can stay. That’s the key. Going fast enough, but still getting to the finish line. That’s one of the hardest things for most people when you really break down Trophy Truck racing.”


The Baja 1000 is up next. Does this win give you a newfound confidence going into the granddaddy of off-road races? Do you feel this year presents your best shot at taking the win in the biggest race of them all?


“It’s really up to Baja, isn’t it? That’s the hardest part. Having the synergy with her [the track] is the issue. You’ve got to come in and have a great day, and she has to present you that opportunity before you even think about the other racecars. But we’ve got a lot of confidence going over the past 18 months and I think everybody on the team would agree that we though the Baja 500 [in June] was going to be a race that we really could win, so I think that confidence is there. Anytime you win it gives everybody just a little bit more of a boost, and the rally cry we’re asking for is everybody bring 10-percent more to the table. Not necessarily in speed or quicker pit stops, just bring 10-percent more effort. If we can all be better, and everything we’ve been doing has been seconds and a win, then we should be able to overcome. We’ll say a prayer in the morning and we’ll ask Baja to give us the opportunity, and we’ll get up and get after it.”


Monster Energy has been with you for a long time. What has their support meant to you thus far and how invaluable is it as you chase further success and raise the bar for you and your team?


“I think there’s two things. One, which is probably obvious to many people, is that if there was no Monster Energy, there would be no race team. The truck would be parked. It’d be over. I couldn’t do it. Just totally straight up. The support we get from Monster Energy is everything to us.


“Secondly, the coolest thing about being supported by Monster Energy is that they’re real life enthusiasts. The people at the top of the brand are into it. They know. They’re fueled by it, and that is super cool. Having someone choose you because of your ROI, you’ve won the most races, or because you happen to be the flashiest storyteller with the biggest social media presence, that’s one thing. But to have a company that actually knows and gets it, and loves it, what an honor to be on that team. When someone really cares what’s happening, like Monster Energy, they’re not worried about what it says on the computer screen on Monday. They want to know if you hoisted that trophy over the weekend. And we hoisted it together [in Tijuana] after decades of working together. It’s a huge milestone for all of us.”