Back in the summer of 2009, we brought you the story of cancer-survivor-turned-off-road-racer Joe Bacal who had made the unusual choice of a Lexus LX 570 luxury SUV for his Baja rig. Today, we bring you news that he just finished his first full season by winning the championship.
"It may seem unusual to race a large luxury SUV in the desert, but I've worked quite a bit with Lexus vehicles and frankly, I think I'll have an advantage," Bacal said back in June 2009. "Lexus SUVs are capable and extremely durable -- both key factors in successful off-road racing."
And he was right. Since his debut on the dirt circuit, Bacal has racked up an unbroken streak of podium finishes as well as several wins. With his win in the Stock Full class at the SCORE Terrible's Las Vegas Primm 300 this past weekend, Bacal clinched the class championship, all in his first season.
"We came into this racing series as off-road racing rookies, but we also came prepared," said Bacal. "We did our homework and were confident the Lexus would be fast and reliable. Of course, it helps to have a great team and sponsors behind you, too. Things have worked out pretty well."
Bacal's JTGrey Racing team is a grassroots effort, making his win all the more impressive. Bacal cut his teeth piloting Nissans, Toyotas and GM vehicles as a test and development driver before switching to off-road racing after beating cancer. After securing training from the legendary Ivan Stewart, Bacal even managed to convince the Cancer Treatment Centers of America to sponsor his team after his extended stay with them.
Now, though, they'll be joined by Lexus as an official sponsor. JTGrey Racing, named for Bacal and his wife, Teresa, is now a factory-backed team after receiving limited support from Lexus in the past. Lexus has signed on just in time to help Bacal out before he heads south for the Baja 1000 in November, and the company has committed to the team through the 2011 season as well.
"It's been an amazing year for us, but the mother of all off-road races is coming around again and we're really like to win it, as well as witn the Toyota Milestone Award," Bacal said, referring to the Baja 1000, which begins November 17. "That would be huge!"
Photo credit: Art Eugenio