Yuma man overcomes disability to race off-road

By Cheng Sio

Yuma Sun

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

In 2010, the brothers made the step up and entered two SCORE International Off Road Racing events. At the San Felipe 250 and the Baja 500, the brothers failed to finish both because of transmission and electrical problems, respectively.

But at those races is where they also met Canadian Brad McLean, captain of Nuttbar Racing. McLean and the Dominguez brothers became friends.

Their friendship proved vital.

About a month before the Baja 1000, the Dominguez brothers decided not to enter the race because of a lack of finances.

Two days later, McLean discovered the brothers' plight on Facebook and invited them to join his team for the legendary race. McLean wanted the brothers to cover the first 335 miles of the 1,000-mile race that winds down the Baja Peninsula from Ensenada to La Paz.

When Juan received McLean's invitation, he said, he was shocked. And when he told his older brother, Alonzo thought he was playing a cruel joke.

"I honestly didn't believe him," Alonzo said. "Stop playing with me. Don't play with me because that was our dream."

After careful consideration, the brothers accepted McLean's invitation.

Juan was chosen to start the Baja 1000 on Nov. 18. When he arrived at the scene, he visited the sites he last saw the race four years earlier. Memories came flooding back and Juan said his emotions got the best of him.

At race time, though, Juan was focused. He took a deep breath and went at a decent pace in an effort to get through his part of the course unscathed. Juan heard about booby traps and wanted to avoid them at all costs.

"There's a lot of dust ahead of me," Juan said. "There's also the fog and a lot of spectators out there. The spectators would make these booby traps. They would do stupid things like bury telephone poles under the dirt — anything to give them a show. They basically wanted you to wipe out because that's fun for them. I pretty much went through that with my eyes wide open and dodging those obstacles."

Juan rode the first 185 miles from Ensenada to San Felipe, successfully handing the ATV over to Alonzo who rode the next 150 miles to El Crucero.

From there, McLean's team took over, riding the remaining 665 miles to La Paz for the win.

Lost in the victory was why Juan didn't tell McLean about his disability. Juan said it was an honest mistake.

"I was going to tell him but with all the adrenaline pumping before the race, I just forgot," Juan said. "I even forgot to take a picture of the whole team together. I was just so excited and just so many things were running through the mind, I just wanted to focus on the riding."

However, Juan told Nuttbar Racing teammate Kye Walstrom about his one eye. Word spread and eventually McLean found out about Juan's disability, but not until long after the race was over.

"I didn't find that out until I got home," McLean said. "One of my teammates told me that. I never knew that. I thought he did a pretty amazing job for having one eye. If I had known about the one eye, it wouldn't have made any difference. I would've still picked them on my team."

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