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WINNING ON BORROWED PARTS Wes Miller Wins The Pro UTV Overall And FI Class With The Help Of Other Teams By Mike Vieria Photos by GetSomePhoto Wes Miller had to overcome several problems before and during the race to take the Pro UTV FI Class win in the 53rd BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts in his 2017 Polaris RZR. His racing history has previous wins on quads in his more than twenty years of competing in the SCORE Baja 1000, but this was his first win in this race driving a UTV. His September attempt at the SCORE Baja 500 ended with a thrown rod in the engine, making the win at the SCORE Baja 1000 that much sweeter. But before the race even started, problems arose for Miller and the Bomb Squad Racing Team. “Two days before the race, during a shakedown, we broke a component that we didn’t have a replacement for,” said Miller. “Justin Lambert, an RZR teammate but who is also in competition with us, gave us the part we needed. That was pretty cool, and I want to thank him for doing that.” With the car fixed and ready to go, Miller and co-driver Donny Powers headed off on the first leg of the race. Because of the difficulties Miller encountered during last year’s solo run, he decided to add driver Jason Luburgh and co-driver Jeff Hoskins to the team. “I drove from the start to race mile 422,” says Miller. “Jason got in and drove the loop, then I got back in around race mile 740 to do the finish.” Early on, the team’s Stella Tracker started to give them problems, creating confusion as to where a 37mph speed zone was to end. “We stayed at the limited speed, but after watching the cars in front pull away from us, I finally made the decision to gas-it and go,” he said. “I guess a lot of people were having that kind of trouble, but we made a few passes and started making our way through the pack.” Farther along on the course, Miller came up onto other speed zones and ended up stuck behind a SCORE TT Spec Truck that was running slower than the speed limit placed by SCORE. Finally, after going through three speed zones and being held back, they were able to speed up their pace. Unfortunately, this allowed other UTVs to catch up to them. “I was held up for well over fifty miles,” says Miller. “I think that allowed the UTV pack to stack up behind me. When we stopped at Pit 1 at mile 152, three UTVs passed us. Everyone was super tight then.” Two of the UTVs that had passed him soon pitted, leaving Miller third on the road in his class. By mile 230, Miller said was able to pass the two competitors ahead of them and take the class lead on the road. “At this point, we were running pretty high up with a lot of fairly fast trucks and buggies that were having their own races,” said Miller. “None of them wanted to let us by. They were making a ton of dust, and it was hard to see. But, we were able to start slowly working our way through, picking them off and putting them between us and the other UTVs, who would have the same trouble trying to pass.” Running up toward the front of the pack, however, didn’t mean it was clear sailing for Miller. “Around mile 247, we were heading right into the sunset, and in the dust, we hit hard into a big rain ditch. I thought we had ripped the whole left side of the car off, and I compressed my back so bad, I thought I broke it.” Fortunately, neither was the case. The Polaris kept running with relatively minor suspension damage, and Miller’s back pain subsided. Miler and his navigator handed the car over to their teammates at mile 422. At that point, they held a substantial lead over the next competitor and continued to hold a nearly 25-minute lead over the next UTV. Their lead expanded to nearly 45 minutes as the other racers had to deal with their troubles. With that time cushion and still a lot of race to go, they decided to change the damaged upper A-arm Heim joint, as well as change out a couple of flat tires that were the result of encounters with rocks in the previous section. By now, Miller’s back had again tightened up to the point that he debated not driving the last section of the course and having Jason Luburgh finish the race. But, since he knew the course better, Miller felt he’d still be in a better position to finish the race, despite his ailing back. As Miller waited for the next driver change, word came that the car stopped around mile 670, then moved ahead a few miles and stopped again. A lower A-arm bolt had sheared off, but Luburgh and Hoskins were able to get a bolt from a Trophy Truck pit crew, and that allowed them to continue to La Saldana. There, they were able to put in the proper bolt, allowing the team to get in and run to the finish. “All was going well until it felt like the wheel was pulling hard to the left,” said Miller. “Donny hopped out for a look, and sure enough, another A-arm bolt had broken. Luckily, he had the foresight to put one in his pocket, and we were able to fix it.” While stopped, they were passed by a Honda from the UTV NA class and were nearly caught by the Burroughs’ Can-Am X3 that was running second in the F.I. class. After fixing the A-arm they were quickly able to catch and pass the Honda and manage to maintain their lead over the Can-Am. After the final fuel stop for all three, he tells us, “I just pushed as hard as I could from there to the finish. I knew we had the class win but wasn’t sure about the Overall UTV win. When it was all said and done, we won by 58 seconds after 26 hours of racing.” “There was a lot of new course out there, which I thought was awesome. It’s fun to do some different terrain that you haven’t been on before, and it was challenging. It was a driver’s course. There were a lot of things that if you made a mistake, it was going to take you out of the race.” The Bomb Squad Racing Team plans to be back for the 2021 racing season, and probably with the same Polaris RZR. Wes congratulates his competition on a great race and also stresses that winning is a team effort, “It’s not one person that goes out and wins that race. I think our team did an excellent job. Everyone’s going to have to overcome adversity racing in Baja, so it’s who can overcome that adversity the best and the quickest that wins. We were able to do it just enough to stay upfront.” SJ

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