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PUMPED-UP TO WIN Kaden Wells Battled More Than The Competition In The Pro UTV NA Class Story by Stuart Bourdon Photography by Get Some Photo Kaden Wells and many other competitors in the BFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 500 Presented by 4Wheel Parts would experience more than the usual ups and downs of racing in Baja California. Most are familiar with the rough and rugged terrain that can chew up tires and spit them out. This time there would be more than the usual number of car-swallowing silt beds. Just for fun, this race also threw in some steep-walled canyons that became time-eating log jams of stuck or idling race cars looking for a way out. As if that wasn’t enough for Wells, who is a Pro UTV NA (Naturally Aspirated) driver, and second in the 2020 SCORE Season Championship, the 53rd SCORE Baja 500 dealt out more. It delivered a nerve-wracking rocky and technical course with mountain road drop-offs. There was thick hanging dust that completely obscured what might be ahead. If you factor in all of that and then pile on a couple of flat tires and an intermittent fuel-pump issue, you have some idea of what Wells’ 2021 Baja 500 was like. Fuel Pumps and Bottlenecks Starting the 2021 SCORE Baja 500 second in the Pro UTV NA lineup, Wells was running strong and caught the leader by about mile 50. “As soon as I had taken the lead, the car began cutting out. The first time it took about five minutes to get it running again,” said Wells. “At the road crossing at mile 70, we stopped to check out the fuel pumps but couldn’t figure out what was causing the problem.” During that stop, Wells lost his position on the racecourse. “We just pushed on after that until about mile 90,” he said. “Then we slowly started making our way back up through the pack, but the car was acting up again when we headed into the mountains. The car wouldn’t run right if I was over half-throttle, so we just kind of cruised over Mikes.” “The car went completely dead only once. It was on a very steep hill climb. We have three pumps on the car, two internals, and an external, and all three are on different pickups. I was switching through the pumps. I just kept cycling, and it finally fired up. In the higher elevations, it was acting up a lot, but once on the coast, it only happened twice.” Then they hit the bottleneck that gave so many other drivers a headache. “I was so far back in the line I never saw why everyone was getting stuck,” said Wells. “We began following others up this trail to the left that climbed up, but it turned out the problem was farther ahead. I decided to find my way around, and we barely made it up the hill. A couple of the turbo cars couldn’t make it. My little two-seater did.” Wells credited his rock-racing experience, which he believes helped to get him up and over. Long Last Stretch Once past the log jam, Wells came across Kristen Matlock broken down on the course. That put him back into third on the road. Soon enough, however, Baja would strike again. “About mile 240, I was trying to get around another car. I was in his dust and couldn’t see the rocks. Both rear tires blew out.” They put their only spare tire on and kept going to a road crossing where Wells could meet their chase team to get another spare tire. “One of the wheels was nearly destroyed while getting there, but it didn’t shatter, and it kept us moving.” “The car started running a little better on the Pacific coast side of the racecourse,” he said. “From then on, we ran strong and managed to get by second-place Adrian Orellana when he was changing an axle.” While on the highway at about mile 310, he passed Zach Sizelove who had stopped in a pit. At that point, Wells was now first on the road but knew Sizelove would not be far behind. Continuing to cautiously put as much room as possible between him and whoever might be following, Wells said he kept the vehicle running steadily for the rest of the 466-mile race. Then he crossed the finish line two minutes ahead of his nearest competitor, winning the Pro UTV NA Class. “Baja had the last laugh,” said Wells. “What I didn’t know until the end of the race was the external pump got stuck on. The internal pumps were also on. That helped the car run better.” SJ

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