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Page 80 of 124

UTVS OUT IN FORCE 59 Pro And Sportsman Racers Rose To The Challenge By Dan Sanchez, Paul Hanson, Jose Vazquez, and Guilherme Torres Photos by Get Some Photo It seemed like an all-out battle between Polaris, Can-Am, and Honda at this year’s BFGoodrich Tires 53rd SCORE Baja 500 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. With racers that have multiple wins and SCORE Championships to their name, the competition is extremely high. Throw in a tough and very technical course, and the chances of winning become even slimmer. When the Pro UTV FI class left the starting line, the Jagged-X Polaris team of Brandon Schueler were off first after winning in San Felipe. They were followed by Austin Weiland and Wes Miller. 2020 Pro UTV Champion Matt Burroughs started in the middle of a pack of 30 racers in 10th place, 2019 SCORE Baja 400 winner Craig Scanlon started in 13th, and former Pro UTV Champion Marc Burnett started in 17th place. As the race moved through the open desert, racers encountered a variety of obstacles and tough terrain that was slow going. While some pulled over for minor issues and mechanical failures, Branden Sims who started in 26th place with co-driver Skyler Howard moved forward in the pack. Despite steering issues, they passed everyone they could to take the eventual win in the No. 2969 Polaris RZR. Phil Blurton and Beau Judge in the No. 2944 Cam-Am X3 finished second after starting in fourth position. “We had some crazy battles all day,” said Blurton. “We went back and forth and were all within 30 seconds during most of the day. This is our first year doing SCORE races and ran the SCORE Baja 250 in San Felipe, and now are here. People warned us about the silt and I got to experience it first-hand. It wasn’t that bad during pre-running but today it was on another level with a lot of cars stuck on it.” Finishing third was Schueler with co-driver Cayden MacCachren. For the factory Polaris Jagged-X team, this was another great podium finish after winning the class in San Felipe. “ We had a good day, but there were tons of rocks and we had no flats, which is huge,” said Schueler. “We had a couple of mechanical problems right from the get-go that took us some time and dropped us from first to third. But other than that, we only stopped for fuel and had a good day. That coastline was fast– it was fun.” Pro UTV N/A After Kristen Matlock’s performance in the SCORE San Felipe 250 winning her class and gunning for the UTV Overall win, she was one of the contenders for the win in the Pro UTV N/A class. But 150 miles into the race, Matlock had pulled off the course allowing her competitors to move ahead of her. It was great news over the radio for Kaden Wells in the No. 1995 Polaris RZR XP1000, who started in second place. That position gave him a slight edge while keeping a good pace ahead of the competition, and after Dodge Poleman in the No 1962 car pulled over with mechanical issues, he found himself winning the class. Zach Sizemore in the No. 1925 Honda Talon started in fifth place but managed to move up to take a second place finish in the class despite having some issues along the way. “I got one flat after I hit a really big boulder,” said Sizemore. “We got stuck in one of the bottlenecks out there for maybe 30 minutes and that held us up a little bit. We had a ten-mile lead but unfortunately broke our upper left wishbone and had to limp to one of the pits and get it changed– that cost us the lead. We didn’t want to risk anything else happening, so from there we just kept a good pace.” Finishing third in class was Adrian Orellana in the No. 1985 Polaris XP1000. “We did well and the two co-drivers did great,” said Orellana. “We had one flat tire and a broken axle, and the crossover section was really hard. But the car did great and we didn’t get held up too much on the silt.” Pro UTV Stock Factory Polaris team racer Mike Cafro had double duty at this year’s SCORE Baja 500. He had the No. 3955 Polaris Turbo S in the Pro UTV Stock class (Driver of Record), as well as the No. 2975 Polaris RZR Turbo in the Pro UTV FI class where he drove solo. While the latter finished fourth, the Pro UTV Stock team managed to win the class despite rolling the vehicle over and dealing with a tough course. “ We won it, but it could have been a little bit better,” said Cafro. “I rolled the car over once and we had some real issues in a bottleneck, which is one of those things you can’t avoid. But we salvaged the win out of it, so I can’t complain.” This makes two wins in a row for Cafro this season, and he now has a good lead for the season points championship for the Factory Polaris team. Nick Bruce in the No. 3953 Can-Am X3 XRS RR started the class in second place and finished in the same position to gain some valuable points towards a class championship. “It’s the first SCORE Baja 500 that I drove by myself and we had a good time,” said Bruce. “There were plenty of rocks everywhere and a lot of silt. We didn’t expect so many silt beds. We saw a few while pre-running but didn’t expect some new ones to form in a few areas. There was this big bottleneck but we got through it okay. Overall, we had a great race” Although Scott Trafton in the No. 3950 Polaris RZR started ninth in class out of 10 competitors, he powered through the tough course driving solo to finish third. “ We broke a right rear wheel and had some overheating issues early, but we just grinded it out,” said Trafton. “Visibility was more of an issue than I thought it would be, with the hanging dust and the marine layer coming in as we got closer to the coast. But we ground it out and made it to the finish. PRO UTV OPEN A class that started with seven competitors, including Factory Polaris SCORE UTV FI Champion Wayne Matlock, ended up with only two finishers due to the tough course. These racers had to deal with mechanical issues and broken parts which kept most of them from finishing the race. Nevertheless, Justin Elenburg in the No. 1870 Cam-Am X3 put up a fast pace and dealt with the issues the quickest to win the class. “We had one flat tire during the race but also had to deal with one of the turbo hoses that popped off,” said Ellenburg. “We got stuck in a bottleneck but the car did amazing overall. We had a clean race despite some technical difficulties with our equipment.” Finishing second in class was Josh Herzing in the No. 1877 Polaris RZR XP1000. Herzing had several co-drivers including Travis Herzing, Ryan Blagrave, Hector Alcala, Lacrecia Beurrier, and Cody York. SPORTSMAN UTV UNLIMITED The No. 1805 Polaris RZR of Sterlling Becklin, with co-drivers Terry Madded and Jerid Bipzer, fortunately had no other competitors, but finished the course in a respectable 13:47:19 to win the class. SJ

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