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PUSHED TO THE LIMIT Pro UTV Classes Go All Out To Win By Dan Sanchez, Paul Hanson, Guilherme Torres, and Jose Vazquez Photos by Get Some Photo More than 60 Pro UTV teams attempted to take on the 54th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts. Some were there to challenge the peninsula, others had a class championship on the line, but all wanted to win the race badly. Within a large field of competitors and manufacturers, the 1226.35-mile course became more difficult to finish, let alone win. As the top racers in the Pro UTV FI class saw Phil Blurton take the win, and Elias Hanna in the Pro UTV NA class take the win, veterans of Baja pushed harder to cross the finish line. Kaden Wells and Kristen Matlock were top contenders in the NA class and experienced unforeseen issues on the course. Wells in the No. 1995 Polaris RZR was battling with Hanna in the Honda Talon for quite some time but had to contend with mechanical issues that left him finishing in second place. “We were leading until we got a flat tire at about race mile 200,” said Wells. “We got back in the lead around race mile 300, then ended up getting hit by a truck. That didn’t help our day at all.”  Wells and the team didn’t suffer any injuries but the Polaris was not the same afterward. “I think it messed up our chassis a little bit, and we overcame a couple of other little issues,” Wells said. “I got out and gave the car to my dad, Travis (Wells), and my uncle Arnie, around race mile 630. I got back in around race mile 890. We lost a tire, then a trailing arm. Got that changed, and made it to the finish. My first time to Mexico was the Peninsula run in 2017, but we only made it to race mile 600. We had parts failure then. It was cool that even though we had issues this time, we still finished on the podium. It was a long enough race.” Kristen Matlock, in the No. 1954 Polaris RZR started at the rear of the pack ahead of Joe Bolton in the No. 1957 Polaris RZR. By race mile 155, Matlock had moved up to fourth place until the car blew two wheel bearings that set the team back several hours. In the meantime, Bolton, with co-driver and former SCORE Class 7 Champion Mike Leslie, took the opportunity to move up on the course to finish in third place. “This Peninsula run is great,” said Leslie. “I ran my first one 30 years or so ago. It is nice to be able to come back and finish this race. We had a couple of little problems, clutches, and my co-rider helped me a lot.” As for Matlock, she would ultimately finish in fifth place, behind Lawrence Janesky who finished fourth in the No. 1914 Honda Talon. PRO STOCK UTVS SHOW THEIR STRENGTH  One of the most impressive classes in the SCORE UTV categories is the Pro Stock class, where vehicles with factory components can finish a grueling course such as this one. Among a solid set of experienced competitors, they must carefully balance speed with patience to get the vehicle to the finish line. One racer who has done this extremely well this season is Mike Cafro in the No. 3955 factory Polaris RZR. Cafro finished first in class at this 54th SCORE Baja 1000 to end a perfect season, winning all four races. “The course was very long,” said Cafro. “A peninsula run is always very challenging, whether it’s pitting or driving or chasing. The whole thing is challenging. It’s no different than anyone, honestly. They are all hard. I almost threw it away in the last 40 miles. I went off a drop-off and almost rolled, but we saved it. These Polaris RZR’s are awesome.” Finishing the class in second place was Scott Trafton in the No. 3950 Polaris RZR. “This was a huge accomplishment,” he said. “This was my first tip to tip race. I have done a loop SCORE Baja 1000 before so we are super stoked to be here. He had some visibility issues due to dust. It’s always a war zone at first. We beat Baja again and look forward to doing it again next year.” A PERFECT SEASON FOR ELENBURG The newest SCORE UTV class, Pro UTV Open had Justin Elenburg in the No. 1870 Can-Am X3 dominate the class by winning every race this season. He continued to dominate at the 54th SCORE Baja 1000, putting an amazing effort with co-drivers Mike York, and Ernesto Taylor, to finish first again in class. “I started at race mile 395 and drove to race mile 700. Then got back in at race mile 1053 after getting some sleep in the backseat of a car, and took it home for the win,” said Elenburg. “What an amazing ride. The shock therapy suspension on this Can-Am with multiple selections and the LoneStar suspension; everything held together. It is a love-hate relationship. The peninsula run, you prepare for months, almost a year to get things done. It’s so stressful but when you get there and are in the mix and are actually doing it, it is so much fun, it is so exciting. It’s so much of a challenge. To be a part of this has been a dream come true. It has been on my bucket list for years to be able to win the SCORE Baja 1000.” In second place was Tyler Backus in the No. 1885 Polaris RZR XP1000 Turbo, co-driven with Ty Rejewski. “It was insane,” said Backus. “It has been a long day. This is the second time I’ve done this. We did it in 2014. It was fun and it was good.” Finishing in third place was veteran Pro UTV FI champion Wayne Matlock, with co-driver Josh Row, who were still working out the bugs on the team’s new 2022 Polaris RZR Pro R. “It went well and had a good finish,” said Matlock. “Our goal was to get this car to the end. It is a brand new car for Polaris. We wanted to race a car with stock components, stock drivetrain, stock suspension, and here it is, sitting here. The car has a ton of potential. There are a few things we have to work on, but it has a ton of potential and is extremely fast. The course was fun, rough. It’s always rough. It is supposed to be rough. It is Baja.” See more stats on Score's Fan Pages. SJ

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