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SCORE PRO UTV OPEN CHAMPION Multiple mishaps didn’t stop Chapo Racing from powering their way to a Pro UTV Open Class Championship By Larry Saavedra Photos by Get Some Photo As Justin Elenberg of Mesa, Arizona tells it, bringing home a SCORE Class Championship in Pro UTV Open for Can-Am and Chapo Racing came down to sticking to “the plan.” Their first-place finish at the 54th BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts was the fourth straight win, even though a series of potentially race-ending mishaps throughout the 2021 SCORE Season could have taken them out of the running anywhere along the way. 34th SCORE San Felipe 250 “San Felipe was the first time we had a different driver start a race for us,” said Elenberg. “We knew going into the race and the season we had a solid car, and so putting Mike York into the driver’s seat seemed like a good move. He drove in 2020, but never started.” According to Elenberg, everything was looking good at this race until York hit a rock early on while battling it out with Wayne Matlock. That incident caused a flat and things got worse from that point. “One of the CVs caught fire next,” Elenberg said. “Our navigator, Ernesto Taylor, jumped out and extinguished it.” But according to Taylor, “I smelled something burning and didn’t want to alarm Mike, so I suggested that he keep driving. But the smoke got worse.” The front driver’s side inner CV was aflame, and after putting it out they called their next pit crew to prepare them for an axle swap. Meanwhile, Elenberg stood by as the Can-Am X3 pulled into the pit for a driver’s change. “I saw the X3 coming and it took about six minutes to swap the axle and I jumped in,” he said. Taylor interjected, “Don’t forget to tell him about the second fire that happened after the driver’s change.” Taylor laughed. “Yeah we had a fuel flame-out from the fumes while I was getting strapped in the car, but that went out in seconds though,” Elenberg acknowledged. While this was happening, Matlock had secured the lead from Chapo Racing. “I didn’t want to drive past the ability of the car because I knew we had a chance of catching Matlock,” Elenberg added. “I had a lot of fresh air in front of me, but with no radio contact it was anyone’s guess where he was, and that’s when I saw Matlock off the side of the road with his helmet off. As I went by he waved and gave us a thumb’s up.” Matlock eventually got back in the game, but Elenberg already regained the lead and put many miles on Matlock. “Closer to the finish in San Felipe, I radioed the team and they said someone was closing in on me, and so I really pushed the Can-Am thinking it was Matlock again. But as it turned out, they had the wrong information and Matlock was never even close. I guess I could have slowed down and saved the car.” Needless to say, Elenberg posted first place in class. 53rd SCORE Baja 500 In pole position at the SCORE Baja 500 Elenberg’s strategy was to split the race in half with York starting. “It seemed like a good idea, because he did such a great job in San Felipe,” said Elenberg. “York was really pumped and a little worried about Matlock.” Co-driver Taylor calmed York down enough to ensure that he simply drove his race, and not Matlock’s. “I was definitely keeping Mike up to the speed about everything in front of us, and that made a difference,” said Taylor. “Mike had a clean run and everything seemed good,” Elenberg said. “He brought the car into the pits, but we didn’t know Matlock’s position.” Elenberg and a fresh co-driver got in the car at mile marker 239, but soon got stuck in a bottleneck. “After the bottleneck cleared, we did some racing, but mostly got clean air near the ocean,” said Elenberg. “Running the car at night was awesome because passing somebody was a real challenge. I battled with Mike Cafro for a while, but he was on the throttle the whole time. He ran a pace to win his class and drove the wheels of his Polaris. Kudos to him for winning that race in his class.” Elenberg and Chapo Racing had earned their second win of the season. 2nd SCORE Baja 400 With two podiums in a row, Elenberg and his team felt pretty good about their chances of winning the SCORE Baja 400. “I definitely felt the pressure going into this race but I didn’t want to push it,” Elenberg said. “Our strategy would remain the same, so we made very few changes to the race car before the start.” Unfortunately, for Chapo Racing, most of the team ended up with a mild form of food poisoning leading up to race day. And to top it off, Chapo Racing would have another fume flame-out caused by a hot turbo. “At the driver’s change, there was a small flame-out,” Elenberg laughed. “There were a lot of bottlenecks at the SCORE Baja 400 where you couldn’t pass. I’m hitting the push to pass and so is the next driver. It was a mess for 30 miles. It eventually cleared up at a speed zone and the cars spread out as they pitted.” True to form, Chapo Racing snatched another first-place finish, and suddenly things were looking much brighter coming into the Baja 1000. 54th SCORE Baja 1000 Again, Elenberg kept to his plan and put York in the driver’s seat at the start of the SCORE Baja 1000. This time, however, Taylor would drive a stint, too. “We had some logistic issues that were out of our control,” Elenberg said. “Because Mike was starting, I had to leave the day before the start so I could meet at the driver’s change. That was a little unnerving. I was driving to mile-marker 383 and I never saw him start.” As it turned out, York set a good pace from Ensenada and made it to the pits about 10 p.m. that night where Elenberg was suited up and ready to get dirty. “I drove in such a thick fog and could barely see even with our driving lights,” Elenberg said. “I drove to the next pit and they wiped down the mud that had caked onto the Baja Designs lights and continued to the next pit, where I handed it off to Ernesto.” It was at this pit when one of the crew spotted oil leaking from the transmission. “The skid plate was covered with mud and oil,” said Elenberg. “There was a lot of fluid, and sure enough we had cracked the transmission and it was leaking out. But we didn’t want to stay to repair it.” Because a transmission swap would be a big gamble, Elenberg decided to send the car off with a cracked transmission. “I had a strong feeling the car would make it if we watched our pace,” said Taylor, who was then behind the wheel. “I was more afraid the gears would weld themselves together,” he added. Elenberg would again get back in the car at mile-marker 1053. “That’s if the car made it that far,” Elenberg said. “I knew about the transmission when it came into the pits,” Elenberg added. “But I didn’t know the power steering had failed as well.” Elenberg managed to strong-arm the Can-Am X3 to the finish, well ahead of his closest rival, and the team went wild at the finish knowing they conquered one of the toughest races in Baja and also take home the class championship. SJ

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