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SCORE PRO UTV OPEN Class’ NEW CHAMPION Mike Cafro Tops The Class For 2022 By Mike Vieira PHOTOS BY GET SOME PHOTO  PORTRAIT PHOTO BY JACK WRIGHT NMEDIA3 Mike Cafro was optimistic at the start of the 2022 SCORE season, thinking he could bring home a championship in the Pro UTV Open Class after previously running in the Pro Stock UTV Class and winning every race in 2021. Plans for campaigning a new and faster Polaris RZR Pro R, however, were delayed because of the availability of the vehicle itself, as well as the parts and time needed for the racing modifications. Instead, he ended up running his old car for most of the season. Despite being at a disadvantage to the other cars in the Open Class in those early races, he and co-driver Jamie Kirkpatrick managed to finish at or near the top in the first three. At the SCORE San Felipe 250, Cafro brought home a second-place finish while overcoming some troubles with the car. “We were having a good day, and then it seemed like the car was starting to bottom out more and more,” said Cafro. “We got it to the finish, but it wasn’t the race we had wanted. We ended up finding out that the frame had broken in half, and that’s why it was bottoming out. We were lucky to finish, actually. Had the car performed the way it should have, we probably could have won that race.” Other than the car breaking in half, the team had no other issues to contend with, allowing them to stay on the hunt. Troubles arose again in the SCORE Baja 500 when an axle broke on the right side, causing extensive damage to the Polaris. After making repairs and getting on the road again, the other side broke about twenty miles farther down the course. “Fortunately, our pit crew wasn’t too far away,” he says. “They got to where the car was and got it fixed. Once we got it going again, we had no problems.”  The result was another second-place finish for the team. In the SCORE Baja 400, the team again had some issues to contend with, but they were minor compared to the earlier races. A missed turn led to a flat tire, but what should have been a quick repair led to a longer delay when the car fell off the jack, allowing other cars to get by while the tire change was going on. Further complicating matters was a broken rear sway bar link that caused a deterioration in the car’s overall handling. They decided against taking the extra time to fix it and pressed on.  Although Cafro had been hoping to take the overall UTV win in this race, he was more than happy to settle for the first-place class win in light of the issues that had slowed them down.  This also kept him in the points lead and gave him a shot at clean air for the start of the SCORE Baja 1000 in a new car the team had been waiting for all season. Going into the SCORE Baja 1000 with high hopes and in a good position to capture the championship, Cafro says, “It did not go as planned. We were racing a brand-new car. My partner Jamie had just finished the car. We got it done by the skin of our teeth right before the race. When we got to Mexico, we didn’t really pre-run much, just around the start for a little bit. I usually start the races, and I made it to around mile 50 before I ran out of talent, and I forgot about a dip. I tried to slow for it, but not enough, and I dropped the front end into it.”  The impact bent the steering rack, and the result was that swapping the rack out for the one in the pre-runner car put the team back by about three hours. Knowing that they needed a top-five finish in order to take the championship, Cafro said, “We pretty much went into survival mode at that point to make sure the car got to the finish. I’ve got to admit, the course was probably the most challenging I’ve ever raced. It was torn up and way rockier than anything else because the rains had really done a number on it.” The strategy of taking it easy worked, as the team finished fifth and suffered no further trouble for the rest of the race, taking the championship by five points over Craig Scanlon.   The team is looking forward to the 2023 season and giving their new Pro R Polaris a real workout after the rather gentle debut in the 1000 after the steering rack incident. Cafro says it’s a much faster car and completely different from the one they had been racing through most of 2022. He says, “Our plan is to prep this new car and focus on winning another championship.  Next year is going to be pretty challenging because I know there’s going to be a lot of competition, but we’re looking forward to it.” SJ

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