Race Recap: Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy
For a few days every year the center of the UTV racing universe is in Laughlin, Nevada for the Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy. The event includes racing for the kids, a poker run, a long distance jump contest with 10 thousand dollars’ worth of cash and prizes for the winner, and pro racing for bikes, desert, and short course UTV’s. The event draws everything from Championship winning racers, to aspiring first timers. Racers from just about every race sanctioning body including WORCS, BITD, SCORE, and many others all vie for a World Champion title. Recently crowned King of the Hammers Mitch Guthrie Jr, defending Best in the Desert champ Phil Blurton, and multi-time WORCS champion Beau Baron join the many others who line up to take on the same Laughlin terrain. Many will compete in the short course race, a fever-pitched 3 lap sprint, and then jump into a desert car and run another 10 laps. The hyper competitive atmosphere and short, but pounding race course, combine to give racers and fans a real treat. The schedule change that included two days of contingency and the kids classes racing on Friday, made the event less stressful for parents who were also racing. UTV Underground has done a great job organizing a fun event with something for everyone.
Vendors pouring into contingency at the Riverside Hotel/Casino parking lot on Wednesday, got the event rolling. On Thursday, events for the racers got underway. Contingency was open to the public, and Method race wheels brought us the jump contest won by Cole Freiday. He launched his Can-Am Maverick X3 exactly 117.9 feet to win. Larry Heidler went second farthest with a 106.3 foot jump, and Mark Queen was third farthest with a 106 foot leap. Also run during the launch competition was a kids’ pit crew challenge. The team of Blake Helms, Wyatt Hubanks, Izzy Hubanks, and Luke Collins put down the fastest time to take the win.
The fun continued on Friday with the poker run, and youth class races in addition to contingency all day. The poker run allowed racers to check out the course, and anyone with a UTV to get a taste of the same dirt. Most of the UTV’s that went by flashed big smiles, bull horns hand signals and excessive wheel spin. It was clear they were having a blast. The pint sized pilots put on an amazing show on their infield course. Despite many of them straining to see over the dash, they are already proficient in ruthless driving skills on the track. They were banging wheels, out-braking each other into the turns and getting up on the bicycle in order to get the best of their competition. These kids will know all the tricks before they even reach double digits in age. The future of offroad racing looks very bright with tons of talented drivers being developed in these youth races. 48 racers lined up in the Youth 170 class. Travis Sallee was 1st, George Llamosas finished 2nd, and Ehan Groom was 3rd. The Youth 250 podium had local racer Dallas Gonzalez on top with Jacob Peter 2nd, and Kaden Danbury in third. Jaxxton Lambert finished a close 4th. The kids got to bask in the glory during their own awards ceremony Friday night in Don’s Celebrity Theater at the Riverside.
After days of fun events, there was still a full day of racing on Saturday. The bikes took the start first, then the short course race, and finally the desert race. The short course race would use the customary land rush start. Waves of hotshot drivers would stream off into the desert, hell-bent on winning. Production turbos and production 1000’s would all battle for the overall win in group B. In the end, the turbos would prove faster with S3 Power Sports racers taking 1st and 3rd overall. Winning by over 2 minutes was Dustin Jones. 2nd place went to Branden Sims, and 3rd place went to S3 driver Logan Brezina.
“I was running scared the whole time,” said Jones, “I got the holeshot for the third year in a row, and could hear a motor right behind me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the car right behind me. The last few years I have finished 4th, so I was determined not to be conservative. I was going to lay it all out there and go 100% for the win. I thought the pack was right on my tail but when I pulled up to the podium, there was nobody there. I had a 2.5 minute lead back to Sims. The engine I kept hearing was my own Can-Am power plant. This was a brand new car that we built in 7 days. It only had 1.4 miles on it and those were put on at the dealership. We lose a whole week due to the long drive we have to make from Louisiana, so we have to get it right the first time. We are very meticulous in the cars we build. The UTV World Championships is the one you really want to win and part of the reason why I was pushing so hard is because of my teammates. I have 10 guys in the shop who want to win just as bad as I do and I need to beat them. We all work hard to get faster every race and that keeps me at the top of my game.”
Third place Logan Brezina also works for S3 Power sports. “I never saw Dustin the entire race,” says Logan with a laugh, “I got the holeshot in my row and was first into the desert with Sims on my tail. At race mile 5 he passed me and I knew he was fast. There was nobody in my mirror so I figured if I stayed up with him I would be fast. I raced my Can-Am X3 with a 64” wheelbase. It is usually set up for racing in the woods back in Louisiana. It was set up low to the ground and I knew we would be racing in the desert, so I borrowed some stock Fox shocks from a friend. It handled great and I had a blast. I’ve won championships in the woods, but it is one of the highlights of my career to finish the World Championships on the podium with Dustin and Branden.”
The turbo cars took the top spots but a pair of 1000’s were also in the mix. Shelby Anderson cracked the top ten with her 9th place finish, and fellow WORCS racer Randy Nix was 11th. “I started on the second row,” says Anderson, “I was kind of bummed that we drew the 22nd place on the grid so my goal was to finish in the top ten. My Polaris has safety equipment but otherwise is fully stock. I was 4th off the line; there were cars that already crashed on lap one. I know that this race wipes out a lot of people so I wanted to set a conservative pace that I knew would get me to the finish. I was the 3rd car in my class across the line and I had to jump into a desert car so I didn’t even know where I finished. I was co-driving in the desert car and I was bouncing around a lot; I took a beating. We didn’t finish the race but I found out that we won the Production 1000 class when I got back to the pits.”
“Usually it only takes a little bit to feel when your car is really good and my car felt amazing,” said Randy Nix, “I knew I could push as hard as I wanted. I didn’t have time for testing so I just ran my WORCS short course set-up; it worked well. When I got to the Fox proving grounds I did not know what the car would do but I hit it faster on every lap. I saw Mark Queen tangled up with another car; it was a real wake-up call. I settled into 6th place but other cars ahead of me started dropping off. I set a comfortable pace and just chased the pack.”
As the short course race wound down, staging for the desert race began. It allowed many of the racers to run both races. The overall group D desert winner Phil Blurton was one of them. “I went too hard in the short course race and did not finish so I knew the pace to run in the desert race,” said Blurton, “The CV’s and axles got so hot that it caused a grease fire on the car. We didn’t have a siren in the short course car so it made it tough to pass other cars. We stopped in the farthest point of the course by the mountains. I was not sure if we would make it to the start of the desert race in time. We towed back to the road and left the car there. We got a ride back and jumped in the desert car. We headed right back out in the desert for another race. The course got really rough. It was filled with braking and acceleration bumps in addition to the whoops. We had a flawless race. We were the 5th car into the desert. We played it smart; the race is not long, but it’s not short either. By mile 7, we were in the lead, and put 7 minutes on second place going into the last lap. We backed it down a bit but only lost 20 seconds on the final lap. We had time to spend. Everyone was asking us before the race if we were going for two in a row. Every race is its own mental battle. There are so many variables in racing. We had our sights set on a good finish for the points. After we found ourselves in the lead, we went for the win!” 2nd place in Group D went to Ryan Holtz, and Dustin Jones grabbed his second podium finish of the day with a 3rd place finish.
Fresh off his win at the Mint 400, Dodge Poelman was back on top of Group C in Laughlin. He outran 2nd place Cody Bradbury, and 3rd place Garrick Lastra, but it wasn’t easy. “We were second off the line and followed Quintero until race mile 4,” said Poelman, “The car was running hot, and we went into limp mode. We had to stop and let it cool down. We ended up going into limp mode 11 times during the race. It became a challenge to manage it; we got better at how hard we could go. We lost all communication with the pits and in the car with the intercom. My co-driver had to use hand signals or hit me in the helmet when he wanted to signal me. I ended up talking to myself for most of the race. We took all the tool bags, spare parts, even the spare tire off the car to save weight. If we had any major issues, we were done. My pit crew held up a cardboard sign telling me to pit for fuel. When I pulled in, my crew chief told us we were leading. We thought we were just going for a finish. There is no better feeling than to win. We had a blast racing against my Dad and sister in the other car. My Dad is more used to racing the Trophy Truck; they had some problems and finished 23rd. We have learned a lot about how to keep the car in one piece. We did the entire Baja 1000 on the same set of tires.” Poelman has taken wins at two of the most prestigious offroad races so far this season. He is setting his sights next to the SCORE Baja 500 in June.
The UTV World Championships drew huge car counts in every class. Group D had 69 entries. Group C had 74, and Group B drew 109. Youth classes added another 68. While much of the country was shivering, the weather was perfect, and the amenities in Laughlin can’t be beat. A fun time had by all, and huge turnouts of the fastest UTV racers on the planet make the race a favorite for sponsors, fans and the competitors.