The Silver State 300 is a race that is slated between The Mint 400 and the legendary Baja 500. It rarely gets the attention or vehicle counts that other BITD races will garner. But this race for the past 2 years has been one of the best UTV desert races, possibly the best if you consider the battle that has been waged during this high speed rally style desert event. Last year the UTV race was decided by less than 30 seconds. This years race was decided by just over a minute with the lead being taken over in the final miles of the race.
Silver State is quickly turning into one of our favorite races of the year. The weather is usually perfect, the scenery at this race is awesome, and from a work standpoint its a fairly simple race to cover with only 300 miles to chase and multiple access roads to get us into some pretty good spots. As you can see by the Images that Jason Zindroski of HighRev Photo got and featured in this story, there are some very scenic and very challenging areas provided by this 300 mile race course that runs through Nevada’s high desert. Casey Folks and his team at Best In The Desert do a phenomenal job putting this race on and we at UTVUnderground.com were happy to be on hand for our 4th year in a row to cover this fun race.
The race kicked off on Saturday May 4th at 6:00am with motorcycles being first off the line. Next were the quads and by 6:40am the first UTV was sent off. As is the case with all of the UTV races at BITD the starting order is selected at random a couple weeks prior to the event. Luckily for the Polaris RZR XP4 of Cognito Motorsports, they were chosen to lead the pack of UTV’s off the line and into the dust of this extremely fast paced race course. While Justin Lambert, pilot of the Cognito machine would rejoice, his competitors would sigh with disbelief and would immediately know that the pressure would be on them starting at RM1. Cognito has been on a terror at the previous 2 BITD races. At the Parker 250 back in January, Cognito had almost a 9 minute lead with lass than 30 miles to go before suffering a mechanical that would push them not only out of the lead but also off the podium and into an 8th place finishing position. From there the team headed to the Mint 400 with high hopes of finishing strong but drew last for the start. By the midway point of the Mint, Cognito had found there way to the front. Beginning to check out, everything was looking solid and just as they began to settle into a steady pace to aim for the finish and the win bad luck would strike again thus pushing the team out of all hopes of finishing on the podium and delivering the team their first DNF of the season. The field of competitors in the PRO UTV class know its only a matter of time before Cognito works out the bugs and is able to hang onto one of these leads and take home a win. Having them go first off the line for them is a huge advantage for clean air and allows them to set the pace they like, which is blistering!
As the 1918 of Cognito shot off the line you could see the dust beginning to rise. The motorcycles and quads running out front were already stirring it up and with no wind in the air the dust had no where to go but to linger. By the time the final UTV was off and into the desert the course looked like a scene out of Star Wars with only traces of trees peaking through the hovering dust trails. (Did you like my Star Wars reference? I felt it was fitting since the race fell on Star Wars Day “May The 4th Be With You!”) The race was on, and as expected Cognito was charging hard but to no one’s surprise so was the 1934 Coastal Racing Polaris of Scott Kiger and Mark Holz. The 2012 Champions were coming off of a dominating performance at the Mint 400 and with some minor mods to the car to adjust for this high speed race they were ready to go for back to back wins. 1 year ago at this race in 2012 the Coastal Racing team found themselves in a battle for the win with the 1919 Jagged X Polaris of Brandon Schueler. Kiger and Holz would edge Schueler out by less than 30 seconds to take the win so they knew coming into this race that they were going to have to let it all hang out. To add to the drama for this years race, random drawing positions would put Coastal directly behind the 1919 of Jagged X off the start. The battle was already laid out before the green flag had ever dropped!
By RM (race mile) 80 the field was beginning to set its pace. Cognito to no ones surprise was still out front and charging hard but they were also stuck directly behind a stubborn quad racer who despite being pressured within feet of the 1918 refused to move. When we saw Cognito charge by us the dust they were in was so bad that they actually had veered off course stopping just shy of a wood beam fence that could have ended their day. Just 2 minutes behind Cognito came the extremely fast machine of Coastal Racing. Kiger who was piloting the Polaris RZR Xp900 in the morning half of the race had already passed 99% of the people who started in front of him and was now beginning to chase down the leader. Only seconds behind them was the 1931 Jagged X Polaris of Craig Scanlon who in his own right has been quite fast this entire season and is clearly beginning to learn his new machine. With no time for practice or test sessions in between races, Scanlon is forced to learn and adapt to his machine on race day. As he shot by us his teammate Brandon Schueler in the 1919 appeared and not far behind him was the 1917 Can-Am Maverick of Murray Racing. We weren’t even at the half way point and the race was being challenged by 5 seriously capable machines with teams and drivers who had the skill and speed to go the distance.
We picked up and moved on but our coverage team at RM 130 would confirm the running order to be about the same. Same would be true through about RM 146 and then as the teams started to approach the 200 mile mark thats when things would begin to shake up. Cognito would roll into Pit 6 at RM 215 with almost a 7 minute lead over the now second place 1919 of Brandon Schueler. The 1919 Jagged X machine started a ways behind Cognito so checking out was a necessity for the 1918 Cognito RZR to maintain a winning time. Hot on the 1919 bumper was the 1934 with Mark Holz now behind the wheel. Holz took over the Coastal Racing RZR and began to push hard putting the rear tires in jeopardy and suffering multiple flat tires. But quick changes and an insanely fast race pace kept the Coastal car within striking distance of the second place Jagged X machine and well within reach of a corrected time victory should they continue to close the gap on Cognito in these final 100 miles. Over the radio we hear that the 1931 of Scanlon is down and possibly out. Having stopped to change a belt due to a feeling of slippage, it turns out after getting back going that the belt was not the problem but in fact the situation was much worse. As Scanlon began to push his car began to push back and before he could get back into the battle his clutch would let go forcing the 1931 to accept defeat and succumb to its first DNF of the season.
While the 3 Polaris machines of Cognito, Jagged X and Costal ran out front it would be the 1917 Can-Am of Murray Motorsports that would be the first non Polaris to begin to push for its share of the Podium. With less than a 100 miles to go the Murray Motorsports Maverick 1000 would begin to turn up the heat and charge hard into the dust to chase down the dueling RZR’s of Jagged X and Coastal. With less than 50 miles to go talk would begin to fill the air at the finish line of whether or not Cognito could hold onto the lead but before the debate could heat up any further radio chatter would once again lessen the mood for us rooting for a clean finish for the team. The 1918 has a broken clutch is what we were told and the 1919 and 1934 are still racing bumper to bumper and are now past the Cognito RZR. For the 2nd time this year Cognito has suffered failure by a very expensive STM clutch component which now will cost them their second possible race win of the year. Clutches have become the achilles heal of these high powered RZR’s having wounded the Jagged X team and Coastal teams numerous times over the past 2 seasons. Jagged X fought fiercely last year to overcome their clutch issues and resorted to lessening HP out of their Kroyer Racing Engines to keep their TEAM clutches in perfect running order. Yet despite all of their efforts a clutch took out Scanlon in the 1931 this race and now Cognito with their high HP Muzzys engine, have once again detonated another of these costly parts in their RZR. While they would work to get their’s repaired at Pit 7 the 1919 and 1934 would begin to see if they could duplicate last years close finish.
It was like deja-vu at the finish line seeing the Jagged X and Coastal team’s come walking up. They fought back excitement hoping to not jinx either of their racers. Coastal knew they had to finish within 30 seconds of Jagged X to steal the win on corrected time and Brandon Schueler in the 1919 knew that to be the case as well. We positioned a camera team at RM 296 which is a thick silty turn just before the finish. I radioed to the team to confirm who was leading and by how much once they saw them. From the finish line, out in the distance we could see 2 dust trails being kicked up very close to each other, we knew the 1919 and 1934 would duking it out and excitement began to rise. Other chase teams were arriving including the now disgruntled Cognito Motorsports team who just couldn’t believe their luck would once again put them into this position. But before any of us could settle into any further conversation over the radio we here “Coastal is in the lead with Jagged just behind him”. At that point we knew that Coastal Racing would once again be repeat winners of the Silver State 300 just narrowly edging out Schueler in the 1919 Jagged X machine.
Jagged X, the absoute definition of sportsmanship laughed, shrugged and then congratulated the sincere and excited Scott Kiger as the race cars made their way to the podium. Scanlon, driver of the 1931 and head of the RZR product line for Polaris, despite being driver of a competing team still happy that a Polaris would top the podium. As the Coastal Racing machine rolled off the stage, driver Mark Holz finally cracked a smile as he hollered for a cold beer. Holz is a hard guy to read at times. Very docile in personality and at times dry, leaving you to wonder what he is really thinking, had left no doubt in any of our eyes that he was anything other than ecstatic with their win. Anytime I can draw a high-five handshake out of Holz I take it! So while stories of the race and cold beers are now being shared by the top 2 finishers it was the 1917 Can-Am team of Murray Motorsports and the now revived and running 1918 team of Cognito Motorsports left to wonder just who would round out the podium. As the dust trails began to creep closer and closer the distinct yellow and red graphics of the 1917 Can-Am began to show in the overhead sunlight at the finish line of the Silver State 300. The Murray’s would bring home a podium for the Can-Am X-Team making it clear to Polaris that they were still very much alive, involved, and competitive. This season is just barely underway, there is a lot of racing left and a lot can happen between now and December. The points battles are heating up, the goals of winning championships are beginning to be discussed and yet the biggest race of the year is just now on the horizon.
Its not how we wanted the story to go, but it seems only fitting that as we kicked off our story describing the bad luck that the Cognito team has suffered in the previous 2 races that we finish it discussing it further. If there were trophies handed out for miles leading a race then the 1918 would surely take it home. However, if there was a trophy for bad luck they would now have at least 3 adorning their mantle as well. These guys are on the cusp of not only winning but dominating a race. It looked as if they could have gone wire to wire in this one but as luck would have it, they would have to settle with a 4th. Still an improvement and by all means a solid finish. Its just the finish they need to keep their name in the championship discussion but with that said, should Coastal continue to walk away with the top spot any further, the work they cut out for teams like Cognito is going to be undoubtedly more and more difficult. All you can really say at the end of a day like Cognito had is “thats racing”. You win some, you lose some, but in the end if you come out able to race another day then its easy to look at the race as a successful one despite your finishing position. They will be back, and we will be there to witness their luck turn around.
As always, UTVUnderground.com wants to thank each and every team, racer and fan that represents our colors on and off the race course. Nothing makes us happier then seeing those UTVUnderground colors adorning the sides of your race machines. We do this as fans #1, but we do this for you in the end. Our heart is with the sport and we love to tell your story, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts for continuing to represent UTVUnderground.com as you would any other sponsor! We also want to thank our team at Mad Media for chasing the race with us to film and capture the battle on video. Stay tuned to UTVUnderground.com for an exciting Polaris Racing video from Silver State. Huge shout out to Jason Zindroski of HighRev Photography for commanding the race course all day long and capturing some stunning images for us. While I try to be out at as many places as I can, Jason allows us to have more looks and is able to stay in spots longer allowing us to get shots of the deeper portion of the class while we run up front to tell the story of the winners. Lastly, we want to thank Cognito Motorsports for sponsoring our coverage for this round. These coverage sponsors allow us to provide better coverage and help get us to the races so we thank you for your support!
Until Vegas 2 Reno…..
Words by: Joey DiGiovanni // UTVUnderground.com
Photos by: Jason Zindroski // HighRev Photography & Joey DiGiovanni // UTVUnderground.com
Coverage Sponsorship by: Cognito Motorsports