2016 Polaris RZR UTV World Championship Powered By Monster Energy
Story | Extended Gallery | Results
Words by: Joey DiGiovanni // UTVUnderground.com
Photos by: Vincent Knakal | Ernesto Araiza | Jason Difuccia | Sebastian Krywult | Tom Leigh | Harlen Foley
The 2016 Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy was everything we thought it could be and more. 288 registered Motorcycle, ATV & UTVs, a total of 450 banded competitors which included 24 youth racers, all came to Laughlin, NV to participate in this years event. What shocks me the most was that of the 288 entries, 212 were UTVs. I still can’t get over that. In 2015 we knew we had a successful event for year one, but this year it felt like something that had been going on for decades, it felt exactly how I always dreamed our event would feel, huge. We finally have our own UTV version of the Mint 400 or Daytona 500. I am still blown away.
Planning for an event like this is a massive undertaking. It takes a full team and a lot of man (and woman) hours to pre-plan and then execute. Multiple meetings, hundreds if not thousands of emails, text messages, phone calls, site visits, merchandise designs, website designs, social media planning, race class structure, rules discussions, course design, BLM permitting, city planning, hotel coordination, sponsorships, contingency layout, party planning, competitor communication, travel, television, media registration, banners, vehicle prep, booth designs, volunteer coordination, trophies, awards, prizes, parties, book & program layout, marketing, and the list goes on and on. We had over 50 people on our staff assisting on-site during the event and that doesn’t include Best In The Desert’s staff. The UTV World Championship (UTVWC) isn’t a basic race, its a full blown traveling circus, it is the biggest UTV race in the world and is now also the biggest UTV event our sport has. I am proud of that more than words could ever describe and even more proud of what our team at Mad Media & UTVUnderground.com have put together.
The week kicked off on Thursday as vendors began to roll in and set up their displays at the Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino where we would host contingency and most of the weeks events. While our contingency manager Rusty Baptist moved over 90 companies into position throughout the day, Matt Martelli (co-owner of the UTVWC) of Mad Media began to prepare for the first real event of the week, the Business-To-Business Summit. Here is where Matt, his brother Josh Martelli (also co-owner of the UTVWC), and I along with some guests gather the industries company leaders together to discuss our industry and share ideas. The B2B Summit is still very much in its infancy but one day we envision this to be as big of a reason for companies to attend the UTVWC as it is for them to be there for the racing and showcasing of products. This year Todd Clement of Horsepower Ranch and formally of Wide-Open Baja sat on the panel to discuss the power of corporate and group off-road adventures and how adventure riding can strengthen the sport and your company.
Later that evening we hosted our 2016 UTVWC kickoff party which was sponsored by Monster Energy. We all gathered at Pints inside the Colorado Belle and had drinks, ate dinner and really celebrated that the 2016 UTVWC was actually upon us. You could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. Everyone piled into Pints and had a blast! Monster Energy even picked up the tab and I think everyone was stoked on that.
Friday arrived and I was boiling over with excitement. I made it down to contingency early to make sure everyone was set to go. Racers were already staging their vehicles before Cory Sappington who handles Tech Inspection for the event was even parked in place. Companies were buzzing around popping up their tents, parking their fresh machines and setting up their displays. I moved my kids Polaris RZR 170 into the UTVUnderground.com booth and put our SDR Motorsports built Polaris RZR XP Turbo on display inside of the BFGoodrich Racing / Jackson Motorsports Group set up. Upstairs inside the Colorado Belle, the BITD registration staff and our wives who double as volunteers to pass out merchandise and driver bags, were busy getting in place and set up to handle the 450 competitors who would come through that day to register for the race and collect their merchandise. I want to take a minute to apologize to those of you who did not get all of the cool items we were passing out. We greatly underestimated the amount of walk up racers for this year and because of that many of you did not get a jacket or shirt in some cases. While we provide these items for fun and to give you guys something cool to come away with, we still don’t ever want to upset anyone because they did not get their free drivers only swag. We will work to improve our counts again next year to make sure everyone gets a piece of UTVWC driver only swag.
The first event to kick off for Friday was the “Family Fun Poker Run”. This year saw around 150 UTVs take advantage of driving the race course and participating in the poker run challenge which is put on by Best In The Desert (BITD). The Poker Run gives racers and enthusiasts a chance to take on the entire UTVWC race course all while collecting a poker hand which can win you some really cool prizes. Racers use the Poker Run as a chance to pre-run the course while enthusiasts use it to see exactly what the racers are up against in Saturdays races. For us its a way to add value to the event and to involve enthusiasts who want to also ride. We plan to expand our enthusiast based events in the future adding more days and surround those days with enthusiast based rides around the Laughlin, Needles & Bull Head areas. There are thousands of miles of amazing trails in the area and we see a huge opportunity to turn the UTVWC into a week long rally event that then culminates at the end of the week with the worlds biggest and best UTV racing. This years Poker Run went off without a hitch and we doled out some great prizes from our sponsors to those with the best poker hands.
With the poker run complete, everyone grabbed their race cars and made their way to the Colorado Belle for registration and technical inspection. By the time the poker run participants arrived Contingency was in full swing with the biggest and best companies in the sport of UTV lined up to showcase their products, offer specials and just plain support and participate in this event. Last year our contingency was huge, but this year it took on a whole new level. We were smack dab in the middle of downtown Laughlin, NV for all to see. The only other contingency in off-road that even compares to what we had on display is the Mint 400, King of The Hammers & the Baja 500/1000. Racers snaked through this crowded row of vendors, spectators, fans and media as they made their way to technical inspection at the end of the row.
This sport does not grow unless all of us involved in it band together and drive it. That goes for us at UTVUG & Mad Media, you as companies, media, racers and enthusiasts and of course it goes for the OEM’s as well. I am going to be very blunt here, if you are a media outlet and or company that makes your living inside of the UTV Industry and you aren’t attending the UTVWC then you are doing you and your customers a disservice. This is the largest UTV race event in the world and is quickly going to become the largest UTV event period as it pertains to media, exposure, buzz and attendance. Don’t be left behind. Get involved for 2017 and experience it for yourself. Use it to network and to engage. Be a part of helping us grow our sport! For those of you media outlets who refuse to cover the UTVWC because it is owned by UTVUnderground.com, well thats on you. We had over 50 media outlets, multiple television crews as well as local and national print magazine editors who are waiting for us to send them images and story lines to create their own pieces because they couldn’t attend. You are only hurting yourself and your readers as well as the sport we are all trying to grow by ignoring this event because you view us as a competitor.
The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, youth racers, teenage racers and adults all pushed and worked their race machines through the crowd. Tim Shelman, our MC for the weekend, was on the mic hyping up the crowd, interviewing sponsors, racers and people in attendance and making sure everyone was having a great time. Polaris RZR was passing out free swag and Monster Energy was giving out drinks and manning the tunes. UTVUnderground.com hosted our first Driver Meet & Greet in front of our display and some of the biggest names in our sport took time out of their day to sit down and sign autographs and spend time with fans. As the day went on, the line of race cars never seemed to end. It was about 4pm when Casey Folks of BITD called Matt & I into a quick meeting to express a concern. It was here that he informed us that we had too many racers for the Holz Racing Products Production Short-Course Race. We had so many walk-ups registering that we were about to hit 100 UTVs just for that race alone. Based on the starting grid and the length of the course, it was determined that by the time the last row was to be sent off the line that the leaders of the race would already be coming back through. This was a huge problem and one we had to solve quickly. Our first hope was that the BLM and sheriffs would allow us to deviate from our BLM permit plan and allow us to have the production race run on the full desert course. Our backup plan was going to have to be to split that race into two separate races and calculate the overall time. I knew racers would freak out over that so we kept our fingers crossed. Casey worked his magic and it was decided that the short course racers would get to run the full 16 mile loop.
The drivers meeting was scheduled for 6pm that evening and tech was supposed to be closed by 5pm. Well, 5pm rolled around and there was still a line full of cars all the way through contingency. Cory Sappington was going to be a busy guy for a while. Most of us headed to the drivers meeting inside the Colorado Belle. There were so many people we had to move the meeting into the hallway and it still wasn’t big enough. You could feel the buzz in the air. For those of you who have never attended a Casey Folks hosted BITD drivers meeting, it always kicks off with a big “BOOYAA” from Casey and is followed up with about 100 more. Casey fills everyone in on the course, the racing format, general notes and bits of information. For this event we are also allowed to speak a bit and say some thank you’s, we also use it as a chance to introduce Robert Blanton of Warfighter Made to the crowd. Robert explains the Warfighter Made organization and shows off the Warfighter Perseverance Award which is given to a racer following the race who perseveres and never gives up despite the obstacles they may face in that days competition. We also use it as a time to raise a few quick bucks for Warfighter and on Friday night we were able to help Warfighter Made raise a quick $11,000.00 thanks to donations from racer Scott Yancey, Polaris RZR, and many many more who walked up and handed Robert cash right out of their pockets. The drivers meeting wrapped up and I made my way right back to the parking lot to see how contingency was going. This is where things got really interesting.
Its just before 7pm and there is still a good 20-30 vehicles trying to get through tech. Many vendors are still set up selling products while others are breaking down to move to the race track where they would be set up for race day. As I am speaking with a couple people who are in line the parking lot lights go off. I immediately look at my watch and see it is 7pm so I assume its a timer or something. I jump on my handheld radio and call out to our guys to go tell the hotel manager to turn them back on. I am met with a response of “Joey, all the lights in the hotel are off.” I look around and notice the street lights are out and all hotel lights in Laughlin are off. The sound of fire engines and diesel generators take the place of almost everything, but the racers in the parking lot could have cared less. Everyone just kept on pushing through. There was no panicking inside, well except for maybe our buddy Jason D. with Polaris who was stuck in an elevator. Poor Jason didn’t want to go out in an elevator he told us after, we all had a good laugh. What happened was a transformer exploded at a local transfer station knocking out power to all of Laughlin. I still can’t believe how calm everyone was, it was like no one really cared. Power was restored by 10 or 11pm that night and everything wrapped up at tech. Race-day was quickly approaching.
My alarm went off just before sunrise on Saturday. As I headed out into the parking lot I could hear the sound of motorcycles and quads revving and preparing for their early morning race. The smell of the desert and the sound of motorcycles early in the morning is better than coffee for me. Its one of those things that you love and you forget how much you love it until the next time it hits your senses. My daughter and I loaded up the truck and made our way to the track up the road to prepare for the day. As I pull up I am immediately bombarded. Questions from racers on where to park, who to talk to for pit passes, how many laps are we racing, where is Casey, how come I can’t go over there, how can I get a shirt, do you have any stickers, what time do we stage, are you racing, are you hungry, do you have a radio, and on and on and on. But its all good, its what we do and I love it. I took a moment to just look around and absorb the event. I tried to hang on to every moment and really enjoy everything that was taking place. I was excited to see our hard work come to life and I know the racers were excited to battle it out over the trophies, awards, $100,000 in cash and prizes and of course the 4 new Polaris RZRs that were up for grabs.
The pits were buzzing! Motorcycles and quads were battling hard on the course while the 212 UTVs and their teams were flying around preparing for their races. I have an interesting role to play at the UTVWC and this year was even more fun for me as I added being “race dad” to my already full list of responsibilities. It is pretty special to think that not only do I get to be a part of building this great event for others to enjoy, but now I too also get to watch my kids participate and it allows me to also get to enjoy the event from that side of the spectrum. My 12 year old daughter Mia would be navigating for 2015 Youth UTV World Champion Seth Quintero in the afternoon short-course race while my boys Enzo (8) & Cristian (7) would be riding together in their Polaris RZR 170 competing in the Youth Championship Race. There is no way I could pull this off without the team we have handling the other responsibilities from TV & Video production to race ops to logistics. I never was so excited for a race day in my life.
Walker Evans Racing Desert Championship Race
Racers began to stage for the Walker Evans Racing Desert Championship race around 9am. By this time the lead bikes & quads were wrapping up their race. 82 UTVs in total would stage for the first UTV race of the day, a record for UTVs in desert racing. I was like a kid running up and down the rows fist bumping and wishing good luck to the racers. I was so proud to see these guys and girls all staged ready to compete in one of the most exciting races all season. Some I could tell were nervous as all hell, others were calm and laughing, and then you had a few which showed no emotion. As the start time drew nearer you could feel the tensions rise and before we knew it Casey Folks was dropping the green flag and the first of many rows of racers rocketed off the line and into the unforgiving 150 mile long course. The dead engine land-rush start is unlike any other start in UTV desert racing. Watching 18 UTVs at a time battle into turn 1 and then fight there way into the desert is not only exciting for the fans its the most intense action these racers will ever feel all year long. The wind was blowing just enough to keep the dust moving and as racers began to spread out the pace began to increase.
I will save the blow by blow race coverage for the race reports from the racers and for our 2 hour show we were filming, but here are some things I would like to touch on. There was carnage everywhere on the course. Because I am so closely attached to this race, hearing someone is broken or wrecked really sucks for me. I know how much time, money and effort is put in to come to a race and I think its fair to say that winning this race is a top priority for teams right next to winning The Mint 400. So to hear someone is out of a race due to mechanical or crash hurts more than other races for me and so for those of you who did not finish or damaged their machines my thoughts are truly with you and I extend a special thank you to each and everyone of you for coming out and taking on this race.
There were a ton of quality racers competing this year, truly the best of the best in the world. Watching the top guys battle out front was insane. Lambert, Jones, Schueler, Guthrie Jr., Angal, Sims, etc etc etc, I mean it was a knock down drag out taking place in Laughlin and with each lap the course got rougher and harder on both man and machine. The race lead was swapped numerous times and the win literally would be determined by attrition. The pace these racers had set was the fastest I have ever witnessed, and that also carried over to the Production Short-Course race. So to see Justin Lambert finish the race under full power and with a 10 minute lead over the next finisher was nothing short of amazing. Coming into the final section of the race Lambert was actually in second place with Mitch Guthrie Jr. holding the lead. We could see the helicptor come back into focus and then we could see Guthrie’s bright yellow RZR XP Turbo break the horizon but as quickly as the announcers could say his name his machine came to a halt. Seconds later both he and his navigator were out of the vehicle and it was at that point we knew something had gone wrong with the machine. It was then that Lambert came blasting by Guthrie heading into the infield with a head full of steam. When Lambert crossed the line you could see the exhaustion on his face. Justin is a fit guy, but never have I seen him look so drained at a finish line. It took everything he had to maintain that pace through this course. It was a victorious moment for him and the entire Cognito Motorsports Team. This was Lambert’s second win in a row and his second overall in a row beating out all of the Turbo machines and once again proving that the naturally aspirated machine is still the dominant vehicle so far in 2016.
Ryan Laidlaw in his Polaris RZR XP Turbo would finish just over 10 minutes behind Lambert in second place overall and securing the win in the Pro Turbo class. This was a huge feat for Ryan and the Redlands Racing team who debuted their new machine at this years UTVWC. Not only is this one of the most advanced UTVs ever built, its also one of the best looking and Laidlaw proved its also one of the best performing. We can’t wait to see how this new machine and team shakes up the Pro Turbo class the rest of this season. One things for sure, people will be paying attention to them!
Finishing 3rd overall and 2nd in the Pro 1000 class was Kristen Matlock. Kristen is wife of Baja 1000 champion Wayne Matlock and was racing in one of their Terrabit Racing Jimco built RZR XP 1000’s. She battled through the dust and field like a seasoned pro, clearly showing that Wayne isn’t the only one in the family with the skills to pay the bills. Kristen finished with class and was clearly thrilled to be claiming her podium trophy amongst some of the best in this sport. I am not sure what the plans are for Kristen this season but I think many others in the sport agree when I say that we hope she continues to come out and shake it up with the boys this season.
Marc Burnett is a name we hear a lot of ever since he blasted onto the UTV scene back in 2014. The former SCORE UTV champion switched from Can-Am to Polaris for 2015 and faced every bit of bad luck one could ever experience. He parted ways with his crew chief, he suffered numerous mechanicals, he had a failed backflip attempt at DuneFest in his RZR, broke his foot and had numerous surgeries to repair it and it still isn’t fixed, had a falling out with a car builder and then had to watch 2 of his RZRs burn to the ground during a pre-run at last years SCORE Imperial Valley event. But despite all of these obstacles in 2015 Burnett never once quit or gave up. Burnett is the epitome of what it means to be a desert racer. Some may not like him as a racer but they can never knock his drive to compete both on the course and in life. Burnett had one of the worst years anyone could ever experience in 2015 but at the end of a storm is always a rainbow and Burnett came to the UTVWC on a mission! Burnett would finish the race 4th overall and second in the Pro Turbo class, and I want to go on record as saying that I was stoked to see him get on the podium! Kudos to Mark and the entire MB Motorsports race team.
5th place overall and rounding out the podium for the Pro Turbo class was first awarded to Branden Sims who drove like a man possessed. Despite numerous obstacles mechanically, Sims fought as hard as anyone else and displayed some of the most intense driving I have ever seen. His speed on course was unreal and it was amazing that his machine even made it to the finish line. But soon after the celebrating was done BITD was calculating times and issuing penalties and Sims would be at the receiving end of one of those time penalties. It was determined that since Sims had pulled into the pits over the berm and not through the required pit entrance that he would be assessed a five minute penalty thus resulting in him being knocked off of the podium. This gave Dustin Jones and his S3 Powersports Can-Am turbo team the final spot on the Pro Turbo box and also the 5th place overall finish. Sims acknowledged that he did indeed drive over the berm and explained he had only done that because it was at that moment that he suddenly blew a belt. His decision was based out of safety as the part of the course he was on was a high speed danger zone. Any racer in his position would have done the same thing and Jones also acknowledged that. When I sent Dustin a text to congratulate him on the change in results he expressed that Branden had already called him to notify him. Jones told me the same thing he told Branden which was that he will accept the ruling by BITD but he did not want Branden’s trophy. Instead, he told me that he doesn’t want to win or take a trophy away from someone based on a technicality like this. I expressed to Dustin that you shouldn’t feel guilty for accepting this podium, that he still had to fight to even be in a position to be a benefactor from such a situation. But according to him, Sims beat him and Sims deserves that award. So while Jones will go down as the official 3rd place finisher in class and Sims 4th, I think its fair to say that they both will share this podium finish together. Both of these guys are true sportsman, and I hope everyone in this sport, young and old can learn something from this story. I congratulate them both.
Michael Cafro would finish 7th overall and 3rd in the Pro 1000 class. Cafro is another name that many may not have heard a lot of prior to this race. Cafro is local to us here in Southern California and is a dedicated UTV racer. He came to Laughlin with hopes of a strong finish. He not only accomplished that goal, but he found himself up on the podium taking home a trophy that others will only every dream of having. We want to wish Michael and the entire 1975 Polaris RZR team a huge congrats!!
Carlo Caya would take home the big win in the UTV Unlimited class in his Yamaha while Maddie Cox would take top honors in the UTV Sportsman class in her Polaris. Props to the both of them on their big wins at this years UTV World Championship!
Walker Evans Racing Desert Championship Race Overall Top 5
1. #1918 Justin Lambert – 03:05:32.056 (UTV P)
2. #960 Ryan Laidlaw – 03:16:38.822 (UTV Turbo)
3. #1954 Kristen Matlock – 03:21:56.091 (UTV P)
4. #905 Marc Burnett – 03:24:30.488 (UTV Turbo
5. #978 Dustin Jones – 03:27:54.420 (UTV Turbo)
Magnum Offroad Youth Championship Race
I wanted to stick around and hear all of the desert racers stories and see them all cross the podium but I had another role to play. It was time to remove my race promoter hat and throw on my race dad hat and get my boys suited up for the Magnum Offroad Youth Championship race. The youth race in 2015 stole the show and we were set to put the kids on a pedestal for 2016. in 2015 we had invited the kids out as an exhibition and to show the rest of the industry that there was a movement taking place amongst kids competing in Polaris RZR 170’s. This racing had been taking place for a couple of years but I think its fair to say that the 2015 UTVWC pushed RZR 170 racing into a whole new level. Last year an unknown kid with a privateer team named Seth Quintero took the win and it changed his life in a way that I never could have envisioned. The win would lead into a series of events that would find Seth being awarded a RedBull sponsorship and making him the youngest athlete to ever sign with the worlds top action sports energy drink company while becoming the only UTV racing athlete on their program. Alongside the success of the race in 2015, what happened to Seth further motivated us to want to push harder for the expansion of the Youth RZR 170 racing program. 2016 was to be a year where the Youth Championship race became not just a side show or exhibition, but a major part of the UTV World Championship.
We decided that we needed to expand the Youth Championship race to not only accommodate the faster and more experienced amateur racers competing in highly modified 170’s, but keep the spirit of the class and this level of racing in mind and still give true beginners a place to compete for a win and have some fun. We made the decision to add an Unlimited 250 class which would allow for any modifications to the chassis and motor up to 250cc while maintaining a Production 170cc class that kept the engines stock while allowing for safety and suspension mods. In addition to the classes, we also went to Polaris and asked for some amazing grand prizes for the winners and they obliged putting up two new RZR 170’s as prizes! While I want to maintain my position that this level of racing is for fun and for gaining experience, I do always want the kids to come away with a feeling of what its like to compete at the higher level. I want the youth race to boost the young racers confidence, to improve their drive for competition and to show them that hard work and dedication pays off even at their young age. I want the families to use this event as a chance to further bond and to celebrate each other. This isn’t a race just to see who is the best or fastest, this is a chance to embrace our kids and our sport in a way that we as parents only could have dreamed of when we were kids. With that said, this race has a different meaning for me, this race I feel is something that I think will leave a lasting mark on our event, its bigger than just another race, we are building our future! When we found out that Kaeden Danbury was going to be celebrating his birthday at the UTVWC again this year, we thought it would be cool to get him set up at the UTVUnderground.com Driver Meet & Greet at contingency. It was so cool seeing him sit their between all the pros, signing autographs, taking photos and doing interviews. Things like this are what make the UTVWC what it is. I hope he and his parents will forever share that memory.
One of the coolest moments for me this year was the drive to the start line in my RZR with my wife and our 2 boys behind us in their race ready 170. All these years of off-road racing I have seen parents share these moments with their children and finally I was getting to share in this experience with my own. I held no expectations for my kids other than that they had fun. I loved watching them go through the process of tech and contingency and now watching them in their suits laughing and smiling as they staged, words couldn’t express how excited I was for them. This was all about them and we were living it up as a family. As they got in their starting position I was able to step back and see just how many kids had came out to take part in this fun race. 24 Youth racers in total, 170’s built from mild to wild, boys and girls and parents were beaming with both excitement and even some serious stress. Maybe its because I just don’t take it serious enough yet, but I felt zero stress. I had a bit of anxiety but I equate it to the feeling you have as you get ready to go on a roller coaster ride. You know its going to be fun but you’re still a bit anxious in anticipation of the actual drop off. It was so cool seeing the little kids all over the start line in their fire suits and helmets, revving their little engines and preparing themselves for their own battle.
Once staged Casey Folks raised the green flag and with the drop the Unlimited 250 class rocketed off the line. Each one of the kids in that class was driving a really cool machine, a few were even modified to be single seaters and you could see the talent and speed these kids and their RZRs had. Just behind them the green flag dropped again and the Production 170 class charged off the start line. It was at that moment that I think my son Enzo who was driving realized that he wasn’t exactly Robby Gordon just yet. In the desert when we go ride he is pretty confident that he is the fastest boy alive, but he quickly realized these other kids are pretty good and so he settled into the back of the pack and just drove his race having the time of his life and it wasn’t long until he began to feel like he was Robby Gordon again. With each passing lap the kids all got faster. A few of the really fast kids that led the race early on dropped out due to engine troubles. I was really bummed for them and their parents. There are lessons being taught in all realms of this race, from land rush start, to passing, to being passed to dealing with mechanical failure. Its all a part of motorsports and sometimes the lesson is a hard one to learn but in the end we have to remember that we are building character in our youth and we are giving them experience that they will be able to apply later on in life and in competition. The Youth race was set for 30 minutes and for me as a parent with a kid actually racing a part of me thought the race felt like forever, the other part of you never wants it to end.
Casey Sims, a podium finisher in the 2015 UTV World Championship, took over the lead from a broken Jacob Peter on lap 5 and never looked back. Casey would maneuver his way through the course and lap traffic like a seasoned pro and would lead the Unlimited 250 class all the way to the finish line. Casey and his parents worked hard preparing a new RZR 170 to unveil at the UTV World Championship and their hard work and dedication to Casey’s driving paid off! Casey is one of the more experienced youth racers at the UTV World Championship. The 2015 Dirt Series champion competed all last year with a goal to return to the UTV World Championship and come home a winner. But what impresses me more than Casey’s skills as a young driver, is his personality and sportsmanship. He is polite, always smiling and on race day while the desert race was underway he made his way down to the UTVUG media pit to come say hi. Well, thats what I thought anyway, but then he asked where Enzo and Cristian were and I told him they weren’t there yet and he said “oh, well I just wanted to come down and wish them good luck today.” At that point it didn’t matter what happened in the race, to me the kid was already winning at life.
Finishing second overall and first in the Production 170 class was Julien “JuJu” Beaumer. Julien was racing in a borrowed vehicle that the Gonzales family had loaned him. Dallas Gonzales was also racing in the Unlimited 250 class and after a hole-shot and leading for 2 laps he had an engine failure which took him out of the race. But despite his bad luck, the Gonzales family as well as Julien’s father were right there to congratulate the mild mannered boy who turns out is a world class stand up jet ski champion and moto-cross stud. His skills as a racer showed as he piloted a Production 170 RZR to the podium with a time that was only a hair off of the Unlimited winner Casey Sims. “JuJu” just smiled, said thank you and you could tell this kid had seen his share of podiums before. With this win, Julien won’t have to borrow a 170 any longer because like Sims, they were going home with a brand new Polaris RZR 170 as a prize for winning their class!
Kids filed on down the line into the podium area and I made sure to come down and spend a second with each one. Every single kid seemed to have had a fantastic time which was all that mattered to me and I really enjoyed hearing them share their excitement with me as they took off their helmets. You would have thought some of these kids had just raced the Baja 1000 the way they talked about the turns, jumps and passes they were making out there. I stayed there so long with the kids that I actually missed my daughter starting the Production Short-Course race with Seth and I felt terrible for that, but I knew she would understand and even she knows how important these kids are to us. I made my way down the line and finally got to that #23 UTVUnderground.com RZR. My boys finished a respectable 15th in class, and I say that with pride and a smile. I asked Enzo how it was and he told me he had a blast and he was sure he was about 4th place. I laughed and said, yeah you may be right, but I am pretty sure you are a little further back than that. He agreed, we hugged and Cristian said he needed to go pee. Life is good.
This race is a big deal, but it shouldn’t be so big that it isn’t fun anymore and I want all the parents involved in youth off-road racing to remember that. I know there was questions if people actually raced with legal engines and I know that some weren’t happy with how we handled the rules as the race got nearer. I promise to get better with how we handle and structure the classes, and I promise that we will never lose site over why we are doing this which is to have fun with our children and to foster the growth of youth UTV / off-road racing. I thank you all for bringing your kids out to share in this experience. Trust me when I say, this race is without a doubt my highlight of the weekend!
Magnum Off-Road Youth Production RZR 170 Race Top 3
1. #299 Julien Beaumer – 00:30:34.721
2. #54 Luke Knupp – 00:31:06.562
3. #32 Ryder Chapman – 00:32:24.162
Magnum Off-Road Youth Unlimited 250 Race Top 3
1. #188 Casey Sims – 00:29:41.061
2. #21 Jimmy Berry – 00:32:27.782
3. #525 Stockton Bulloch – 00:32:32.362
Holz Racing Products Production Short-Course Race
Let me just start by saying that I have never in my life seen such fast driving in a UTV race. You would have though that the racers hated their machines the way they pounded them through that race course. The Holz Racing Products Production Short-Course race was the most intense UTV race I have ever witnessed and I know those who competed felt the same way. Over 100 UTVs would take the start line of the afternoons production race. By now the course was destroyed and because we had so many competitors arrive in Laughlin we had to make the decision for these racers to compete on the full 16 mile desert course. It would be decided that they would do 4 laps meaning some would still need to stop for fuel, something that these WORCS and Lucas Oil racers aren’t exactly used too. But racing at Worlds is supposed be bigger, harder, and faster. With prizes and a RZR up for grabs, you got to earn the win and beyond that we always want the racers to leave feeling like they got their money’s worth.
With the afternoon sun at eye level and the wind all but gone, the race was just as much about survival as it was being faster than your opponent. Like the desert race, attrition would be key and their was carnage strewn all over the race course. One racer told me that it looked like a yard sale all over the course. There were rolled over UTVs, wheels and tires in the track and body panels everywhere. It was as close to a war zone as a UTV race could be and many of them loved it! For most, this was as close to a desert race that they would ever compete in and they got a taste of what its like to run a course so long that you can’t memorize every turn, jump or bump. Skill played a huge role in this race, but so did vehicle prep and suspension. Flat tires, broken axles and blown belts were the norm for almost everyone who competed. And those who didn’t experience this probably weren’t on the lead lap. Racers pushed their machines to the breaking point.
Out front Mitch Guthrie Jr., RJ Anderson, Branden Sims and many others diced it up showcasing speed and talent in a way we have never seen. Teams were on edge with every passing lap, waiting to see who that helicopter was following as the vehicles came back into site. Guthrie had led much of the desert race before breaking on the last lap with less than a mile to go. No he was also leading this race and despite what happened in the desert race, he was pulling no punches. Cody Rahders was looking for redemption as well. He had some bad luck in the mornings desert race, as did Branden Sims, both were battling in the lead pack. Marc Burnett also entered the short-course race and was putting his injured foot through the ringer as he fought to keep pace with these fearless young racers. Mickey Thomas, Ryan Holz, Dustin Jones, and Cody Bradbury all fought to remain on the lead lap as well and fought hard to chase down the leaders.
As lead racers headed out onto their final lap they fought through the blinding dust and lap traffic while racers like Mike Gardner and Katie Vernola fought to overcome some intense crashes. Katie was able to finally get some help turning her car back over while Gardner was rushed to the hospital with fears of a potential head injury. Mike would come out ok and Katie would fight on to finish the race which also resulted in here being awarded this years Warfighter Made Perseverance Award. Her badly damaged RZR limped to the finish line while Gardner’s team was out on a recovery mission to drag his machine back to the pits.
Finally, after 4 laps and 1 hour & 13 minutes of hardcore racing, Mitch Guthrie Jr. would cross the finish line first in his Polaris RZR XP Turbo. His team waited anxiously to find out if he was able to edge out RJ Anderson & Mickey Thomas who both finished on his heals. It was determined that Guthrie would in fact hang onto the win separated only by seconds between he and Thomas who was driving a naturally aspirated RZR XP 1000 further proving the XP 1000 is nothing to ignore. Both would celebrate as winners, but Guthrie would claim the top spot as overall winner and would be taking home a new Polaris RZR XP Turbo!
We would later find out that RJ Anderson, who finished only 1 minute behind Guthrie may have actually threw his race away by stopping to check on Gardner. RJ saw the wreck happen and said it was the worst crash he had ever seen in a RZR. That says a lot coming from a guy who has had his fair share of wrecks as the star of the XP1K viral video series. RJ is the poster boy for UTV racing, and with that comes a lot of criticism and always a huge target on his back, but many who know RJ know that he is one of the most respected racers in the sport. Always a clean racer and always a guy you can lean upon. While RJ had to settle for 3rd overall and second in class, he still takes home a little something extra in the form of racing karma.
We want to also mention that there were 2 other class winners in this race. James Walker would take home the Production 900 win in his Polaris RZR XP 900 with Jim Berry winning the Production 700 class in his Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport. While the focus always seems to stay on the big guys running in the 1000’s and Turbo’s, we must always acknowledge the racers competing in all the classes at the UTVWC. It is important to us to include as many classes as we can and give as many racers a chance at competing as time will allow.
Its only fair as the guy writing this story to say a little something about my daughter who was navigating for Seth Quintero in his Polaris RZR 570 in the Production 700 class. I missed them at the start due to the podium celebrations following the youth race so I didn’t get to see them off. I did see them charge into the desert from a distance and I couldn’t help but feel proud. Mia is 12 and Seth is 13, they were both heading out into one of the most hostile and longest races of their lives. Shortly after getting out into the desert they popped a belt. Like pro’s, they jumped out of the RZR and together they got that sucker fixed up and back on course. They only were able to complete a couple of laps due to a flat tire and then a near collision when a bigger and faster 4 seat Maverick which monster trucked up the side of them. But they did finish, and they came out of that race with a ton of experience. They rode home together in the Quintero family truck and from what I heard they traded war stories the entire way. They didn’t win or make the podium, but that 5th place finish was the best 5th place finish of their lives!
Holz Racing Products Production Short Course Race Overall Top 5
1. #4503 Mitch A. Guthrie Jr. – 01:13:23.050 (UTV Production Turbo)
2. #144 Mickey Thompson – 01:13:38.456 (UTV Production 1000)
3. #4537 RJ Anderson – 01:14:31.968 (UTV Production Turbo)
4. #116 Cody A. Rahders – 01:15:16.352 (UTV Production 1000)
5. #4505 Marc A. Burnett – 01:15:36.445 (UTV Production Turbo)
The event wrapped up with a fun and festive awards ceremony down on the beach behind Harrahs Hotel & Casino. Drinks were served, trophies handed out and stories were shared. Winners and losers traded their experiences and everyone celebrated the weekends events. I was met with so many thank you’s and props that I was overwhelmed. The love everyone showed for our event was beyond anything I could have expected and it made all of the hard work, stress and sleepless nights worth it. Its been a busy 7 months for our team. While my life is surrounded by good people and good times it also has its fair share of stress. But I left that awards ceremony like I was floating on a cloud. Surrounded by friends and family we headed off to the last party of the weekend and I felt like I had just won a championship myself.
I want to thank everyone who came out to Laughlin, NV to participate in this years Polaris RZR UTV World Championship Powered By Monster Energy. Sponsors, friends, family, racers, fans and teams, you guys make this event what it is. I want to thank my partners in this event and my brothers from another mother Matt & Josh Martelli. These guys are the best at what they do and their team at Mad Media is the most amazing group of individuals I know. We laugh together, we cry together, at times we are ready to fight each other, but in the end we celebrate together. There is no other group I would want to go through this career with then then Matt, Josh and the entire Mad Media crew. To Rusty Baptist, one of my closest friends, we not only have grown up together we get to raise our kids together and we also get to do some of the most epic stuff together. Rusty always has my back and he knows I have his. He made contingency amazing this year and everyone who walked through that parking lot has him to thank! Casey & Diane at BITD, they are also the best at what they do. While we may not always like Casey’s way of doing things in the end there is a reason why BITD is the biggest and best desert racing organization in off-road. Their team and staff work tirelessly and often without thanks. They make sure the course is dialed, everyone is safe, registration is seamless and that we are always able to come back due to their diligence with BLM and local officials. We can’t thank BITD enough! Tony & Sherry Vanillo, little Tony and the rest of the Off-Road Management Group – THANK YOU! OMG works with us from start to finish to make sure everything and anything as it pertains to banners to awards to track and everything in between is dialed in and looking pro. You guys always rock! And to our wives, Camille, Janel and the rest of the ladies who dedicate to help pass out merchandise, watch the kids, bring us food, and keep us in check, we love you so much!!
Lastly, thank you to Mark, Jason, Danyel, Craig and the entire Polaris RZR staff for your commitment to the UTV World Championship. A lot of people I feel do not give Polaris enough credit for what they do for this sport not just as a provider of vehicles to the industry but as supporters for core events like the UTV World Championship & Mint 400. Polaris lives and breathes this sport right along side us and without their support there is no way we could ever put on events like the UTVWC. To Monster Energy, Walker Evans Racing, Holz Racing Products, Magnum Offroad, and all of our UTVWC partners, sponsors and contingency participants THANK YOU!! You guys make this event for us when it comes to reach, size, and growth. Your financial support and dedication to attending the event give everyone a reason to come and we are forever grateful for your involvement. Thank you to Colorado Belle, Edgewater, Harrahs and Tropicana Hotels & Casinos for your involvement and to the entire city of Laughlin, NV. The UTV World Championship is as much yours as it is ours and we cannot wait to come back in 2017!!
See you all next year…