Blurton, Anderson and Gonzalez Win UTV World Championship
UTV Racing Shows Continued Growth with over 300 Entries
Laughlin, NV (04/16/2017) – The sport of UTV racing is growing; a fact exemplified by the sheer number of entries for the 2017 Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy. With over 300 UTVs in the adult classes and 53 youth drivers, the event may well have been the largest race in UTV racing history.
Rookie Turbo class driver Phil Blurton piloted his Can-Am X3 to victory in the Safecraft Desert Race portion of the Polaris RZR UTV World Championship powered by Monster Energy. The event was the third round of UTV racing for the Best in the Desert Series. Justin Lambert finished second in his Polaris RZR, ahead of the Polaris of Mark Holz, the Can-Am of Dan Fisher and the Polaris of Brandon Schueler.
Other winners were Andrei Isac in the Production Class and Michael Isom in UTV Unlimited. RJ Anderson and Ray Bulloch won the Turbo and Production Class races, respectively, in the Method Race Wheels Short Course Race. However, Dallas Gonzalez was definitely the highlight of the weekend, taking home the win at the Got Sand Performance UTVWC Youth Race.
Eight-year-old Blake Level, who is currently fighting cancer, won the Perseverance Award given by Robert Blanton of Warfighter Made. Level, despite feeling ill during the weekend, raced and finished the 170 youth race.
“This kid can straight up drive,” said “Joey D” DiGiovanni of UTV Underground. He wheels a UTV like no one’s business. His dad thrashed to build him a 170 to come out here and race. He raced and he persevered despite not feeling well. Blake…we love you bro.”
Both the desert and short-course races were run on a 16-mile circuit outside Laughlin, NV that was a little over a mile longer than last year. The desert race was 10 laps long and it took just over three hours to complete. The top-10 finishers from the Mint 400 started on the first row and rest of the field was started in rows behind in a land rush, dead engine start.
Lambert, who won this race in the Production Class last year, took the lead in the Turbo Class for the first time this season. He had a good run going until the final lap when something came loose on his car and he lost time fixing it. Though Lambert finished first physically, Blurton cashed in and won on adjusted time.
It marked Blurton’s first win in just his second BITD start, driving the No Limit Can-Am. For the victory, Blurton won a RZR XP Turbo, one of five Polaris UTVs awarded to class winners by the Medina, MN manufacturer.
“This is our first year running Best in the Desert, so we started in the back,” explained Blurton. “About two miles from the finish, we lost a fuel pump, so we flipped the switch to our secondary pump. The X3 is awesome. This is our first year with Can-Am and this thing is awesome.”
Lambert, who won seven BITD races en route to the 2016 Production class Championship, stepped up to the Turbo class this year. He’s had a slow start this season, though things are clearly starting to come together with his first podium of the season.
“Sometimes smoother is faster, and we were patient all day,” said Lambert. “It’s a tough race because there is traffic all day long, but it does keep it interesting. There was a lot of action all day. We didn’t expect to get on the podium, so we’re happy to be here.”
Holz came out of semi-retirement here after not having competed since early last season. The noted car builder brought out a brand new 2017 Polaris XP Turbo to use as a test bed car for his business. Apparently, it passed.
“It’s been year or so since I’ve desert raced, so I was a little rusty,” said Holz. “It’s amazing how many cars were out here. The sand wash just got worse and worse every lap. The progress of the sport, the amount of cars is just insane. Third is a solid day.”
In the Production class, Isac scored the first class victory for the Yamaha YXZ 1000R. Isac won a Polaris RZR Turbo for the victory. Canadian racers Benjamin Bischoff and Joe Loomis finished second and third, respectively, driving Polaris RZRs.
“The car is good and ran perfect,” said Isac of his STV Motorsports prepared Yamaha. “We are really happy to win the first big desert race for Yamaha. Yamahas are doing great on short course races, but now we’ve proven that Yamaha can win in desert competition, too.”
Bischoff and Loomis teamed up to drive 32 hours from British Columbia to race their Holz Polaris RZRs. Visibility was at a premium, and Bischoff avoided the carnage that took out many of the entries and scored the podium.
“The car ran phenomenal today,” said Bischoff. “It was such a hectic race. We didn’t even know where we were until they texted us. The track was just brutal and it was a fight to the end. We didn’t have any problems.”
Loomis, who had co-driven with Bischoff in the past, was competing in just his second BITD race as a driver. After starting on the last row, Loomis outlasted the competition to come in third.
“We never would have thought we’d finish this well,” said Loomis. “We started dead last and this is my second actual race, driving. I bought a car from Mark Holz and I just went. The dust made it tough and it was just a brutal race.”
In the Unlimited class, Michael Isom scored the victory in his Addict Racing/Lonestar Can-Am. He finished fourth overall. Isom got his start in BITD racing back in the 1990s, riding dirt bikes. He fought dust for a good portion of the race, but held on for the class victory despite the carnage around him.
“I was driving blind, but I stayed on it,” said Isom. “This Can-Am was fast and that’s what did it for us. There were cars everywhere; axles broken off, wheels off, you name it.”
The short course race was run on the same course as the desert race, but was three laps long. Organizers had to utilize the longer course to accommodate the record number of entries. It was super dusty and drivers had a constant battle with the wind and visibility.
In the end, Anderson, who hasn’t raced a UTV since last year, scored the win in the Turbo class. He also won a RZR Turbo for his efforts. Mark Holz’s son Ryan finished physically first and second on adjusted time, ahead of Branden Sims as Polaris RZRs swept the podium.
Anderson has focused on his Lucas Oil truck effort this year, but decided to compete at the prestigious race here. The event kicks off a busy week for Anderson. On Tuesday, the new XP1K4 movie starring Anderson debuts, followed by the first Lucas Oil Truck race in Arizona next weekend.
“I’ve wanted one of these UTV World Championships for awhile,” said Anderson. “It’s a pinnacle trophy for our sport. I won a brand new RZR, which is a pretty big pay day…even bigger than the truck stuff I do. We had a flawless day. I started from row three and the dust was gnarly. I haven’t raced this car in 11 months. My guys put a solid prep on it. It feels really sweet, especially because I only do a few races per year. This is a rad event seeing how many people were here. I’ve been in this sport awhile and it’s crazy to see 300 UTVs race and all of the kids.”
Ryan Holz nearly won the event. He was running in the lead on time, but his fuel cell started to run dry eight miles from the finish. Out of gas, he came across the finish with his engine off.
“It was a super close finish, but it was great for the Holz Racing/Walker Evans team,” said Holz. “The last half lap, it was missing really badly so I had to back it way down. It was super close on mileage and I coasted across the finish. Obviously I was so close to winning, but it’s still great to finish second.”
Sims started on the second row and battled visibility problems during the race. Sims drove the same car in which he competed in the King of the Hammers. In fact, he did little more than install a window net in the RZR prior to this weekend’s event.
“It was like driving by Braille,” said Sims. “I’d hit a berm and I’d go with whatever way it moved me. We ended up third out of a lot of people, which is quite an accomplishment. I raced the car in the King of the Hammers, brought it home, put a window net on it and left everything on it including the skid plates and the winch. It was probably the heaviest car out there and it still had the 32-inch tires. I didn’t have one problem today. It worked perfectly.”
In the Production short course race, Bulloch started near the back and charged through the field to win, despite losing a drive belt. NASCAR racer Will Rogers was second, driving Mike Gardner’s UTV. Dean “Boomer” Wheeler was third, ahead of woman racer Sierra Romo. All four were driving Polaris RZRs.
“Running with those turbo guys definitely gets challenging,” said Bulloch. “I had to lean on it hard and even with the blown belt, I got the win. We’ve been coming out here for a couple of years now and it’s nice to get some good results.”
Rogers finished second in his first UTV race in three years. Rogers, who is competing in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series, stepped into Mike Gardner’s RZR who has been taking a break from racing this season.
“I knew I was getting into some good equipment,” said Rogers. “I have had a ton of seat time in sports in Pirelli World Challenge, but getting back into a UTV is different, but a ton of fun.”
In the 700/800 class short course, Ray Bulloch’s son Skyler won the race in his Arctic Cat. Skyler Bulloch took the holeshot and led every lap of the event. Like his dad, the younger Bulloch doesn’t run a mirror in his car, so he never looks back.
“I can’t look back so I just went as hard as I could,” said Bulloch. “The course was crazy. Half the time I couldn’t see and the ruts got so deep. I am so excited for this win because this is the World Championship.”
The Youth classes competed on a special course created in the infield of the larger circuit. Dallas Gonzalez won the 250 Youth Class and took home a brand new Polaris RZR 170 for the victory. Luke Knupp borrowed a machine and took the win in Youth 170 and took home a Polaris Ace 150.
The awards celebration was held at Harrah’s in Laughlin, wrapping up a great weekend of racing during the largest-ever UTV race. DiGiovanni took his hat off to the title sponsor Polaris for its tireless work to help promote and grow the sport of UTV racing.
“This event doesn’t happen without the backing of Polaris,” said DiGiovanni. “Without that type of financial backing and passion for the sport, things like this race just do not happen. It takes a lot of work and a lot of money to put these things on, and they are right there to back our crazy ideas. If you wonder why Polaris has kicked ass for so many years, it because of guys like Craig Scanlon. Not only is he an executive with Polaris, he’s a racer and he’s out here banging doors every race.”
The next race for the Best in the Desert Series is the annual Vegas to Reno event. That race, billed as the longest off-road race in the U.S., is scheduled for August 16-19.