Laughlin may be considered a small town, but this quant city of 9000 residents has been a hub for the off-road community for decades, and that title continues in 2022. Laughlin is known for its small lineup of high rise casinos that reside along the Colorado River on the southern tip of Nevada. Across the main drag has been the home of 2-wheeled and 4-wheeled racing for countless Best In The Desert races and many others. 2022 will bring two separate BITD races there including the Desert Classic (which runs in early fall) and the UTV Legends Championship, which ran last weekend. The 2022 UTV Legends event kicked off this year with sunny, 70-degree temperature days, a sure sign that spring is on its way and racers of all ages are eager to shine!
That perfect weather was ideal for the youngsters as they showed off their budding off-road driving talent. Following tech and contingency Friday morning, all the Little Rippers lined up to race neck-and-neck in a grand prix format on the short course. The youth races are always a crowd favorite, so the fences and course barriers were lined with family, friends, and enthusiasts to cheer them on. Across the street from the Tropicana Hotel & Casino, the youngsters staged up at 12noon. Broken up into seven classes across four separate races, the schedule provided pint-size race action until almost sundown. Starting off with the 170 Production, 170 Mod, 170 Super Stock and 250 Mod racers, Tanner Thompson #21Y and Cash Martinez #20Y ended up on top on the 170cc Production classes. Nixon Nigel #199Y stood on top of the competitive 170 Super Stock group and the 250 Mod’s saw Jacob Williamson #237Y as champion, with an impressive 5-lap finish time of 34:45.
A rather warm morning meant the prepped track had deep, soft corners to drift around during the 3.4 mile race loop. A route longer than most short course tracks, but it made for plenty of time and opportunity for the racers to pass and get used to the track conditions. Once they did so, it seemed that “smooth was fast” throughout the whole course. Consistency through the soft but deep turns was the key to success for Trophy Unlimited Mini driver Mason Cotter #310Y, with the fastest overall time of 31:07 with a three minute gap in front of second-place Wyatt Conkright #321Y. “My favorite part of the race was the rollers and jumps,” said Cotter; it showed in his impressive time.
Paxton Schendel #221Y/521Y had a rough start to his weekend with a belt failure early in the 250 Mod race, dishing him up an ugly DNF. But as the racing continued, he kept his head held high for Race #3 – 570cc Classes, his second race of the day. Schendel took the line in his Polaris RZR 570 Pro and ended up leading the entire pack through the longer 6.8 mile loop after passing George Llamosas . Schendel found it in himself to build up a nice gap of about a minute and a half to get up front and stay there for the remainder of the 4-lap race. “I love this track set-up because it was a change from the typical short course layouts and was able to really enjoy a little bit of the desert and amazing sand this place has to offer,” said Schendel after earning his first-place podium.
As with any great event, the biggest and baddest classes run last. As temperature were peaking out right around 70ºF, the 4th and final round brought out all the 1000cc competitors. By far the biggest class with 18 entries, these drivers have worked their way to be the elite of the youth event. Some drivers have years behind them already, so experience is a major contributor to the success at this level. Quite a few players race multiple classes in one weekend giving them an advantage of seeing the course in action and giving them that edge. Either way, this entire class is a competitive group of 1000 and RS1 youth drivers, and have what it takes to push through all the unknown that racing throws at you.
Chase Mankin #607Y is one of those names, and found himself brakeless after the third lap. Mankin continued to fight off three others for the last two laps, with Siewers only five seconds behind and Lucas Johnson ten seconds behind—he had to earn his 44 minutes, 59 seconds 4th place finish. “I felt like I was running a pretty hard race but with the brakes going out I’ll just have to come back and catch [these] guys next time,” he said at the finish line.
Schendel #622Y managed to escape any trouble and had an incredibly smooth race, launching out 2nd off the line and taking clean air almost immediately. The entire race, he just gained distance over the rest of the pack and came out on top with nearly two minutes to spare over Landen De Sousa Dias #609Y and Chaden Minder #669Y.
It’s safe to say the sport has a bright future when you see the eagerness and efforts these young drivers put in with their families, bringing not one car, but two and even three race cars to compete with. Getting that much seat time says a lot about their drive for racing at such a young age and the families that are supporting them. They call it UTV Legends for a reason, and I’d say there are plenty of youth drivers that are legends in the making.
Best In The Desert’s next stop for the full-size SXS competitors is the 2022 Jimco Racing Silver State 300 out in Caliente, Nevada weekend of April 28th-30th. No youth races at that event, but we’ll be there!