2021 Best In The Desert Silver State “300” Race Recap
Story By Mike Ingalsbee
Photos By Brandon Bunch & Jason Zindroski
Without question, the course for the Best in the Desert’s Silver State 300 was designed for racing UTV’s.
Featuring plenty of high-speed sections across dry lake beds and smooth graded roads, this course also has an abundance of tight and twisty mountain trails. When you are in a UTV, the acceleration out of the turns with all-wheel drive and the nimble handling makes these sections a blast.
However, much of the course is lined with juniper trees that are just barely off the race line, so driver beware, if you get it wrong, you’ll be stuck in a tree before you know what happened. Additionally, the ground is loose which means you’ll probably bury your tires while trying to back out along with the branches have a tendency to grab on and not let go. All-wheel drive is a big benefit in the deep silt beds found in the valleys. This course actually has several different kinds of silt to be found.
Ask the photographers, they will tell you.
Along the course you have mountains, rivers, rock piles and sandstone bluffs. The scenery is spectacular, but don’t get caught gawking. Besides the trees, the silver state course has perils throughout.
Aside from the challenging terrain, you also need to keep an eye out for curious cattle and wild horses. But that is not all you have to worry about if you want to cross the finish line.
Don’t go to fast through the water crossing or you will hydro lock your engine or short out the electronics. Spend too much time at wide open throttle across the lakebed and you’ll burn up your belt or overheat your engine. Push the brakes hard during those steep descents, and your brake fluid will boil. The silver state 300 is a torture test for the vehicles, but some of the most fun you will ever have as a driver.
To win the silver state 300 you need the whole package: a fast car, good driver, impeccable navigator and a sharp crew in the pits.
On race day, the weather was nice with some wind to help blow the dust away, but visibility was still a factor. If you get stuck behind a slower car, it can hold you up for miles and in some places, there is just no room to let someone by. This makes the open sections more critical and more contested.
The scenario plays out like this. Big V8 truck passes you on an open section. You then catch him in the twisties, and have to follow behind as they lumber through it. You get around if you’re lucky, but the next open section allows them to pass again. As Phil Blurton was charging towards the finish line hoping to outpace the other Turbo UTV’s on his tail, he had to follow a truck for miles while the clock kept ticking.
“It was fun, it was the typical Silver State race,” said Phil Blurton who finished first overall. “It was pretty dusty. We got lucky the first half being in a pack of us that were all running a good pace. The last 100 miles we were stuck behind a truck forever. His pace was just fast enough that we couldn’t get around him. We had no issues other than this is our King of the Hammers car so it’s got a really small tank; we stopped 4 times today for fuel. This is the last race for this car. We will have a new car for King of the Hammers, and we are almost done building a new Best in the Desert car in the shop. This car raced King of the Hammers, Glen Helen, and 2 weeks ago in San Felipe. We will use it as a prerunner at KOH.”
“We had no issues other than this is our King of the Hammers car so it’s got a really small tank; we stopped 4 times today for fuel.”
Second across the line was Mitch Guthrie Jr., but his time was slower than cars behind him so he finished 4th on corrected time. In desert racing the fastest time wins, not the physical leader on the course because teams start at timed intervals. “Solid day here at the Silver State 300,” said Guthrie. “We all know that saying, it was going great until it wasn’t. We had some great battles with Blurton. We held onto the lead until around race mile 100 where we lost a belt. It took much longer than usual to change. From there we pushed hard to make up lost time, and looks like we ended up 4th, not exactly what we wanted but that’s racing!” Second place on time was Ryan Piplic who beat Branden Sims by one minute after more than 5 hours of racing. Austin Weiland rounded out the top five. Dustin Jones started 3rd, but had to stop for a belt change that dropped him to the rear. He charged back to finish 7th. He had an interesting detail to share. “The big trucks have a wider track then we do so it puts us up on the bike in the corners when we fall into the ruts.” We will have to add that to the challenges that the UTV racers face.
The racing throughout the field was intense. Just take Naturally Aspirated winner JD Marsh’s account of what happened during the race. “I knew I had my work cut out for me coming from the back with how dusty the course was, and how technical some areas were. I ran a decent pace, and pushed hard where I could, but you can’t win if you don’t finish. There were cars, and trucks broken or upside down everywhere. I prefer the technical parts of the course, and that’s where I was able to make most of my passes. By pit 2, I had made it by 14 cars in my class, and had the lead on corrected time. From there I played it smart, and was slowly able to pass all but two cars by pit 5. I battled with Kaden Wells to the finish.
At one point, he blew a turn into a tree, and I was so close that I followed him right off the course, barley missing him. We both had to back out, but he was able to get on the course in front of me. I drove through his dust several times but couldn’t make the pass so we decided to back it down a little bit to save the car. If we finished right behind him, we would still have the win on corrected time. I hadn’t raced this course since 2007 when I was racing a Rhino so it was icing on the cake to come back with a win!” JD started the race way back in the 22nd starting position. Kaden Wells started 9th off the line to finish 2nd. His Brother Corbin was 4th off the line, and was 4th at the finish. Third place belonged to Austin Bolton, and Dodge Poelman was 5th.
Racing a single seat car in the desert has some challenges. Flat tires, stuck in the silt; you have nobody to help you. However, I cannot think of anything that would be as fun as dicing through the trees at speed in an RS1 rocket ship. Jonathan McVay would get the win, with Katie Vernola right behind in 2nd.
Looking at the Unlimited class, we see Chris Blais get another victory. Second place was Randy Raschein from Brownsville, Oregon. He’s got a great team who come from all over to race. Robert Villarreal is from Austin, Texas. Garrick Lastra is from Mesa, Arizona, and Robbie Yeoman comes from Menifee, California. Third place went to Travis Zollinger, 4th position was Mike De Ley, and a top 5 went to Jim Beaver. Defending champion Michael Isom was 8th.
The UTV’s all ran very strong at this race. Phil Blurton was 13th place overall with only Unlimited Trick Trucks, and 6100’s ahead of him. Ryan Piplic, Branden Sims, and Mitch Guthrie all cracked the top 20. It shows how competitive the UTV’s are, and how time flies when you’re having fun.