If you’re a NASCAR, IndyCar, or Formula 1 fan looking for a racing fix in the winter, here’s some good news for you: the desert racing season runs all 12 months of the year. And while names like Robby Gordon and Casey Currie may be down at Dakar this weekend, halfway through their quest for one of off-road’s most prestigious titles, Best in the Desert brings a little bit of that action to America with this weekend’s UTV Winter Nationals (also known as the Parker 250), one of two races in Arizona to kick off its 2019 season.
The signature Trick Trucks and buggies that often garner BITD headlines are on the sidelines until the end of the month and the Parker 425; this weekend’s event has a UTV focus, but also scores points for both the Motorcycle and Quad classes. Here’s a look at some of the top competitors who will be racing on Saturday:
Defending BITD champion Phil Blurton headlines a 69-entry UTV Turbo field for this weekend, and will look to start off the season on a high note after drawing the first spot in the starting order. Parker was actually one of Blurton’s tougher races last season, as he was the last driver to complete all three laps of the course in his class.
Last year’s race winner was Brandon Schueler, who will roll off 55th in the draw. Schueler defeated Marc Burnett in the 2018 event by just under nine minutes, with Logan Gastel completing the podium. Gastel drew the 37th starting spot, while Burnett is not entered in this year’s event—one of only two of last year’s top 10 finishers not to return to action this year.
Jim Beaver is also back in action with his Polaris RZR for the first time since August’s General Tire Vegas to Reno. After running in the top 10 for a large portion of that event, he’ll be looking for a solid performance in the hometown of the Down and Dirty Radio Show. Follow along with Jim’s Instagram @JimBeaver15 and the show account @DownAndDirtyShow for behind the scenes content from the event!
UTV Production and Unlimited
It’s not just the UTV Turbo class that drew a strong entry list in Parker. UTV Production boasts its own field of 40 vehicles ready to roll this Saturday. The Production start order is led by defending class champion Kaden Wells, who kicked off his title-winning season with a victory here last year. Wells will be joined on the entry list by the top three racers behind him in 2018 points: Mike Deley (starting 23rd), Madeline Wedeking (starting 26th), and Sam Chournos (starting 38th).
Also competing in the Production class this weekend will be Seth Quintero, who impressed with a number of strong performances in 2018, including a runner-up class finish at the Mint 400. Quintero still managed to finish seventh in points last year despite skipping the Parker season opener. He’ll roll off 13th on the grid.
The UTV Unlimited field will look different from last year’s regular competitors, as none of last year’s class podium finishers are on this year’s entry list as of Friday. That should open the door for names like Michael Isom and Jeramiah Drew, who finished second and third in last year’s championship standings. Isom was fourth in Parker last year, while Drew will look to make up for a DNF from 2018.