Parker, AZ  – Brandon Schueler is on a roll in desert racing. His latest win came in the season opening Best in the Desert Series GMZ Winter Nationals Casey Folks Parker 250 and marks his third desert race victory in a row going back to the 2017 Baja 1000. Marc Burnett finished second, followed by Logan Gastel, Branden Sims, and Jason Murray. Dustin Jones was sixth in his brand new Can-Am MAX. Kaden Wells won the UTV Pro Production race.

Brandon Schueler Polaris RZR BITD Racing
Brandon Schueler Kicked off 2018 with the BITD Pro Turbo UTV Desert Win at the Parker 250

A huge turnout of 56 Pro Turbo UTVs turned out for the event held in the desert surrounding Parker, AZ. The race started an hour later to allow for all the ATVs to be off the course when the UTVs took off. The leader finished just after sunset and the balance of the field finished in the dark. With temperatures in the 80s and little wind, visibility, especially at the end of the race after sunset, was definitely at a premium. Competitors ran three laps on the 80-mile loop of sand wash, whoops, rocks and canyons.

Colorado River Parker Arizona
It was a picture perfect weekend in Parker, Arizona along the Colorado River for the Best in the Desert season opening GMZ UTV Winter Nationals Casey Folks Parker “250” Presented By Polaris

For Schueler, the race was the continuation of a dominant run started last season with his victory in the Baja 1000. He backed that up with another win in the 2017 BITD season finale.

Phil Blurton Can-Am Maverick X3 BITD Racing
The 2017 Pro Turbo UTV Champion, Phil Blurton, grabbed the early lead & held it till the last lap before suffering a mechanical issue

Schueler started second and battled with defending BITD Pro Turbo champion Phil Blurton for most of the race. As the two fought it out, they began gapping the field. About halfway through the final lap, Blurton limped into the pits with a mechanical issue, handing the lead and the victory to Schueler. Blurton finished 21st.

“We’re ringing in the new year with an awesome start,” said Schueler. “We have three in a row right now and we’re going into the Mint 400 with a brand new fresh car. It’s cloud nine for us.”

Brandon Schueler Polaris RZR BITD Racing
Brandon Schueler started on the front row along side 2017 Pro Turbo Champion, Phil Blurton, & the pair battled for nearly the entire race before Schueler took over the lead halfway through the last lap when Blurton suffered a mechanical issue, which dropped him back 21st

Schueler struggled with his Polaris RZR turbo for most of the season in 2017. To say he has it dialed in is an understatement.

“Our car is finally dialed in and this car is ridiculously fast right now,” said Schueler. “We caught up to Phil in the main pit area on lap three. We kept up the pressure on him and then midway through the lap he ended up limping in. We got around him in the pits and had a little bit of fresh air to finish the race.”

Burnett started fourth in his four-seater Can-Am Maverick and then fought issues during the first lap. After that, the 2017 SCORE champion began catching the field and was in the right place on the final lap to finish second.

Marc Burnett Can-Am Maverick X3 BITD Racing
The 2017 SCORE Champion, Marc Burnett kicked off the season with a 2nd place finish in his Can-Am Maverick X3 MAX

“We had some issues at the start of the race and had to get out of the car four times,” explained Burnett. “We got passed by a few people and we passed them back. The car handled great. It’s unbelievable in the rough stuff. We’re getting it dialed in and we’ll be good this year. We just got done with the SCORE championship and I think this is going to be a good year for us. We’d love to take both series this year.”

While the frontrunners had relatively clean air, those behind them were in a dust storm. Gastel started 19th in the same Can-Am he drove last year and he drove a consistent pace to nab the final spot on the podium. With BITD points based in part on car count, Gastel is happy to start out the season in a strong position for the title.

Logan Gastel Can-Am Maverick X3 BITD Racing
Logan Gastel rounded out the top three at the Parker 250

“This Parker dust is bad, especially down in the canyons with no wind,” said Gastel. “We just kept a solid pace all day and pushed it toward the front. It’s nice to start out the year with a top-three finish when there’s 56 cars in the class.”

Sims finished fourth in a race he described as being akin to warfare. Sims started 25th in his Polaris and dealt with visibility problems all race, but he ran a hard pace to bring it home fourth. After a difficult final race in 2017, it might be the finish he needs to get him back in the running.

Branden Sims Polaris RZR BITD Racing
LSR’s Branden Sims started 25th & charged his way through the dust to secure an impressive 4th place finish

“Starting 25th there was a lot of dust,” said Sims. “I don’t think I got see any part of the track except for the 10 feet in front of my car. It was like a war zone out there, so we just charged and ran a pretty quick pace. We had no issues all day and had a flawless run. That was a nice morale lifter especially after the last race when we only went 20 miles and put it on the roof.”

The Murray brothers, Derek and Jason, started 22nd with Derek at the wheel for the first two laps. After a lengthy driver change, Jason brought their Can-Am Maverick X3 Max to the finish fifth, ending a streak of bad luck that plagued the pair all season in 2017.

Murray Brothers Can-Am Maverick X3 BITD Racing
Jason & Derek Murray rounded out the Top 5 in the Pro Turbo UTV Class at the Parker 250

“We worked our way into the top five and paced it there all day,” said Jason Murray. “The driver change didn’t go so smooth. Ultimately that kicked us off the podium, but we had no major issues and it’s great to be back here racing in 2018. We’re hoping to get back to the way we used to run and stay in the top five all year.”

In the offseason, brothers Kaden and Corbin Wells split their team with Corbin going into the Turbo class and Kaden staying in Pro Production. The move worked for Kaden Wells as he scored his first Pro Production victory in his Polaris.

Kaden Wells Polaris RZR BITD Racing
RISQ Racing’s Kaden Wells secured his first win in the Pro Production UTV Class

Kaden Wells dropped back to third on the first lap, but quickly rebounded into the lead. He lost the lead again on the final lap due to a belt issue, but again rebounded to score the victory.

Dean Wheeler Jr Polaris RZR BITD Racing
“Boomer” Dean Wheeler Jr finished in the 2nd spot in the Pro Production UTV Class

“Boomer” Dean Wheeler Jr secured the second spot followed by Gunner Savage in the UTV Pro Production class, and Bill Whittington took home the UTV Unlimited Win.

Bill Whittington Polaris RZR BITD Racing
#2916 Bill Whittington claimed the UTV Unlimited class win by nearly 9 minutes over second place

The Mint 400 is the next event on tap for the Best in the Desert Series. The “Great American Off Road Race” is scheduled for March 8-11 in Las Vegas.

Best in the Desert Racing Series