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Best in the Desert Parker 250: Race Preview

Image via Harlen Foley

The calendar may have just flipped to 2022, but Best in the Desert will waste no time on getting its season started this weekend with the return of the Shock Therapy Parker 250. The traditional season-opening Arizona visit may be running the UTVs, motorcycles, and quads before the cars and trucks for 2022, but one thing is for certain: no matter which divisions run first, the entry lists are always deep.

No fewer than 43 UTV Turbo Pro machines are on the entry list, along with 24 in the NA class and 23 in the Unlimited division. Add in 15 entries from the UTV Sports class and 12 more from UTV Super Stock, and the first race since BITD announced a reorganization of its UTV classes for this season boasts nearly 120 adult entries in all.

The Turbo class features many of the sport’s heavy hitters, with 2021 top five finishers Bruce Binnquist, Dustin Jones, Phil Blurton, and Vito Ranuio all set to compete. Over the past few months, Blurton took both the SCORE Baja 1000 and overall World Desert Championship on his first try, while Jones finally added his second triumph in the BFGoodrich Tires Mint 400 to cap off a busy 2021 season. Parker will be their first chance to wrestle the crown away from Ryan Piplic, who eked out last year’s championship by just three points on Jones, and is also on the entry list in hopes of defending that title.

Defending UTV NA Pro champion Josh Row headlines the two dozen racers on that entry list, where he’ll look to improve on a second place finish to Carson Wernimont in last year’s event. Many of last year’s top Unlimited class racers will also be on the weekend entry list, including last year’s third place event finisher Chris Blais, 2021 third place points finisher Michael McFayden, and last year’s points runner-up Jim Beaver, one of a handful of Parker natives on the entry list.

New for this year is Thursday’s qualifying session for the premier UTV and motorcycle classes, giving racers the opportunity to earn their starting spot rather than relying on a random draw. Tech and contingency will take place in downtown Parker on Friday, while the UTV races will take place starting in the late morning at the Parker South Fair Grounds. The rest of the field will then compete on Saturday, with motorcycles and quads launching into the 128.5-mile loop course at 7:30AM and UTVs getting underway at 12:45PM.

The 2022 Best in the Desert season resumes on January 20-23 with the Parker 425, the opening round of the year for the premier truck and car classes. The powersports classes will resume their season in Laughlin, Nevada on February 17-20 with the return of the UTV Legends Championship. The first combined event of the season for all classes will be April 28-30’s Silver State 300 in Alamo.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.