CELEBRATING YOUTH UTVs

Kids have it so good these days, and the 2022 RZR 200 builds on 11 years of the Youth RZR 170. At the second round of the MidAmerica Outdoors $375,000 UTV Short-course series (starting on page ??), there were 63 Youth 170/250 entries, including 59 RZRs and four Hisun 250s. Watching the kids go at it was inspiring, and Code St. Peters won both the 170 Mods and the Limited (6-8) class. He’s already a wheelman, and Blaine Sullivan joined his sisters Brooklyn and Kennedy in his new Hisun Strike 250. It’s so cool to see youngsters catch the off-road racing bug, like so many before them. And Polaris, Hisun and others are fueling that passion with their Youth UTVs, and trophy karts before that.

Blaine Singleton is only six, and his Hisun Strike 250 has special pedals he can reach.

These machines have molded youth prodigies into racing legends, including Hailie Deegan, Sheldon Creed, and Max Gordon. Deegan has ascended to the NASCAR Camping World Truck series from LOORRS trophy karts, while dad Brian wheeled Prolites and Pro2s. Wheelman Creed has gone from three trophy kart championships to LOORRS Superlite and then Prolite champion to twice Stadium Supertrucks Champion (combining off-road and pavement) to ARCA champion and NASCAR truck champion in 11 years. He now drives for legend Richard Childress in Xfinity series. At the initial Wildcat XX introduction at the Sand Sport Show, he took editors for rides, circling the XX on two wheels. And Max Gordon is but one of many children of off-road racing legends. Talent and race craft runs in many bloodlines, but Youth UTVs are also drawing in new blood, like George Llamosas, son of Jorge, crew chief for the GAS championship #88 RZR 170. I wish RZR 170s would’ve been around when I was a kid.

Nowadays, I commute on my Harley 70+ miles every day to the palatial Hi-Torque offices and back, and I witness some truly horrific driving on a daily basis. Too bad Youth UTVs weren’t around when most of the drivers I encounter were learning to drive. My Dad taught me to ride a bicycle when I was four, and he bought me my first motorcycle for my tenth birthday. I was pretty good on two wheels by then, but that 1966 Honda CL90’s clutch was intimidating. It took what seemed like forever to master feeding out the lever smoothly and not stalling. Honda released the first ATC90 the next year; the engine was the same as the CL90, except for the automatic clutch. That would’ve helped my confidence….

The new 2022 RZR 200 has eveloved from 11 years of RZR 170 racing and needs less to be competitive.

Actually, my first driving experiences were when i was seven or so. Dad raced Sports Car Club of America gymkhanas and won an Oklahoma championship in his Austin Healey, and he would let me ride with him in practice at some races. His club had monthly nights at a Tulsa go-kart track, and I would sit in his lap and steer while he worked the pedals. We would race, and our combined weight would put us in the fastest kart. I learned steering in and counter-steering slides, and I also learned how to work through traffic. It was so much fun. Summers, my brother and I would spend a couple of weeks at my Mom’s parents’ house in McKinney, Texas. I would sit on Grandpa’s lap, and we’d drive country roads as he would tell me the rules of the road and work the pedals. Now, the Dallas metroplex has consumed those country roads as it extends north to the Red River.

We moved around a lot, and I learned to ride that CL90 in the Colorado Rockies and then California’s Mojave Desert and Sierra Madre Mountains in the 1969-1970 school year. We had friends who lived in Newhall – now Santa Clarita – where Hi-Torque is now located. There were many skinny-ridge trails like Richie Canyon, but they’ve all been leveled for housing tracts. We would camp and ride all over Antelope Valley, and our camps had bikes, buggies, and Jeeps. Now those same camps have all sizes of UTVs and ATVs, some 53 years later. It’s so cool seeing Youth UTVs circling those camps as drivers gain experience and speed.

I’ve always been an off-roader since the bicycle days (streets were off-limits), but I got a street learner’s permit in Texas when I was 15. I learned very quickly how to avoid bad drivers. People would look right at me and pull out in front of me. I developed a sixth sense that has only failed me once in 50 years of road riding. It’s great to see kids starting much younger than I did and on/in much better machines. Spending so much seat time off-road, with many developing skills in tight race traffic before switching to city streets, will no doubt serve them very well.

I wonder how many will make it to the hallowed and legendary NASCAR circuits, and if any will surpass Jimmy “Seven Time” Johnson, who went from Yamaha PW50s to Mickey Thompson GP Superlite champion to NASCAR GOAT status.

 

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