Riding solo against teams in Best in the Desert’s American Off-road Racing Series is nothing new for Skyler Howes, but at the GMZ UTV Winter Nationals / Casey Folks Parker 250 in Parker, Arizona, on January 6, he opened the season with a long-awaited win.
Taking advantage of drawing the first start position, he sprinted away from the field, completing three laps of the 80-mile Casey Folks Parker 250 course in 4 hours, 22 minutes and 51 seconds. That put him comfortably clear of Cooper Motorsports 747/Monarch Honda’s Brody Honea/Tallon Taylor, the runners-up finishing in 4:31:35, and Stevens Off-road Racing’s Zach Myers/Taylor Stevens rounded out the Open Pro and overall podium in 4:35:20.
Despite dry, dusty conditions–especially compared to the 2017 Parker 250–the Casey Folks Parker 250 attracted its largest turnout in recent memory, with 13 teams in Open Pro alone. But that dust meant it’d be extremely difficult to pass. Lake Powell Off-road Association/Monarch Honda’s Howes exploited this to the fullest.
“This is the first time I’ve ever drawn first starting position so that was a huge, huge reason why I was able to pull out and have such a healthy lead,” Howes said. “The dust was insane today, so being able to start first was huge. Even if you started second or anything, the dust and the way the course goes into the sun a lot of times, starting first at this race–especially with how dry and dusty it’s been–that’s a huge deal.”
Of course, that also meant it was more difficult for Howes to gauge just how to pace himself, so he simply ran his normal race pace.
“I didn’t really know how anyone else would ride, so I rode 100 percent [on the first lap],” Howes said. “I gave it my all, and when I came in off the first [lap], they said I had about an 8t-minute lead. Off the second [lap], they said I had upwards of almost 15 minutes.”
Howes controlled the Casey Folks Parker 250 race from start to finish, getting a great start to a season that will see him concentrate on SCORE as well as moving into rallies.
On the other hand, the Honea/Taylor pair had nothing but dust to deal with as they started ninth in the field of 13 Open Pros at the Casey Folks Parker 250.
“We just rode super-smart, picked good lines and tried to stay out of the dust as much as possible when we could,” Brody Honea said. “You’ve just got to pick your choices through the dust and choose your battles. Tallon [Taylor] got [eventual fourth-place finisher Parker] Steele that last lap, and we ended up in third [physically but second on time].”
The Myers/Stevens team found themselves unable to take advantage of being second off the line on their Husqvarna FX 450
“About the first 15 to 20 miles when I got on the bike [at the Midway pit 27 miles into the loop], I crashed pretty hard and bent the bars and broke the throttle,” Scott Myers said. “We just rode through it and managed [to keep going]. I’m just a little scraped up, and we lost the tracker, but other than that, the bike still rode good—just a little lop-sided!”
Steele and teammate Jake Longtine took fourth bike overall on their 440 Motorsports KTM in 4:38:12, with the Jason Alosi/Wyatt Brittner’s Source 1 Commercial Cleaning Services KTM (4:43:00) fifth. Cooper Motorsports 747/Monarch Honda’s Danny Cooper/Tuffy Pearson/Nick Tolman (4:44:17) took sixth bike, followed by the 300cc Pro winners, brothers Deegan and Jeremy Newton aboard their Scootin’ Newton Racing/La Piazza Pizza YZ250 (4:49:36) and Over 30 Pro winners Danny Cooper/Reece Honea and their Cooper Motorsports 747/Monarch Honda (4:54:41). Braxtan Gallian soloed to seventh Open Pro on his trusty The Pit Enterprise XR650R (4:55:48), and Certified Appliance Yamaha-mounted Alex Kortepeter/Luis Escobedo (4:58:05) was eighth.
For complete GMZ UTV Winter Nationals/Casey Folks Parker 250 results, visit www.bitd.com.