There has been some pretty big news coming from Polaris Off Road for the month of March. They led the week with the reveal of the re-designed 2024 Polaris RZR XP. Now they have announced the formation of a Polaris Factory Racing off-road super team. The headline highlights of this announcement spell out a comprehensive RZR Factory Racing program, commanded by elite off-road racing leaders, specialized personnel, and the sport’s first-ever purpose-built race-ready UTV. Three of the sport’s brightest talents have been enlisted as the team drivers; Austin Weiland, Brock Heger, and Cayden MacCachren.
By all measures, this is much more than a factory-supported race program. Polaris is aiming for big wins in off-road desert racing’s premier events. To do that, it appears they have made a massive investment to build an entity capable of delivering. A fully curated factory program that features an elite management team, crew chiefs, mechanics, and proven driving talent.
The term “factory racing program” has been used to loosely describe OEM sponsorships and vehicle-oriented support for established independent race teams. This new Polaris Factory Racing is unprecedented and we would have to look far back to the days of Toyota’s Precision Prep Inc. with their Ivan “Ironman” Stewart driving ace, and the Ford Rough Riders to even come close.
Sharing even more similarities is young Cayden MacCachren who was enlisted as one of the Polaris factory team drivers. Cayden is the son of the legendary Rob MacCachren who was a successful driver on the original Rough Riders team. Rob Mac has been enshrined into the Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and has over 200 career wins. The most accomplished off-road racer in history seems to have taught his talented young son well.
A New Era Of Factory Race Wars?!!?
Launching a massively funded off-road racing program in today’s questionable economy might sound shocking. But Polaris has its eye on the big prize, and right now Can-AM is the outfit holding a lot of chips. The Can-Am factory-backed partnership with South Racing has yielded impressive results earning recent 2023 wins at the Dakar Rally, and the King Of The Hammers. The competition is ripe with UTV manufacturers making awesome vehicles that absolutely do not suck. UTV sales are looking pretty great so that does not hurt. OEMs spending gobs of money on racing seems highly justified to us and we are happy about that.
Polaris justifies these likely seven-figure expenditures through the fruitful harvest of performance innovations that trickle down to the showroom floor. Of course, the collection of race-winning accolades will no doubt appeal to off-road enthusiasts. Very much similar to the old saying “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”
“Backed by nearly 70 years of innovation, Polaris is not only responsible for literally inventing the performance side-by-side category, but it also has a long and storied history of winning at the highest levels of off-road racing, so it simply makes sense that we’d be driving the industry forward yet again with the first, full-fledged UTV class factory racing program,” said Reid Wilson, Vice President, Polaris Off Road Recreation.
“Racing is integral to everything we do, driving performance innovations that inspire the products we bring to showroom floors – ultimately pushing the industry forward and advancing the consumer side-by-side market. We’re absolutely chomping at the bit to now showcase Polaris’ engineering prowess and ingenuity through our new Polaris Factory Racing team.” – Reid Wilson
Polaris Factory Racing Off-Road Super Team Race Schedule
Race on we say! So, what is the big prize and where are they racing?
The all-new Polaris Factory Racing team is driven by a singular goal – winning. In 2023, the team will compete in the SCORE International Series and the Best in the Desert’s flagship event Vegas to Reno. The season will kick off at the San Felipe 250 on March 28-April 2, followed by the Baja 400 from May 31-June 4, Vegas to Reno on August 16-20, the Baja 500 on September 12-17, and the Baja 1000 on November 13-18.
Polaris Factory Racing Off-Road Super Team By Design
Polaris has hand-picked its team from top to bottom. Amongst the group, lays more than 150 years of combined off-road experience, expertise, and proven champions. Team operations will be based in Vista, California, with 12 full-time employees. So, who is involved in this off-road super team?
Team Principals: Craig Scanlon & Travis Clarke
The team will be run by long-time off-road racing veterans and team principals Craig Scanlon and Travis Clarke, a duo that packs two decades of combined off-road racing experience. The two have formed SCI (Scanlon Clarke Industries) as the program management arm of the Polaris Factory Racing team.
Formerly an executive for Polaris Off Road, Scanlon has been a driving force in the industry on and off the race course. In addition to his work for Polaris, Scanlon dove headfirst into his passion for off-road racing by creating Scanlon Motorsports Group, a professional racing program where he also served as driver, claiming his first UTV Pro Class victory at the 2019 Baja 500.
In addition to racing experience and winning in off-road cars himself, Clarke brings a wealth of experience in the racing business and athlete management. Well-established as one of the sport’s premier sports marketing executives through his work with Wasserman Media Group, Clarke’s client list includes some of the sport’s more renowned drivers. He’s also been a key player in the ongoing evolution of King of the Hammers, driving critical sponsor support, instrumental to the overall progression of the premier U.S.-based off-road event. Outside of the off-road world, Clarke has been responsible for establishing some of the top teams in Supercross/Motorcross, NASCAR, and the rally racing community, including RCH, Two Two Motorsports, Ken Block’s Hoonigan Racing Division, and Pastrana Waltrip Racing.
General Manager: Ryan Thomas
Off-road industry veteran Thomas will oversee the team’s day-to-day operations and manage driver and sponsor relations as the team’s General Manager. Thomas has spent his life on both the business and racing sides of the industry initially working for his family business, Chenoweth Racing Products, which developed some of the most successful cars in off-road racing history. Most recently, he was President of Ultra4Racing and prior to that spent ten years as Director of Wide Open Baja in Cabo San Lucas. Thomas also packs serious racing credentials from his days as a top-tier driver, with five Baja 1000 titles to his name.
Operations Director: Adam Arsenault
To manage the team’s state-of-the-art 10,000 sq-ft race shop in San Diego, California, the team tapped Adam Arsenault, who will serve as Operations Director. Since 2010, Arsenault, a Marine veteran, has owned and operated Broadsword Racing, an off-road team of active-duty military, veterans, and first responders. Arsenault brings the team a wealth of operational management skills learned throughout his 20-year military career in the Marines Special Operations Division, including mission planning, tactical communication, and navigation. In his role, he will manage the vehicle fleet, oversee the race parts inventory and develop and manage the race volunteer roster.
Crew Chief: Johnny Nelson
Former off-road racing co-driver Johnny Nelson will operate as the team’s Crew Chief. After winning multiple Baja 500 and Baja 1000s as a co-driver, Nelson shifted gears to the technical side as a mechanic, where he was voted SCORE Mechanic of the Year, an award he has won multiple times. In his role, Nelson will collaborate alongside Polaris engineering, manage the senior and junior mechanics, and develop and execute pre-run and race-day strategy.
The team will have three Senior and three Junior Mechanics to ensure the vehicles are race ready for each event. They will also be responsible for maintaining the shop, chase trucks, trailers, and pit equipment.
Polaris Factory Racing Off-Road Super Team Drivers
Driver: Austin Weiland
Weiland has always had a passion for racing, transitioning through the youth ranks of karts, and oval dwarf cars. He eventually moved into short course off-road racing. He has been competing full-time in the Best in the Desert and SCORE series in the Production Turbo class, with notable wins in the 2021 Vegas to Reno, 2022 King of the Hammers Desert Challenge, and 2022 Baja 400, 500, and 1000 wins.
Driver: Brock Heger
Emerging as the next big name in off-road racing, Heger has excelled in every discipline of racing and has over 100 wins and 200 podiums to his name. Most recently, Heger has raced in Pro-Lite short course trucks and Production UTVs in the Champ Off Road series, earning championships in both classes as well as competing full-time in the SCORE Trophy Truck Spec class.
Driver: Cayden MacCachren
A third-generation racer from one of the most iconic families in off-road racing history, MacCachren, will pilot the team’s third vehicle. The offspring of off-road royalty, it’s no surprise that MacCachren followed in his father Rob’s footsteps to become a championship racer. In just four short years, he has collected as many year-end championships, along with multiple race wins at varying levels of the sport.
Polaris Factory Racing Off-Road Super Team Pro R
Now, what will these boys be racing, and will we be able to find one at the local powersports dealer? Um, no unfortunately not! To our knowledge, Toyota never offered for sale a mass-produced race-ready Baja 1000 turn-key race car. Ford has never sold a production-line Rough Rider edition race truck. Likewise, Polaris is building these UTV race vehicles from the ground up with a pure-blood racing pedigree.
Well, ok, I guess the new Ford Bronco DR deserves a mention here. What about the Chevrolet CoPo Camaro? And we cannot forget about the GT40! Then there were all the MOPAR Drag Paks. I think I just slipped down the rabbit hole. Perhaps there is room in the world for more factory-produced race vehicles.
The factory-built, mass-produced Polaris RZR Pro R is an impressive machine from the production line. We can expect these purpose-built Polaris Factory Racing UTVs to look, and sound like their showroom brethren. However, they will be entirely different altogether. Full details and information about the purpose-built Polaris Factory Racing UTV will be released on March 15.
Engineering: Polaris Off Road
The development of the three purpose-built vehicles was led by Polaris Off-Road Racing Technical Director Robert Wilmot. He will oversee a team of Polaris off-road engineers where racecraft is a personal passion. For these engineers, the development of a purpose-built factory racing UTV is literally a dream come true. Alongside Wilmot, the Polaris engineering team will assist in ongoing race vehicle testing and development.
Polaris Factory Racing Off-Road Super Team Partners
Fortunately for the bean counters at Polaris HQ, a program of this caliber has appealing attributes. Scanlon and Clark are particularly advanced in attracting high-value sponsorship partners to help fund this venture.
This new Polaris Factory Racing team has aligned with top brands that share a vested interest in powersports. These partners include Rockford Fosgate, Synchrony, Progressive Insurance, and GoPro. Additionally, the team enjoys support from these performance brands: Fox Racing, Fox Shocks, Polaris Engineered Lubricants, Rigid Lighting, BFGoodrich Tires, and Method Race Wheels.