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Sara Price: Mint 400 UTV Champion
Sara Price captured 1st place at the Mint 400 in the UTV Pro Super Stock Turbo class.
When Sara Price was a kid, growing up in and around California’s Inland Valley Empire, places like Riverside and Canyon Lake, the big kids on the block were motocross icons McGrath and Emig – established legends in the sport of motocross who were, along with others from that region, a big part of the sport’s rise in popularity in the 1990s.
Price would follow in the knobby tracks of SoCal’s great MXers, herself becoming the most successful female amateur motocross racer of all-time – winning 19 MX titles and parlaying that success into being the first factory-supported female racer with the Monster Energy/Kawasaki program.
As it does for many MX greats, the years put in to the world’s most demanding form of motorsport take a toll on the body. And while she was healthy and ahead in the game in that department, Price made the call, in 2012, to cross over to the world of four wheel motorsports.
Great successes for Price would soon follow on numerous four wheel professional series, racing WORCS, Lucas Oil, Terracross, Stadium SUPER Trucks, RPM Off-Road and, the biggest of all the competition off-road series, SCORE International – culminating with Price becoming the first woman to win SCORE International’s Trophy Truck Spec championship (’19).
Recently, Price made the switch to the white-hot UTV class racing, hooked up with industry giant Can-Am for 2023, and this past weekend captured 1st place at the Mint 400 in the UTV Pro Super Stock Turbo class.
With the stock pipe barely cooled on her Monster Energy-backed Can-Am Maverick X3, Price had a few minutes in the shop at SP Motorsports to get the Monster Army caught up on her big Mint 400 win, how things are going with Can-Am and what she’s got planned for the rest of the summer.
Hey, Sara! How does it feel to be a class champion at the Mint 400?
Honestly, at the beginning of this year, we made a huge change, going from Polaris to becoming part of the Can-Am family. All happened quickly, about a month before the new year. So we were scrambling to pull things together for King of the Hammers, then had to learn the new car (Can-Am’s Maverick X3) on-the-fly there, before getting it prepped and ready for the Mint 400.
That’s not very much time behind the wheel of a new ride. How did Sara Price Motorsports pull that together so quickly – and successfully – for the Mint 400?
We only had three weeks in the car prior to King of the Hammers. So the race was more or less to get some seat time, and get the announcement out on my deal with Can-Am. At the Hammers we ran into some technical difficulties. Finished the race, but not exactly where we’d have liked. It was a big learning curve just to get through that week. For the Mint 400, which was, technically, my first true desert race in a UTV (having raced the rock/desert combo Hammers seven times), we made some changes and came out swinging. I ended up brining Mitchell Alsup (Alsup Racing Development) on board, and he took the lead on my entire program. Took my car and rebuilt it, prepped it, and also ran my pit. So that ended up being key in our class win at the Mint 400. Mitchell was super thrilled to join my team. And with the help of Can-Am and Monster Energy, our title sponsor, things all came together nicely.
That’s a big deal, signing with Can-Am. How did that all come about?
I’d been working with their ‘TreadLightly!’ foundation, and it was Can-Am that approached me, SP Motorsports, with the racer/brand ambassador idea. And seeing how my ultimate dream and goal is to get to Dakar (the Dakar Rally), right now Can-Am rules that market. So it was time to align with a company that aligned with my goals.
That’s awesome. So the Monster Army has a pretty good idea of the amount of training that goes in to being a pro motocross racer. And you’re, no doubt, as familiar with that grind as anyone. Can you talk to us a bit about your day-to-day routine when getting prepped to race a UTV in an off-road competition?
It’s actually so different than motocross. With motocross, you’re pretty much training every day in the gym and on the bike. When you transfer to four wheels, it’s more time with prep work on the vehicle. The right parts and partners keep you racing. And yeah, you need to obviously be fit, an athlete, but we don’t get nearly as much time in our vehicles, like we do on a bike. (In total, Price had about 50 miles before Mint 400 in here Can-Am Maverick X3). Most of the time your seat time in the race is what you get. So off-road is a lot more mental. We won the 2019 Baja championship, I raced for 19.5 hours straight, and I did it all myself. Your body gets a workout, but nothing compared to motocross.
You’ve got a highly decorated background in motocross. Can you talk to us about the transition to four wheels, what were the most difficult aspects of that, and what’s been the easiest for you.
Having a moto background is just something you can’t compare to anything else. You can read terrain in an instant, and adjust immediately. And you can apply that with anything in the dirt you do from that point on. Turning, corner setup – years of experience I was able to transfer (from MX to off-road) over right away. Training discipline to vehicle dynamics all goes hand in hand with each.
And then there’s the business side. You had your dad and mom handing your motocross business. I bet that all changed when you took on two more wheels.
I’ve always been a big business person. My parents helped when I was a kid, but making the move to four wheels, and I was solo. Obviously, cars are a LOT more expensive. So you have to pay considerably more attention to sponsors, like Monster Energy, than I did in motocross. With SP Motorsports I’m not only the driver, but also the marketing manager.
That, and you probably must spin wrenches a bit in the garage?
Very knowledgeable when it comes to mechanics, so pretty much I can work on most things. We’re all in the garage nonstop all night. All hands on deck. Four corners now, not just two like on dirt bike. And, 100 percent, I learned that from my dad and racing motocross. My dad said, ‘If you’re gonna race with Pro Circuit, go take apart that shock and learn what you’re going to tell them when it comes time to talk about adjustments.’ The best racers know their equipment inside and out. And in desert racing you better know what you’re doing, ‘cause there’ll be a time when you’re going to have to be out there, in the middle of nowhere, working with minimal tools.
Who were some of the more key influences on your transition to four-wheel racing, and what were some of the best points they gave you?
In motocross, I had a lot of influencers. My dad, of course. Then, when it got to the point where I had to train every day, I had some incredible trainers. Ryan Hughes, for example (the Ryno Institute). He taught me things I still use today. Then I’d always take little bits from everyone, and created my own formula. On four wheels it was Emily Miller, she’s the reason I went to Africa in 2014 for a rally. She used to race for GM back in the day, and she had insight on everything. From PR to racing, to being an athlete. But so many people I take little things from, then create my own thing that I really love.
Was or is there ever a point in a four-wheel off-road race where you think to yourself, ‘Man, I could crush this section on a dirt bike?’
Oh, man, All. The. Time. I swear, when I’m in a UTV, I compare everything to a dirt bike. Except then, you’re in control of the vehicle, it’s the machine you have to get through the section. And you always have to know where your tires are at. But on the bike, you maneuver with your body… maneuvering with your body in a car doesn’t do too much (laugher).
Back to the Mint 400, how did that race differ from the KOH, and what areas of the Mint did you excel in, and what did you find difficult?
Well, for starters, we raced for over eight hours (8:34:15.869 to be exact) in the Mint 400. And at the Hammers w broke at the 50 mile mark. Mint’s an attrition race. Course is extremely rough. You just have to figure out the pace where you don’t break equipment, but are fast enough to stay in the lead. We honestly didn’t have one issue. Pushed at times, kept it consistent, had fun and relaxed. We knew the Can-Am would do what we needed to do if we kept it together.
Can you talk to us a bit about your upcoming off-road schedule this summer, what races and series you’ll be contending in?
This weekend, Nitro Rally Cross (at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California) in a Can-Am and a Class 11 Bug. Then we’ve got the Cali 300 going for the Triple Crown Championship. Sonora Rally (California), part of the WRC (World Rally Championship). My goal is to get to Morocco, then Dakar next year.
Are there any other cool plans coming up, motorsports-oriented or otherwise?
Every once in a while I’ll get a stunt job on a dirt bike, but not much anymore. But to be honest, I haven’t had one day off this year. I live in the shop so I’ve got minimal free time.
Right on. Thanks, Sara! Good luck at Glen Helen this weekend!