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Photos from the 2022 Offroad | Baja 1000, MX off road event in Baja California, Mexico
NEWS

Matt Burroughs: Out Of The Boardroom And Into Baja

Nov 282022

Out of the Monster Energy boardroom and into the desert goes Matt Burroughs! Senior Vice President – Corporate Finance by day, and now two-time SCORE-International World Desert UTV champion on weekends down in Mexico, Monster Energy can safely say it has one of the most badass accountants in this hemisphere.

This past week, Burroughs secured the SCORE Pro UTV Forced Induction (aka “Turbo”) overall series title with a solid 4th place finish at the famed 55th running of the BF Goodrich SCORE Baja 1000, presented by 4-Wheel Parts, and Monster Energy as the event’s “Official Energy Drink.”

Between eye-blurring spreadsheets and getting started on a bloody knuckle breakdown of his race Can-Am UTV, Burroughs took some time out of his busy schedule to get us caught up on his second SCORE overall UTV class championship the road that led to the title. This included the importance of the team he’s surrounded himself with – including his family – and how proud he is to run the iconic glowing green M-claw logo both on his UTV, and on his suit lapel when he meets with the Wall Street types.

Matt! Congrats on the recent SCORE-International World Desert Championship! Pro UTV Forced Induction and Pro UTV overall champion. I know you just got back to work from a week down in Baja California (Mexico). Has the championship sunk in yet?

 

You know, kind of. We won in 2020, which was our first big championship. Won three titles and had the most points. So the first one, obviously, was really special. But this one’s pretty special as well. I signed with Can Am in 2017, so this is our sixth year with them. Basically, same team, same program. We make little tweaks here and there, but we’ve got a program that works – and we’ve been successful with it. Keep grinding, keep at it. This championship was the proof of that grind.

 

Awesome. So the SCORE World Desert Championship Series, which consisted of four rounds, got rolling back in March/April with the San Felipe 250. You opened that round with a solid 4th place finish, then proceeded to finish just off the box – 4th place – in two more rounds, including this past weekend’s Baja 1000. Did you figure at the start of the season you could secure the class championship without winning – or even scoring a podium finish or two?

 

Baja is getting so tough, so grueling. The way the points work, there’s a pretty good spread between 1st and 10th. My teammate at Can-Am, Austin Weiland, won three of four rounds – and DNF’d one round. We go fast and steady, that’s our plan. For Sure, we want to win individual races, but Baja is so grueling, as long as you are consistently near the top, you have a good shot at the championship. Heading into the (Baja) 1000 there were five of us within five points, and I was four points out of the lead. We went into the race with the idea of we just need a good finish to win the championship. And that’s what we accomplished.

 

So at the Baja 1000 you were assessed a speeding penalty. How did that come about, and did it, overall championship notwithstanding, cost you a spot on the overall 1000 podium?

 

No, it didn’t cost us the 1000 title. We had a no VCP (Virtual Check Point) penalties, only some small speeding penalties, which is not at all uncommon. Over the course of 800 and some racing miles, that’s nothing, really.

 

Was there any sort of turning point for you and your team in the 2022 SCORE championship competition season?

 

We started at San Felipe and got a 4th with an all-new car, and were way off the mark. So we came out of that race really fortunate with the place we got. And we were really happy with that. At the next race, the Baja 500, we had a really good car, but ran into a mechanical issue middle of the race. We were running with the lead pack at the time, and were able to salvage a 9th. Overall in the series, after two races, we weren’t doing too badly at that point. For the Baja 400 we made some adjustments and knew again we had a good car. The 400 was a good race for us, another 4th. So we looked at it coming into the 1000, with a four-point spread, it’s anybody’s championship. I guess you could say we were ‘cautiously confident.’ The team and I work really hard on car preparation leading in to the 1000, really making sure we addressed every nook and cranny to get the car to finish. So we went into it feeling confident, knowing the overall championship was definitely reachable.

Tough to get to the top on your own… which you discovered early in your off-road career, moving from dirt bikes to UTVs. Talk about your relationship with Can-Am and the team you’ve surrounded yourself with to race SCORE and Best In The Desert (BITD), including your co-driver (and son) Zach Burroughs.

 

(Laughter) My motorcycle racing career was way, way easier. We’d go to the races, and it’d be myself, along with one or two pit guys. That was it. To do the full prep on a motorcycle, what, half a day or a day’s work? Never a time constraint point of view working on the bike. Racing for the factory Husqvarna team, we, of course, got factory parts. But what I did learn from racing motorcycles was the logistics of long-distance racing. From the pits to racing. That said, transitioning from a bike to the car from just a prep point of view was pretty overwhelming. Such an enormous learning curve, bike to car. I just dug in and certainly made some mistakes along the way. But I would meet knowledgeable people and bring them into the (UTV) program. Then we’d find out they’d have a friend who handled suspension or motor work pretty well, and we’d bring them in as well. So the team was the sum of the parts, but were always cautious of who we surrounded ourselves with. I think now we’ve got it figured out. I told my oldest son, Zach, we’re not letting you race until you graduate college. As soon as he graduated, he became my co-driver. And that’s been a fantastic opportunity, and such a rewarding experience. I’ve also split a lot of the longer race driving duties with Bradley Howe. He’s been my main second driver for some time.

 

While we’re on the subject, explain further how rewarding is that to have your son involved with your passion for off-road. You’d enjoyed a great deal of parental support when you first started playing around in the desert on a Taco mini bike – at the tender age of four. Zach looks to be taking to the sport in a way you’d have hoped, and he’s now – literally – racing in the seat next to you.

 

I think it’s great. I have been very fortunate with co-drivers. Dan Lewis was my first co-driver for many years while Zach was in high school and college. He was a big part of our early success. Zach stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. He’s a really good co-driver. He and I work really well together. This is our third season together, and we just have a very good flow in the car. Him giving me the directions and the turns has worked very well – and that’s not always the case with a co-driver. But Zach and I are always on the same page in the car. I am 100-percent confident with him in the car. In addition to Zach, my other kids (Isabella, Sadie, and Hunter), and my wife (Celeste) allow all of this to happen. There is zero possibility I could be racing at this level without the support I have at home. Celeste is the greatest race wife I could ever ask for. Without her support, it’s not happening.

 

Flashback to the days when you were running off-road races with the Factory Husqvarna program. Who were some of the big name guys you were chasing, and what was your most memorable race of that era?

 

I was a factory rider, but the guys ahead of me were in a different league. I wasn’t at the Larry Roeseler, Danny Hamel, Ty Davis level. I was riding in the pro class, and I competed in the same races, but those guys didn’t see me as a competitor. As for my motorcycle race highlight, that’d be the time we won the Best In The Desert Laughlin (Nevada) World Championship Hare Scrambles Championship in the 125cc class. That was a pretty cool win.

 

We’d mentioned BITD briefly. You had some solid finishes in the Pro UTV Turbo class this summer, winding up in 7th place overall. According to the stat sheet it looked like you didn’t run the final two events to which, if you averaged your finishes in the four previous races, the 99.75 points would have put you in 2nd place overall. That’s pretty solid as well. Talk about your 2022 BITD season.

 

I had to make a decision as the season progressed about racing both series, SCORE and Best In The Desert. And we were sitting in 4th place in both series after Baja 400. Best In The Desert moved the Laughlin race to mid-October, and then that put pressure on our SCORE schedule. It would have been a real strain on the team to race both series at that point, feeling like if we would have tried to do both, we wouldn’t have put in our best effort for the 1000. We discussed this with Can-Am and Monster, offered to do both, and both companies said ‘Go win the SCORE championship.’ But overall it was a tough decision. Baja is such an unbelievable undertaking. And I’m confident we wouldn’t have been able to give our best effort for the 1000 with just one week of prep time after the last Best In The Desert round.

You’ve been at the forefront of the progression of UTV racing since 2016, basically learning on the fly in the early days. Talk about how the UTV class has progressed into what’s now the most popular class, entry-wise, in SCORE and BITD. And also talk about the technology with UTVs… where it was when you started, where it’s at now and where you feel it’s going.

 

The best way I can explain that is that, in 2016, I got 2nd overall UTV at BITD Vegas to Reno race. The fastest I went in either of the two days of racing was 72 mph – for 2nd overall out of all the UTVs. Fast-forward to now and, gosh, off the start at the 1000 this past weekend we started on pavement, we were doing 102 mph. Cars have gotten much, much faster, stronger… robust. UTVs off the start used to be way down, the 15th to 20th class to start, and now we’re the 5th or 6th (off the start). UTVs just keep getting faster and more competitive. Where is the ceiling? I can’t even guess. The factories are doing a great job with engineering new vehicles.

 

So as you’re well aware, “Monster Matt,” (Burroughs’ nickname on social media), Monster Energy has always had a very strong relationship, both financially and brand-wise with event engagement, with the competition within the off-road industry. Talk about the importance of Monster Energy’s relationship with off-road racing, and how it’s been that way since the beginning with the company.

 

‘Monster Matt’ – I am very humbled and proud of that nickname! I have worked for Monster for more than 16 years now and raced for Monster for the past seven years. If I just step back and kind of look in from the outside, Monster looks to be the biggest supporter of motorsports in the world. Racing is in Monster’s DNA. Obviously, I have my day job with Monster that is my No. 1 priority outside my family. But having said that, I told Monster in the early days, I will not take a Monster sponsorship unless I’m being competitive for championships. I would never take a sponsorship and ride around in 30th place. Monster is all about winning championships. Does that add more pressure? Absolutely. But I know my entire team feels a sense of responsibility to perform at the highest level with what Monster’s put into us.

 

So do people at Monster HQ in Corona (Calif.) stop you at the water cooler and try to get a signed poster? (Laughter) Seriously, that’s gotta be cool carrying the street cred into company meetings now knowing that a two-time SCORE champion’s entering the room. A lot of hard work went into that title.

 

It’s a great feeling. In general, not a lot of accountants race motorcycles off-road. It’s just not what a finance executive does. So I really for the most part keep it on the down low. Talking with (Monster Energy President) Mark Hall (himself a former off-road racer), he found out I was racing, and he started peeling back the layers and found out ‘You’re really a racer.’ Mark was just shocked. (Laughter) People at Monster are really confused about it. Can’t wrap their heads round it. So while they just scratch their heads, at the same time they’re very supportive. And Speaking of Monster Matt, I’m so proud to carry that name, being part of Monster and that racing DNA. Any time I get called that, I feel I’m super humbled to even be in a position to be called that. I would never imagine in my wildest dream that I’d be winning championships in a Monster-backed car.

 

That’s great stuff! Thanks again, Matt, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to get us caught up on your recent championship. You all set for 2023? Figure you’ll start with some Monster Energy Supercross at Anaheim to get you fired up for King of the Hammers – as if you need any firing up for that event.

 

You got that right. We’ll probably get super fired up with supercross, but first a complete tear down and rebuild of the car, all the way down to the frame. The King of the Hammers is the first week of February. I broke a drive shaft racing it last year, so we are looking for a bit of redemption. I want to do well this year at KOH. I grew up riding and racing in Johnson Valley (where KOH is held). SCORE will be our main focus in 2023, defending our title. Just select BITD events, and also the mint 400.

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