Images via Kristen Matlock
Hear from Kristen Matlock, fresh off her 2018 Baja 500 victory, on this week’s episode of the Down and Dirty Show:
Of the numerous UTV classes now competing in desert races across North America, the top vehicles are usually the ones equipped with turbochargers from the factory. In SCORE competition, the name of the class is Pro UTV Forced Induction, and with a roster of entries that included most of the world’s top drivers, last weekend’s 50th anniversary edition of the Baja 500 was due to be one of the most exciting races in the history of the class.
That just makes what Alpine, California’s Kristen Matlock did on Saturday all the more remarkable.
It was impressive enough that Matlock handled driving duties on the 542-mile course all by herself. But hers was the story of the event: despite racing in a naturally aspirated Polaris RZR XP4 1000, making less horsepower than the Pro UTV FI vehicles, Matlock’s finishing time of 14:26:47 wasn’t just good enough to win her class. It was good enough to beat the entire Forced Induction field and give her the overall UTV victory.
Matlock, who has become known for soloing events, added yet another victory to the family resume with the triumph. Husband Wayne is also a past overall UTV winner at the event, as well as the Baja 1000 and numerous other major off-road races. Kristen had been the team manager before stepping into the driver’s seat herself a few years ago, using the same vehicle that Wayne had driven to a Baja sweep in 2015 as he moved onto a new build.
In her first attempt at the Baja 500 two years ago, Matlock placed an impressive third in class. Later that year, she completed a Baja sweep, becoming the first woman to solo the 1000-mile race in a four-wheel vehicle, while also placing second in class and third overall in the UTV competition.
But bigger things still were yet to come, and it was last August at General Tire Vegas to Reno that the inevitable finally happened. In the longest off-road race in America, Matlock took her first victory in Best in the Desert’s UTV Pro Production class, finishing the 540-mile course in a high attrition event that claimed half of the entries in the field along the way.
The Matlocks kicked off the 2018 season with a 1-2 overall finish at the San Felipe 250, with Wayne taking the overall and Forced Induction wins and Kristen placing second overall with another class win in the naturally aspirated Polaris. From there, it was off to Ensenada and last week’s historic victory against the largest UTV field in the event’s history.
In racing, some individual performances stand alone as legendary accomplishments; some are just the start of a legendary career. Judging by Matlock’s path to get to the top of the UTV field so far, her overall victory last weekend should be the first of many—no matter what class she’s racing in.