FeaturesThe Week That Was

The Week That Was: Impressive Performances in Baja, Detroit, and More

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Arturo Gonzalez (1); Larry Chen/Formula Drift (2)

If Memorial Day weekend is the ultimate experience for fans of traditional forms of racing, the weekend after is the epitome for fans of action motorsport. From the Detroit Grand Prix and its combination of open-wheel, sports car, and truck racing, to grueling events on dirt like the Baja 500 and Pro Motocross, there was more than enough on- and off-road action to keep race fans busy on Saturday and Sunday.

With countless classes and racers in competition this weekend, it’s hard to narrow down the top performances from all the action. That being said, these six competitors truly stood out:

SCORE International: Kristen Matlock

With all apologies to overall winner Rob MacCachren, one of the most iconic figures in Baja history, what Matlock did on Saturday was nothing short of remarkable. Not only did the Polaris athlete tackle all 542 miles of the race as a driver, but competing in the Pro UTV Naturally Aspirated class, she managed to take the overall UTV victory—beating the entire field of Forced Induction entrants and some of the sport’s biggest names to become the first female UTV winner in the history of the Baja 500.

Verizon IndyCar Series: Ryan Hunter-Reay

After a hot and cold start to the season so far, Hunter-Reay finally snapped a winless streak dating back to Pocono in 2015 when he won the second race of the series’ Detroit doubleheader. Pressuring his Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi into a mistake, the 2012 series champion backed up his runner-up performance from Saturday with the victory, and jumped into fourth in the championship standings heading into the halfway point of the 2018 season at Texas Motor Speedway.

Formula Drift: James Deane

After knocking on the door of a victory all season long, Formula Drift’s defending champion finally found the top step of the podium again on Saturday at Wall Stadium Speedway. The Long Beach semifinalist and Orlando runner-up rebounded from a Round of 8 elimination at Road Atlanta to take down Kazuya Taguchi, Piotr Wiecek, Ken Gushi, and defending event winner Odi Bakchis before meeting and defeating Matt Field in the final. The win enabled Deane to claim the points lead for the first time in 2018.

Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Eli Tomac

Heading into this weekend’s break, Tomac started his 450 class title defense with a perfect six for six performance in the motos from the first three rounds. Thunder Valley saw him have to take down Ken Roczen twice for victory, once with seven minutes remaining in the first moto and again with 10 minutes left in the second moto while dealing with issues with his goggles. The winning streak enabled him to not only eclipse his own win record to start a Pro Motocross season, but also pad his points lead to 28.

NHRA: Clay Millican

Back-to-back victories have Top Fuel racer Millican riding high into one of the busiest stretches of the NHRA season. Just two weeks after taking his second career win at the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, he took down Pat Dakin, Scott Palmer, Doug Kalitta, and Leah Pritchett to take his third win at the JEGS NHRA Route 66 Nationals. Route 66 Dragway holds a special place in Millican’s career: it was also the site of his first-ever Top Fuel start 20 years ago.

Stadium Super Trucks: Arie Luyendyk Jr.

It had been a long time coming, but “The Bachelor” finally earned his first career SST victory in Perth last month, and backed it up with a second in the second leg of competition for SST in Detroit. The win enabled Luyendyk to complete a podium sweep of the weekend; it came after he finished third in the first event of the Belle Isle doubleheader, also equaling the results that Gavin Harlien posted over the course of the event. The podiums also enabled him to leapfrog multiple drivers in the series standings, as he entered Detroit locked in a close battle for a top five spot.

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