New Can-Am pilot talks with UTV Sports about why he loves UTV’s, having fun with family, and why he loves desert racing.
When it comes to racing UTVs, few drivers enjoy the race scene as much as Matt Burroughs. He and his co-driver, Dan Lewis, are both dedicated desert racers who have loved the sport ever since they were kids. Today, Matt Burroughs is the Chief Financial Officer for Monster Energy drinks, which is a world-wide company that sponsors racers, teams, and entire race series in the sports world.
To get an idea of what Matt and his co-pilot, Dan Lewis, think about racing UTVs for their new Can-Am team, we spoke to the two of them at a recent photo shoot for UTV Sports. Both pilots have long desert racing careers, spanning dirt bikes and UTVs over many years. Matt races his Maverick X3 (#948) for Can-Am in the SCORE and Best In The Desert (BITD) Racing series.
UTV Sports: Tell us a little bit about yourself Matt… What’s your program and how did you get into the race scene?
Matt Burroughs: I’ve spent most of my life in the desert racing motorcycles. My dad raced AMA District 37 in the sixties. Back then, I was on my first little mini bike, a Taco Mini as I recall, at four years old. I spent a lot of time in the desert. My parents let me start out racing at about thirteen. So, I raced in my first District 37 event at thirteen. I raced competitively from then to about 2005. I did District 37 and Best In The Desert races. In 1999, I signed with Husqvarna and raced with them from 1999 to 2005.
UTV Sports: Then what?
Matt Burroughs: About 2004-2005, it got really tough to run at the pace of the top guys on dirt bikes. Also, I had a couple of really good get-offs that made me think about the whole racing thing. For me, I wasn’t keen on the idea of having to hang it out too much to ride at the top pro levels. I was in my mid 30s, so I was kind of at the end of being in the top classes in the motorcycles. I could either move up into the vet classes and get slower, or go do something else.
UTV Sports: So what did you do?
Matt Burroughs: Starting in 2005-2006, I chose to go bicycle racing and race competitively. Then, three years ago, I went and bought a four-seat Side-by-Side. I bought it basically to go out camping with the family and ride in the desert. We went out to Lucerne Valley, Johnson Valley, and other ride locations just to have fun. I took my first UTV down the trail and said, “Oh my god, I can’t believe what this car will do!”
UTV Sports: So, UTVs literally brought you back to racing then?
Matt Burroughs: It brought all my love back for racing out in the desert. I talked to my wife, and said, “Hey, I really want to do this, let’s go race these things, they are incredible.”
So we built a four-seater UTV into a race car and I went and raced the AVE series (Lou Peralta’s race series), which happens to be one of our local race series in California City, CA.
We went out and did pretty well with a car that was pretty much stock. I was surprised that my many years of desert experience on the motorcycle transferred over pretty well to the car, in terms of being able to read terrain and handle the car.
So I said, okay, let’s try ‘Best in the Desert’. I had raced that series many times on a motorcycle. We did Vegas to Reno, five or six times, and did pretty well there, and I thought, okay, let’s go! Let’s really do it. For me, at the time, that was the big series to be in.
We went out, starting in 2015, and really struggled. It’s much easier to prep and maintain a motorcycle, and that’s what I knew at the time. Getting into the car was just a whole different race scene for me, and a different world.
UTV Sports: What was so different about racing UTVs?
Matt Burroughs: I didn’t know a lot about the car mechanically, so we were trying to learn the entire time. We went out and had a few rough races to begin the season. All the guys we were racing against were really fast. I couldn’t believe how fast the top guys were.
UTV Sports: Which class were you racing?
Matt Burroughs: We were in the non-turbo pro class. The guys were hauling. I was way off the pace, initially. It was just my driving ability in the car, and the setup we were running at first…
UTV Sports: So it was a massive learning experience with UTVs to start with?
Matt Burroughs: (laughs and smiles) It was a BIG, BIG, learning experience! At the time, I was leaning on other people to help me and guide me on setting up the car because I was new to it. I’d never done that on the motorcycle side. I’d always taken care of things myself.
About half way through our first season, I pulled control back of the car and said, “You know what, I’m going to do things my way. Maybe it’s the right way or the wrong way, but at least I can be in control of things.”
So we went into the 2015 Vegas to Reno race starting in about 10th place. By about mile 30, we were the first UTV on the course. I think we were second or third overall in time, so we were really having a great race. Then, we had some more mechanical issues. We ended up losing a motor, but this race really showed me that we could run the pace that the top guys were running, and we were pretty close on the proper setup of the race car.
UTV Sports: What did your race team do next?
Matt Burroughs: After the Vegas to Reno race, we made the decision to end our 2015 season. We were having some difficulties like I mentioned, so we just packed it in for the season. It was a tough decision but we decided to go back and regroup on the car. We spent the fall of 2015 making a lot of changes to the car, doing a lot of suspension testing, and doing some motor work. With our eye on 2016, we revitalized our team and tried to come out and be as competitive as we could for the first race.
Then the 2016 season started off a bit rough. At the first BITD race of the year, the Parker 250, we put a rock into the rear caliper and bent it. That cost us a lot of time out on the track, and our race ended in not-so-great fashion. At the follow up Best In The Desert UTV World Championships, we put a hole in a radiator line, which was just a fluke thing, so we had two races of just really fluke things happening. We knew we were running the leaders’s race pace, so at that point, we were pretty confident.
Then we raced the Laughlin event, and we ended up eighth overall at the finish line. Finally, we had a good race, so we were confident going into the next Vegas to Reno race.
UTV Sports: You mentioned that Vegas to Reno is always one of your favorite races of the year – what makes it so special for you?
Matt Burroughs: The Vegas to Reno event, for me, has always been a very special race, mainly because when we did it on our motorcycle, it was always the highlight of our year. It was the biggest race there was for me on a motorcycle, so Vegas to Reno was always a special race for me…
UTV Sports: So, with all of the little gremlins hopefully out of the way, you were ready to take on the 2016 Vegas to Reno. Tell us about this race…
Matt Burroughs: In 2016, Vegas to Reno was a two day event, which made for some high stakes. On the first day we had a flawless run. Not a single issue with the car, and we ended up third overall after day one, so we were pretty happy.
The team did a great job prepping the car that night for Day 2. We went out on the second day and pushed hard all the way to the Reno finish line. We ended up second overall! That was out of all the non-turbos and turbos, so that race really paid off for us in the car…
We had worked a long time to get to that level and be on the podium. We had learned a lot to get there, but we put a lot of hard work into the car.
We followed that up with a fifth overall at the Bluewater Desert Challenge race in October, so that finish backed up our Vegas to Reno race result. We went out to the final race of the year, the Pahrump 250, and we were running third overall at mile 200 and then we lost a transmission.
UTV Sports: Which car were you driving?
Matt Burroughs: We were driving our two seat Polaris at the time, but I had already signed a factory Can-Am contract for the 2017 season – I had actually signed that contract in September of last year, but they allowed me to finish out the season in my current car, especially since we were second in points at the time and running strong.
Because of the transmission issue in Pahrump, we ended up losing our second place position for the season, but that’s how it goes – racing is racing. At the Pahrump event, we spent five hours out in the desert before they finally got us out of there; it was definitely a long night.
Now we’re back for the 2017 race season and we’ve got a new car, a new sponsor, and a revitalized race team. The Can-Am Maverick X3 is a heck of a car, and we’ve got a lot to learn with it. But, we’re very confident of making it a better racer for our team.
UTV Sports: How do you compare racing the two different cars? Racing a Polaris versus racing a Can-Am?
Matt Burroughs: They’re different in many ways, but I think in full race trim they’re probably pretty close. A lot of it comes down to reliability of the car, and I’ve got to say the Can-Am right now appears motor-wise to be bulletproof.
We’ve got a lot of confidence in the Can-Am drivetrain and the engine package that they are running. We’re having no overheating issues of any kind, so we’re really pretty happy with the overall motor package.
UTV Sports: Explain your connection with Monster Energy… How did that come about?
Matt Burroughs: I’m an accountant by trade, so a job came up ten years ago at Monster Energy. I applied for the finance job at Monster and got hired on. I’m now the Corporate Controller at Monster Energy. I’ve been there for over ten years. During the day, it’s all finance work for me. Since Monster is a public company, my main role is to manage all of our reporting of our numbers to Wall Street.
It’s been an unbelievable dream come true for me to be able to work at Monster because of my passion for off-road racing. I get to be around it every day, even though that’s not my main job. It’s an unbelievable company to work at.
UTV Sports: The corporate headquarters is in So Cal right?
Matt Burroughs: Yes, it’s right in Corona, California.
UTV Sports: How does that play into your sponsorship on your car?
Matt Burroughs: (laughs and smiles again)…Obviously, my job there helped in getting the Monster sponsorship. But, ultimately, results are what count the most…
Monster told me that they were not going to give me a sponsorship until I went out and won something, so I went out and won a race back in 2015, so that was the deal…
With the Monster sponsorship, there comes a tremendous amount of pressure and the pressure to do well and to win. Monster Energy is about supporting winners. If you look at the people and teams we sponsor, whether it’s super-cars, F1 racing, the rodeo PBR series, and all of the different action sports we’re into, we back winners. That’s what we do. So I definitely feel the pressure to win, because I want to represent the Monster brand the best I can and at the highest level. Now, at Monster Energy, we’re forging a relationship with Can-Am on the corporate side. So, it was a good fit for me to go with Can-Am. Needless to say, we are all looking forward to the rest of the 2017 season and racing more!