Barbie Jeep Racing Is A Doll’s Worst Nightmare

“They’re not made to put up with a full-grown adult going down a hill with rocks.” That’s Matt Myrick talking, and he might be the winningest racer in a motor-sport you’ve probably never heard of: Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing. It started around 2008 as the “wheeling equivalent of Showtime After Dark.” Under the cover of night, people would ride Barbie’s parts hard. Now, it’s a regular sideshow—in the daylight—at various off-road events in Alabama and Arkansas, and it’s popping up at other spots around the nation, too. Seems everyone’s starting to do it Barbie-style.

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The Carnage is the Struggle

Matt, who is also owner of Busted Knuckle Films (bustedknucklefilms.com), the purveyor of the videos from these events that will suck you in for hours, said his first time as a racer wasn’t graceful—he mistakenly kept putting his feet on the ground to try and slow down on the steep hill—but he still managed to win.

Matt’s worst crash came in 2014. “I got mostly to the bottom, and the steering wheel came off in my hands,” he says. “And then the tires turned on their own, and I started flipping forward a couple times.” But only bruises and scrapes have saddled him; he wears a full compression suit and helmet, similar to a downhill mountain biker. However, that does no good for the other hazards, such as the violent, vision-blinding shaking from no suspension travel and those hard, plastic tires slamming—and ripping off—on rough terrain and at speeds upward of 30 mph.

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How It Works

Typically, two drivers race at the same time, and competitors are chosen a lot like how it went down in P.E. in grade school: People pick each other and fling smack talk.

The vehicle must be something you can sit in, and it must begin with a steering wheel and plastic tires. No model outperforms; Barbie Jeeps do as well as—or suck as badly as—John Deere Gators, and it’s hit or miss with small versus full-size. Once someone even built a custom ride out of a 2×4 frame, but it was a fail on the course.

Races are single elimination. First to the bottom wins. The required steering wheel and plastic tires from the start, however, aren’t necessarily needed at the finish line. A good chunk of the vehicle must remain intact—but that can still mean you’re on
foot.

Unlike sanctioned motorsports, there aren’t a bunch of rules. In fact, not all ORV parks allow it because it’s considered dangerous and rife with insurance issues. It differs from sanctioned motorsports in another big way: It’s cheap. “There’s no barrier to this racing,” Matt says. “If you want to do any kind of motorsports racing, it’s crazy expensive. But here, you just pick up one of these things on the side of the road for free or for $10 at a yard sale, then take the motor out so it will free spin, get a helmet, and you’re ready to go.”

About 20 racers (ages 15 to 40) and 150 spectators is normal.

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Tell ’Em What They’ve Won

The rewards for Barbie racing aren’t exactly lucrative. Matt’s in it for the adrenaline, which is obvious when you learn his first win netted him $10 and a fast-food gift card, plus whatever else the participants had in their pockets. But a more recent win scored him a brand-name cooler. Your results may vary.

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RISKY BUSINESS

Participants race two at a time and must wear helmets, but no other safety gear is required. Brakes? Ha, no. That’s what feet are for.

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