Mint 400 Takes Over Las Vegas
The Mint 400 offroad race was a huge spectacle, even for Las Vegas. The vehicle parade down Las Vegas Blvd. on Wednesday was hard to miss. Even if you didn’t catch a glimpse, the sound of engines churning out thousands of horsepower could not be ignored. For two full days after, Freemont Street was transformed into a huge party with hundreds of fans, vendor booths, special events, and of course, race vehicles. Over 450 teams would be taking the green light on Saturday morning. In the meantime, time trials would be held Thursday morning, the pit crew challenge would be decided, A Miss Mint 400 contest judged, and numerous parties were taking place.
At time trials, the biggest, baddest vehicles in the race, the Trick Trucks, were bested by Harley Letner in his unlimited open wheel class 1500 buggy. The Trick Trucks excel on the long stretches where they can open up their 800 plus horsepower engines and let their nearly three feet of suspension travel eat up the bumps. On the qualifying course, there were several tight turns and other terrain that held the Trick Trucks in check. Instead, the super-fast Letner stole the top spot. Known for his incredible talent behind the wheel, and the ease at which he operates on the edge, Letner is a contender for the top qualifying spot at every race. He is the defending class 1500 champion and represents the unlimited cars well.
The Method Race Wheels Pit Crew Challenge had cash and prizes up for grabs from Fox Racing, BFGoodrich, Impact Racing, and Rigid Industries. The crews that do the hard labor on race day had their moment to shine. In the 6100 class, defending champs GHA Racing picked right up where they left off last year with a fast time to beat. When the dust settled though, it was Householder Motorsports beating GHA in the finals with a time of 54.8 seconds. The Trick Truck, and 1500 unlimited class were loaded with some of the best crew members in the business. Heavyweight teams like MacCachren Motorsports, Youtheory, and RPM Racing were all knocked out in the first round. Last year’s runner up, Team Ready Gunner, were able to change two of their BF Goodrich 40-inch TA tires in just 45.4 seconds to take the victory.
The night culminated with the Miss Mint contest. Former Miss Mint winners include “Wheel of Fortune’s” Vanna White and “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter. This year’s contest had six finalists who embodied the heritage of the competition. “This was intended as a call to arms to find a woman worthy of 50 years of American off-road racing culture,” explained Mint 400 co-owner Josh Martelli. Ashleigh Figearo, Bailey Hughes, Janna Breslin, Tia McDonald, Olivia Gray, and Lesley Andreas all made it to the finals. They all spent the day with founding father KJ Howe and Spanish Tony of The Gentleman’s Guide To Racing. After tests of shooting ability, off-road driving prowess, and wine tasting, Bailey Hughes was crowned Miss Mint for 2018. Hughes is a great ambassador to the sport. A part of the Sims Motorsports UTV team, she has even worked the merchandise trailer in the past! Afterward, everyone wandered over to the Dusty Times Magazine launch party where The Eagles Of Death Metal ripped everyone’s faces off with their insane music.
When race day finally arrived, cars were divided between two races. The limited cars would run either 2 or 3 laps in the morning, depending on the class they were in, and the unlimited cars and trucks would do 3 laps in the afternoon. They are split up for both safety reasons, and to accommodate all of the vehicles racing. After the morning race, a pattern was established. Nearly every race was decided by a thin margin. The class 10 cars are the top of the food chain in the morning race. They have limited engines but unlimited suspension. With not a lot of horsepower, their technique is to keep the throttle pinned at the rev limiter the whole time. Brock Heger beat Arnoldo Gutierrez Jr. by a scant 22 seconds. In the turbocharged UTV class, one of the largest with 68 entries, Justin Lambert charged from the back of the pack to take the win over Phil Blurton by only less than a minute after 7 hours of racing.
There had been a light drizzle for most of the day, and when the sun dropped, it began to rain. The big unlimited vehicles would race into the darkness and rain on their final lap. The defending two-time trophy truck champion in the SCORE series, Apdaly Lopez, looked to be the overall winner. That was until local Las Vegas racer Bryce Menzies put a charge on during the final lap. Menzies was able to pull out a slim 28 second margin to take the win.
The Mint 400 has roots that date back to the 1960’s. It was also featured in Hunter S. Thompson’s famous book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. The spectacle witnessed this year rivals those early days. Anyone who took part, contributed to the history that will be written about in some future novel.