The 2015 Mint 400 is quickly becoming a must-race event on many racers busy schedules. Owned and operated by the Martelli Brothers, the series utilizes the brothers’ creative agency, Mad Media to promote the event. The Martellis also contract Casey Folks and the Best in the Desert racing organization to run logistics and race control for the Mint. Folks has the ability get race permits signed off by the many governmental agencies and is well liked across Nevada.
The Mint 400 started in 1974 as an idea by Norm Johnson, owner of the defunct Mint hotel, as a public relations stunt to promote the hotel’s annual deer hunt. It wasn’t long and soon the Mint ballooned into a legitimate race. Mint Hotel public relations director KJ Howe became race director. The Mint 400 race attracted all kinds of celebrities, famous racers, and Hollywood film types. Howe had friends all over Hollywood. Of course with those celebrities came plenty of media attention. Howe decided he needed girls to help to promote the event and the Miss Mint contest was born. “Vanna White got her start as a Miss Mint girl,” Howe says. The military even got involved parading a tank right down the center of Fremont Street. In 1988 the Mint hotel was sold and everything ended.
In 2008, local Nevada race organization SNORE revived “The Great American Race” known as the Mint 400. KJ Howe came back as the grand marshal that year, the city of Las Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience got involved bringing the event right back to its roots in downtown Las Vegas. Over the next several years contingency sponsors lined Fremont Street as vehicles historically paraded through the area. Drivers signed autographs at meet and greets. It’s with the help of a high-ranking police official that racers can now drive their vehicles right down the strip in front of hundreds of thousands of people in a police escort all the way to Fremont Street. On a recent Wednesday afternoon in March, tourists from all over the world crowded on bridges and sidewalks up and down the strip getting their first experience of what a 900hp truck sounds and looks like up close.
The Mint 400 attracts racers from all classes. Buggies, UTVs, and, of course, Trophy Trucks, or Trick-Trucks as Best in the Desert names them. Just three weeks before the race, entries reached their max cap at 330 meaning anybody else sending in an entry to the race will be placed on a waiting list. Title sponsor Polaris has come on board for 2015 and everyone is invited to the party. What a party it was! There was a pit crew challenge to see which crew could do the fastest tire change. The highlight of the night was the crowning of Miss Mint 400. The honors went to Amy Scott from Solana Beach, California.
When you attend all the events surrounding the Mint 400, it’s hard to believe there is still a race to be run. In a city that never sleeps and casinos that never close, a 6 a.m. start time can come fast and furious. For limited race car drivers, that means skipping the fun at the blackjack table and early to bed. The wind must have stayed out late and slept all day because there was none. No wind means the dust hangs in the air creating visibility issues. Racers also push their vehicles to the limits at high speeds. Safety is taken very seriously. According to a statement released by the Mint 400, two racers were involved in a multi-vehicle accident. The race was temporarily stopped while the racers received medical attention and flown by air to local hospitals. They are expected to recover. “The safety of our racers is paramount,” Matt Martelli says. When the race resumed, so did the dust. Just before pit A, racers battled almost zero visibility conditions. Of course none of that matters when you are out front and have clean air. Justin Lofton managed to do just that. Got out front and went for the home run. Lofton who was only in his second race in a brand-new Jimco built Trick Truck, overalled the 2015 Mint 400. At the finish line Lofton was showered with oversize checks and purpose built trophies. The Great American Race is back bigger than ever.
2015 Mint 400 Results
Class 1400 (Trick-Truck)
Class 10 6.7pt Class 2400
Class 1900 (Pro-UTV)
Mike Bach Charles Julian
Class 1700 (Jeepspeed)
Class 2900 (Sportsman UTV)