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Mint 400 Still Going Strong

Posted in Events on May 2, 2017 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Eric Minks

The legendary Mint 400 off-road race continues to be help the economic boom in Las Vegas thanks to the Martelli Brothers. Matt and Josh Martelli purchased the naming rights to the legendary event from the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts in late 2011. Since then, the brothers have transformed the Mint race back into an event widely known throughout Las Vegas, throwing a huge pre-party and autograph signing events along Fremont Street. For those who haven’t been to Fremont recently, there’s a modern movement sweeping the area. For years Fremont was known as “Old Las Vegas.” When fancy resorts and casinos started popping up on the strip, each bigger and grander than the last, Fremont got lost in the shadows. For years, casino owners and businesses have tried to get tourists to come visit the downtown area. Recently several hotels went through major remodels and re-branding. Hot new progressive bars and restaurants have opened along Fremont. Each year in March, the Mint 400 helps bring in the crowds to the “new” Fremont street. Crowds gather to watch pit crews battle each other for bragging rights. It’s a race before the race to see who can change a tire the fastest. The trucks still get pushed down the street in front of hundreds of vendors. People snap photos with drivers and if they’re lucky, they might get a driver-seat selfie inside of one these magical race machines.

Desert Party

The toughest part of being a spectator at a desert race is being able to watch the racing action. In the United States, desert racecourses are closed to all spectators. The Martelli Brothers have changed that. Parking passes can be purchased to four different spectator areas along the course. Spectator areas, which are strategically placed, offer no shortage of racing action. High speed, jumps, and, of course, occasional pass for the lead. Don’t want to get dirty? The Martellis offered up a VIP area this year, steps from the backdoors of Buffalo Bills Casino in Primm. VIP had beverages, some of the adult kind, a full-time chef roasting a full pig to feast on and, of course, a comfy front-row seat to all of the racing action placed directly in front of the start/finish line!

Fans and racers line Fremont Street as racers push their vehicles.

The Celebrities

Celebrities have always been involved in the Mint 400. In the early days, Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White won the Miss Mint competition, as did actress Lynda Carter. James Garner, Steve McQueen, Patrick Dempsey and Ted Nugent have all raced the Mint 400. This year was no exception. Jay Leno jumped in a Toyota TRD truck fielded by the team at Camburg. In recent years since Leno’s retirement from late-night television, he has been seen behind the wheel of just about everything he can get his hands on, including Jeeps, rally cars, and exotic vehicles. Leno made sure everyone knew he wasn’t just another celebrity driver out there. Impressively Leno helped the Camburg team win the 7300 class. Only required to do two long laps in the nearly stock truck, Leno and co-driver Ryan Millen started the race. On the second lap, Leno handed the truck over to Jerry Zaiden for the second lap.

Fans get an up- close look at the race vehicles.

Total Mint Chaos

Total Chaos Fabrication has been well known in the off-road industry. They have been the go-to bolt-on aftermarket parts shop for many Toyota truck owners. The face of Total Chaos Fabrication has been Nicole Pitell-Vaughan. Nicole is a woman with a never-give-up can-do attitude. In 2016, Nicole competed in the grueling nine-day all-female Rally Aicha de Gazelles event. Naturally,, she wanted to come back to the States and race the famed Mint 400. The course features brutal terrain, making it a perfect testing ground for Total Chaos parts. For Pitell-Vaughan, it was a hard-fought battle. She would bring her race truck into a Fifth Place finish in the 7200 class. The truck nicknamed, “Lil T,” raced on pump gas, and BFG 35-inch tires purchased straight off the shelf at a local tire store. The same suspension parts from Total Chaos are available for your Toyota truck today. With that you could almost go out and build your own Mint 400 race truck!

Jay Leno raced a nearly stock Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

Mac Attack

For years, Las Vegas native Rob MacCachren has tried to win the Mint 400 in a Trophy Truck. The race is practically in his backyard. A racer with countless championships, Rob Mac has collected well over 200 wins including at least four at the Baja 1000. Winning the Mint 400 should seem easy for MacCachren, right? Every year it seems he comes up just shy of the top podium spot. The 2017 Mint 400 started out just as it always had. Five of the fastest top trophy truck drivers qualified in the top spots. Passing any of them wouldn’t be easy. Justin Lofton won the Mint 400 two years in a row. Jason Voss is another Trophy Truck driver who carries tons of speed throughout races in the Nevada desert held the top qualifying spot. Andy McMillin back from a racing hiatus made it known he was ready to win again at the Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno race. McMillin wasted no time battling his competitors to the front. By the final lap, it looked as if McMillin had the lead and just needed to finish first. This is where the story begins. McMillin loses several minutes with a flat tire. At least two Trophy Trucks are able to get around him. One of those is Rob MacCachren. In front of Rob MacCachren is Voss. At the finish line, timing and scoring is furiously calculating times down to the second. Both were separated under a minute. The win went to Rob Mac allowing him to push the “monkey off his back,” that has prevented a Mint 400 win.

Rob MacCachren blasts of the start line in front of hundreds of fans.

The Other Winners

Seventeen-year-old Brock Heger is well known in the short-course racing circles normally campaigning a Pro-Lite in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. Heger now has an Alumi Craft Class 10 to bring to the desert. Just a month earlier, Heger pulled a First Place podium finish at the Parker 425. Now with a Mint 400 win, Heger is fast becoming a sensation in the desert. Harley Letner is always fast, so when he gets behind the wheel there’s bound to be a podium. Letner campaigning an Unlimited Class vehicle under the You-Theory racing canopy, had no problem beating fierce competitor Pat Dean for a Mint 400 win in Class 1500 by 37 minutes.

While the Mint 400 is still running strong and boasting big entry numbers, the desert community suffered a huge loss just a few months prior in January. Best in the Desert promoter Casey Folks suffered a massive heart attack while working one of his races in Parker, Arizona. Folks had been the go-to guy to help the Martelli Brothers with the Mint 400 racecourses. Best In the Desert is the sanctioning body for the event. Even with the devastating loss of Folks, the future is bright and strong for both Best In The Desert and the Mint 400. Many of the racers ran special decals in Folks honor. Folks has left a legacy behind paving the road to success for events like the Mint 400 for years to come. We at Dirt Sports + Off Road thank you, Mr. Folks, for all of your hard work and dedication putting on races and your years of involvement in the Mint 400. Booyah!

Results:

Trick Truck

1. Rob MacCachren 5:37:35.720
2. Jason Voss 5:38:39.476
3. Andy McMillin 5:41:36.129

1500

1. Harley Letner 6:18:29.339
2. Pat Dean 6:55:15.774
3. Dustin Miller 6:59:15.321

6100

1. Jonathan Swift 7:01:06.166
2. Ryan Hancock 7:14:07.832
3. Scott Yancey 7:19:50.384

7200

1. Dallas Luttrell 7:24:18.979
2. Mike Neff 7:53:45.567
3. Mike McCarthy 8:27:23.360

7300

1. Jay Leno/Jerry Zaiden 5:23:27.504

7100

1. John Holmes 5:04:30.912
2. Wayne Demonja 6:49:08.491

1000

1. Brock Heger 6:08:54.780
2. T.J Tuls 6:10:338.516
3. Chase Warren 6:14:22.718

8100

1. Rob Mills 4:41:28.334
2. L.D. Smith 4:48:26.534
3. Tom Coons 5:07:32.563

1700 JeepSpeed

1. Rick Randall 5:56:21.377
2. Rob Seubert 6:46:45.317
3. Mark Murrell 6:53:40.541

5500

1. Jeff Posey 6:06:50.386

3700

1. Billy Bunch 6:17:45.194
2. Mike Bragg 6:38:27.773
3. Steve Hearst 6:06:30.847

4400

1. Greg Adler 7:05:23.616
2. Mel Wade III 7:58:46.055
3. Jeff Brown 5:39:53.196

4500

1. Dana Dague 6:21:40.632
2. Norm Francis 6:44:33.968
3. Shleby Hall 6:44:44.289

4700

1. David Hendrickson 6:26:11.033
2. Alex Rivas Alvarez 8:51:06.297
3. Andy McClanahan 8:59:32.640

5000

1. Travis Chase 6:39:06.560
2. LJ Kennedy 7:00:12.714
3. Billy Gerghty 7:29:43.292

2400

1. John Hsu 6:41:05.182
2. Mike Avila 7:04:02.230
3. Ryan Curtis 7:26:07.009

6000 Trophy Lite

1. Todd Jackson 7:09:26.135
2. Jeff Mortis 7:20:28.755
3. Tony Sato 7:32:59.447

900 UTV

1. Mitch Guthrie Jr. 7:09:49.527
2. Jason Murray 7:31:49.445
3. Sven Ellstrom 7:38:41.991

1900

1. Dodge Poelman 7:34:26.972
2. Kristen Matlock 7:36:21.020
3. Gunner Savage 8:10:20.735

2900

1. Gabriel Varela 9:08:36:666
2. Tony Riggs 5:38:38:545
3. Jeremiah Smith 5:41:50.760

Pit Crews race for bragging rights with the fastest tire change during the Pit Crew Challenge.
Fans could watch the race action from several spectator areas or a VIP area.
Nicole Pittell-Vaughan raced a Toyota built by Total Chaos Fabrication.

Courtesy of Total Chaos

Nicole made it to the finish line in Fifth Place..

Courtesy of Total Chaos

Jason Voss was the top qualifier starting the Mint 400 out front.
Rob MacCachren finally knocked the monkey off his back with a long-awaited Mint 400 win.
Seventeen-year-old Brock Heger is making a name for himself with two desert wins.
Harley Letner grabbed a Class 1500 win.
Greg Adler won the 4400 “Ultra4 Class.”
Many of the racers honored Casey Folks with a sticker on the side of their vehicle.

Photo: Matt Emery

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