What started out with the kickoff with over 100 teams parading down the strip in Las Vegas on Wednesday, ended last night with champagne being sprayed in celebration of a victory of not only fellow competitors, but of oneself as well. Desert racing is no easy task and is not for the faint of heart, and to win a race as legendary as The Mint is quite special.
The morning started with an early curtain call for a race start of 6am for the limited race. Roger Starkey and Jason Coleman got things going with a side by side start in front of Buffalo Bills Hotel & Casino in front of the fans who braved the cold morning weather. Starkey would get the holeshot and would lead physically for the first portion of the race.
After the first lap Starkey held on to the lead both physically and on corrected time, but that would soon change as they got deeper into the race. Going out on lap 2 Starkey had a 2 and a half minute lead on next fastest 1072 Keith Waibel and looked to try and increase that lead going forward, but there was another racer pushing from behind.
#2405 Nick Carolan had his work cut out for him if he was going to try and win the overall of the limited race because his class, while similar to a Class 1000, had to start behind them. With 35 1000 cars in the race he would have to push hard to get to the front, but thats exactly what he did. By the middle of lap two Carolan had only Starkey, Geoffrey Cooley and TJ Tuls (who was now leading physically) in front of him and by the end of the lap was only 5 seconds behind on corrected time.
The third lap was all Carolan as he kept increasing his time lead mile by mile, and in the end finished with a time of 6 hours and 9 minutes, almost 4 minutes faster then the next racer Starkey in the 1067 car.
Hard battles were fought all morning in the limited race with Brad Wilson winning Class 1100, Kevin Smith in Class 2000, Todd Jackson winning Trophylite, Skylar Gambrell in Jeepspeed, and the 7196 truck of Khris Kading taking the overall win in the 2 lap morning race. All classes in the morning, including the Vintage classes put on a great show to lead up to the unlimited race.
Just as the leaders for the morning race were finishing big boys started to leave the line kicking off the unlimited race at 12:30pm. Since Justin Lofton laid down the fastest qualifying time he had the privilege of starting first off the line solo. As we know from previous races and the limited race earlier in the day, starting first doesn’t always mean the fastest vehicle on time.
Lofton held the lead physically going into the second lap but it was Jason Voss who lead on time, only 16 seconds ahead of Rob MacCachren. Bryce Menzies, Lofton, Lalo Laguna, Jesse Jones, and Andy McMillin were all within a minute thirty of each other so it was still game on. By the end of lap two Menzies had moved into the lead but MacCachren now had the lead on time. Primm is both racers backyard so it would take a mistake by one of them for the other to take the lead.
The third lap is always the most challenging for the Trick Trucks because the course is beat up, nasty, and you have to deal with the dust and lapped traffic. Menzies starting having mechanical problems that eventually led to a DNF and let Lofton regain the physical lead. MacCachren also starting having a few issues which caused him to fall back some.
At about the halfway point on the final lap Lofton led Andy McMillin by roughly two and a half minutes. Andy said, “Knowing we needed to make up quite a bit of time, I put the pedal down and let it all hang out.” In the last 50 miles of the race McMillin was able to take back almost two minutes on time, but when all was said and done Justin Lofton was crowned the 2016 Polaris RZR Mint 400 Presented by BFGoodrich Overall champion by a mere 42 seconds.
Jason Voss finished off the podium with Brett Sourapas and BJ Baldwin rounding out the top 5 overall and in Trick Truck.
Cody Parkhouse of Long Beach, California took top honors in Class 1500, covering three laps in 5 hours, 56 minutes 42 seconds, beating out second place Sam Baldi by slightly more than five minutes, according to unofficial results. Scott Bailey took third place, crossing the finish line 14 seconds after Baldi.
Class 6100 with a huge field of 30 trucks had some great battles as well with Parker 425 winner Alex Gonzales leading on time the majority of the race, but Christian Sourpuss would end up taking the win overtaking the lead on the last lap.
Troy Messer took home the win in 7200, grabbing the lead halfway through the race and never looking back beating Dallas Luttrell of TSA Motorsports by just under 4 minutes.
The Mint 400 is a stressful and challenging time for all who’s involved. BITD officials, Mad Media, Racers, Crew, Volunteers, Media and everyone else who makes Vegas their home for this crazy week. The great thing about our sport and everyone who has a passion for it is that we all can’t wait for it next year.
Story and photo’s: race-deZert.com