Our Off-Roading Adventures at The Mint 400
We take in all the crazy action at the awesome and occasionally punishing desert off-roading competition.
If you love seeing rugged trucks take on the desert terrain and high speeds, we have a suggestion: Check out The Mint 400, also called “The Great American Off-Road Race.” This rough and rowdy competition recently took over the desert in Jean, Nevada, with some truly cool and crazy truck action.
Last Thursday, the Trick Trucks, 1500 Unlimiteds, and 6100 Spec Trucks all had their qualifying run in a time trial format. The TTs and 1500s went out together but spaced out, as this was a run to see who could set the fastest time. The winner would get a single car start, and everyone else would have to start in pairs. Surprising the field was the YouTheory Unlimited driven by Harley Letner. Normally the TT’s dominate these time trials in the open desert, but Letner felt like the very technical course suited the 1500s better than the TTs, which he certainly proved by being just 1.32-seconds faster than a TT.
While Letner would get the coveted one-minute of single car run time and clean air, the RPM trucks of Apdaly Lopez and Clyde Stacy were going to be right behind him. What’s crazy to consider was that the separation between Baja 1000 champion Lopez and Stacy was a minuscule 1.5-seconds. Lopez’s truck is also traditional…well, traditional in relative terms. Stacy was in the twin-engine, all-wheel-drive TT. No, we didn’t write that wrong, one engine powers the front wheels and the other powers the rear. See, we told you that “traditional” is a relative term here.
You’d think that having experience would guarantee you a win or solid place. But The Mint 400 is a three-lap race of grueling Nevada desert, and each lap is just over 118-miles long. With desert racing, things change in a hurry. The desert doesn’t care if you’re the fastest, or even a champion. Unfortunately for Rob MacCachren, that desert terrain would bite him. On his way to the completion of his first lap, a bad bump caught MacCachren off guard and caused his truck to buck and roll. He and his co-driver were fine and able to get it to the pits, but there was too much damage to fix, and their day was done.
The same could be said for Letner, too, as he was able to stay ahead until the second lap. A puncture then allowed Bryce Menzies and Lopez to pass him, and Letner would end up eighth overall, but first in class. However, Lopez then suffered a light bar malfunction, preventing him to see during the closing lap while he was leading. He hit a rock that damaged the air jack system. That rock cost them a tire, and the win as he and his co-driver would have to rely on a standard mechanical jack. Lopez was the first physical finisher, but that stoppage cost him three-minutes of time.
The three minutes Lopez lost during was all Menzies (in a Red Bull Ford Raptor) needed to take the overall victory of the 50th annual Mint 400. The separation between himself and Lopez was just 28 seconds. He completed the course in five hours and 52 minutes at an average speed of 60 MPH.
“My grandfather passed away last week,” Menzies revealed. “He was always such a role model for me and I want to make him proud; this win is for him.”
Not only is this win special for remembering his grandfather, but it also put him into a unique category as being a repeat winner of The Mint 400.
If you want to know just how tough The Mint 400 was for these drivers, out of 180 racers, only 80 reached the finish line by midnight. Going from dusty to dry, from wet to muddy, it would catch most anyone by surprise, no matter which class was still running.
The 2018 running of The Mint 400, definitely a great American off-road race, was a celebration of life, the open desert, and the community that surrounds off-road racing. Next year, we already know a little bit about what’s coming as we will see the motorcycles and quads return. We can’t wait.
Photos for Ford Truck Enthusiasts by Justin Banner