The Mint 400: America’s spectator-friendly off-road race
As a rookie off-road racing spectator, I didn’t really know what to expect attending my first Mint 4oo in Primm, Nevada, about 40 minutes outside of Las Vegas. My first foray into watching an off-road endurance race was just a few months prior when I tagged along during a point-to-point running of the Baja 1000 and its nearly 300 racers. In a point-to-point race, competitors fly by and you have a tough time getting to see them again, unless you can leapfrog them in an aircraft. At the Mint 400, racers make four laps of—you guessed it—about 100 miles each, so spectators can stay put and see their favorite races pass by, explore the action in the pits, and be back to catch the finish.
The format for the Mint 400 places spectators with a great view of the Start/Finish line, at a vantage point to see competitors hit a triple set of jumps and a pair of hairpin turns, kicking up roostertails of dirt along the way. The full-throttle sections allow the various powerplants to make an introduction as the naturally-aspirated V-8s bellow and the turbocharged fours and sixes scream. Racers qualify on Friday for Saturday’s race and start in pairs, one minute apart. However, each driver that sets the pole for their class gets to start alone and not have to worry about trading paint through those hairpins.
While the Start/Finish area was prepped and had a water truck spraying periodically to keep the dust down, the remainder of the course was a silty, dusty, narrow track through the southern Nevada desert around a rocky outcropping of the McCullough Range. The 1000-horsepower Unlimited Truck class and identical-looking 500-horsepower Unlimited Truck Spec class both make the high-flying jumps look easy, but the added power of the Unlimited Trucks allows them to outpace everything else on the track, hitting 120+ mph on the dry lakebed section of the course.
Taking the win at this year’s race, Kyle Jergenen and co-driver Shawn Shanks won the war of attrition in the Unlimited Truck class, as their Brenthel Industries Unlimited Truck absorbed all the punishment the course dealt out. Along with the win, they’ll take home a $10,000 contingency check from BF Goodrich.
Hosting the event just hours from Los Angeles and in Las Vegas’ backyard makes it convenient to attend, but if you can’t, the Mint 400’s organizers put a great media team in place to capture video from all over the track, including from helicopters and drones, and stream it all live on the Internet. It’s the next best thing to being at the race and is the same coverage that attendees even use to keep abreast of the race action. Although, after witnessing the race firsthand, I’ve got to admit that I’ll be back to see more of this action in-person. They just make it too easy not to!