Trip Reports

2015 Mint 400 Desert Race

2015 Mint 400 Recap

2015 Mint 400

2015 Polaris RZR Mint 400 Presented by General TireWORDS: CODY HOOPER

There aren’t many races with the gilded history of Nevada’s Mint 400. Dubbed the “Great American Off-Road Race”, the Mint is where racing and pit parties meet- and it happens to be under the well-lit canopies of Las Vegas’ famed Fremont Street.

For us racers, the Mint is one we talk about all year long. It feels like everyone’s home race on the West Coast- effectively fusion-welding the allure of Baja with the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. Without having official numbers to quote from, the Mint 400 is, in my mind, the largest spectator event in off-road racing, packing tens of thousands of cheering fans into a city born out of tourism.

Mint 400 - Las Vegas Parade
4 Wheel Parts Vehicle Parade down the famous Las Vegas Strip

The Mint has a long and famed history, dating back to 1967, the first year it was run. From

“The storied history of the Mint is steeped in celebrity, drama and excitement as the city of Las Vegas itself. The Mint 400 has held the title of the toughest, most spectacular off-road race in North America since 1967 when it was first run. The race was created by Norm Johnson who was race director through 1974 and a participant from 69 to 82. Initially the race was a public relations event promoting the Mint Hotel’s annual deer hunt. but what started out as hotel promotion soon grew into a legitimate desert race. The second year it was run, Norm enlisted the help of his friends, famed race car drivers Mel Larson and Parnelli Jones. With their endorsements and a guaranteed prize purse of 30,000 the participant list grew exponentially. Entrants in the event were world wide and included some of the most well-known names from all racing genres as well as the television and motion picture industry. Indianapolis 500 winners Parnelli Jones, Al Unser, Rick Mears, and Rodger Ward; off-road champions Mickey Thompson, Ivan Stewart, Jack Flannery, Walker Evans; international off road competitor, Rod Hall; power boat champion Bill Muncey, movie- and television stars James Garner and Steve McQueen; Comedian, Mort Sahl; Astronaut, Gordon Cooper, are among the many racing and entertainment luminaries who competed in the Mint 400.”This year, the UTV portion of the race was packed with more entries than any other class- over 60 competitors lined up to race through the illustrious Nevada desert. Race coordinators and promoters Matt and Josh Martelli of the famed Mad Media group put on a spectacular event, grabbing title sponsors Polaris RZR and General Tire. If you didn’t make it out to Vegas this year, make sure you don’t miss it in 2016.

Dale Dondel
Dale Dondel laying down the fastest qualifying time at the Mint 400

For many racers, the Mint starts early in the week, when many teams begin rolling in to set up their race program and hammer out some last-minute testing. Race events kick off on Thursday with qualifying, which was held near state line in Primm, Nevada this year. The 3-mile qualifying loop was set up with plenty of spectator viewing areas, something that previous years lacked. Trophy Truck and Class One drivers battled hard on the qualifying loop, with top times going to Dale Dondel in the Trick Truck (Trophy) class, and Eduardo Laguna in Class One. Taking the top qualifying spot in the Method Wheels Time Trials netted Dondel a clean-air start and $5,000 cash.

Miss Mint Amy Scott
2015 Miss Mint – Amy Scott

Thursday night, the party began with the crowning of 2015’s Miss Mint competition. This year, Amy Scott would win the crown and a $5,000 check. Past winners include the likes of Vanna White and Lynda Carter. Rugged Radios hosted a driver meet and greet, where spectators could meet their favorite drivers and get photos and autographs from their heroes. The last event of the night was the famed Pit Crew Challenge, where Trick Truck and Class One teams have to battle head to head in a makeshift pit stop. With air guns blaring and 39” tires being tossed around the strip, the team of Olliges Motorsports would take home the win with the fastest time.

Fremont Street Experience
Tech and Contingency on Fremont Street

Friday is the day geared most towards spectators, as it hosts the Tech Inspection and Contingency parade. Here, all cars entered in the race must be pushed by their teams a mile down Fremont Street, so that all safety and race-legal equipment can be checked before race day. This gives all of the teams a chance to mingle with the public, as the entire event is open to anyone willing to walk down the crowded streets. Huge displays, tents, and booths line the sides of Fremont Street, and it gives spectators a chance to check out the awesome race machines up close.

RJ Anderson
RJ Anderson behind the wheel of the Coastal Racing RZR XP 1000

Come race day, it would be the Class 10 cars that took off first, well before the sun came up. As the UTVs began to line up, tension began to mount. Last year’s winning team, Jagged X, lined up to battle for another win, but many new teams stood in their way. Johnny Angal’s UTV Inc team was heavily favored for good reason, as they have won many desert races in the past year. RJ Anderson was piloting the Coastal Racing RZR in place of Scott Kiger. The field was stacked, and it was Branden Sims in the 1913 Lonestar Racing Polaris RZR that would start first. He led the race for a full lap with Johnny Angal in the 1921 UTV Inc RZR, until a stop in the pits to repair a broken exhaust system let Angal jump out front.

Brandon Schueler
Jagged X’s Brandon Schueler and Blake Van de Loo

Johnny enjoyed some clean running until the last few miles of the race, where a failed transmission would set him back into 18th place. While Angal was running at the front of the pack, the winning position was being traded from mid-pack as RJ Anderson, Brandon Schueler, and Dustin Jones all battled against the clock to get out in front on corrected time. Because there are so many racers starting in this Best in the Desert-sanctioned event, the winner goes to the driver with the fastest overall race time, not necessarily the first to cross the finish line.

Johnny Angal
UTV Inc. John Angal

Right behind Angal, the still-green race team of S3 Powersports was hammering their Can-Am Maverick turbo at an incredible pace. When the 1921 UTV Inc car experienced their transmission troubles, the S3 Maverick was able to blast by and take the overall win, just two minutes ahead of Coastal Racing and RJ Anderson in their RZR.

S3 Powersports Can-Am Maverick MAX Turbo
S3 Powersports in their new Can-Am Maverick MAX Turbo

Can-Am Maverick MAX Turbo
S3 Powersports crossing the line in First Place

At the finish line, it was all smiles and thumbs up from the Louisiana-based S3 crew, showing that you don’t have to grow up in the West to win a desert race. This year’s Mint 400 was a fantastic event, and it is a great showcase of our industry’s competitive nature and sportsmanship. With an attrition rate rivaling that of a Baja race, the Mint 400 has proven to be a battle- and there will surely be even more UTV racers lining up next year to test their mettle against the harsh Nevada desert.

Mint 400 Podium
Dustin Jones Celebrating on the Podium

Pro UTV (1900) Results:

  1. 1978 Dustin Jones – S3 Powersports / Can-Am Maverick Turbo

  2. 1934 RJ Anderson – Coastal Racing / Polaris RZR

  3. 1962 Ryan Poelman – / Polaris RZR

  4. 1919 Brandon Schueler – Jagged X / Polaris RZR

  5. 1918 Justin Lambert – Cognito Motorsports / Polaris RZR

  6. 1988 Wes Miller – Polaris RZR

  7. 1902 Jeff Obering – Kolob Air / Polaris RZR

  8. 1975 Michael Cafro – Polaris RZR

  9. 1916 Cody Nygren – Lone Star Racing / Polaris RZR

  10. 1917 Jason / Derek Murray – Murray Motorsports / Can-Am Maverick

  11. 1936 Jacob Carver – Lone Star Racing / Polaris RZR

  12. 1910 Dan Fisher – Lone Star Racing / Polaris RZR

  13. 1929 Lance Chournos – Rally on the Rocks / Polaris RZR

  14. 1997 Kenny Brink – OnSite Communications / Polaris RZR

  15. 1905 Marc Burnett – Monster Energy / Polaris RZR

  16. 1913 Branden Sims – Lone Star Racing / Polaris RZR

  17. 1999 Michael Isom – Mobbin Racing / Polaris RZR

  18. 1921 Johnny Angal – UTV Inc. / Polaris RZR

  19. 1911 Brian Bush – UTV Inc. / Polaris

  20. 1969 Logan Gastel – Rugged Radios / Can-Am Maverick

Unlimited Pro Results:

  1. Lacrecia Beurrier – DragonFire Racing / Polaris RZR

In September 2014, BRP added the industry’s first factory-installed turbocharged side-by-side vehicle to its 2015 Can-Am off-road line-up.  Best in the Desert made changes to the UTV Pro production class for 2015 season to allow UTVs with factory turbochargers. No changes, adjustments or modifications are allowed, the turbo must remain exactly as delivered from the factory. Turbochargers must be sealed.

More details:Can-Am Maverick X ds Turbo

Cognito MotorsportsS3 PowersportsJohn Angal

Branden SimsRonnie Renner
Photos by FOX – Bryan Harrold

More Resources:

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