2014 Mint 400 UTV Recap 0
To say that this year’s General Tire Mint 400, Presented by Polaris RZR, was full of records would be an understatement. The 2014 edition of this iconic race was so jam-packed with record car counts, spectator numbers, new events, and members of the media covering the event that we would need an entire recap article devoted to these records just to cover them all! Instead of focusing our attention on all the records, we’ll simply say that the UTV class, in particular, set a new record for the amount of vehicles entered at over 50! With that record car count came an intense racing session that included racers going all out, battling hard for that top podium spot.
The Mint 400 is headquartered out of Las Vegas, Nevada and is sanctioned by the Best in the Desert Racing Association. Vegas is a perfect location to host an event of this magnitude purely for the fact that it is located in the middle of a huge desert and most of the people in the town are full-blown desert rats. We love these kind of people because they are passionate about our sport, and they share our same love for all things off-road. Most of these people are also very involved with the UTV market, and we love to see the growing interest in UTV’s throughout the BITD.
The weeklong event started with a vehicle parade down Las Vegas Boulevard on Wednesday and ended with the race on Saturday. Smack dab in the middle of the festivities was tech and contingency on Friday. The festivities at contingency are literally “off the hook”, for lack of a better term. Fremont St. was filled with every vendor imaginable, making the attendee’s purchasing power even greater because they enjoyed having an all-access pass to the latest and greatest parts in the off-road world. In particular, Pro Armor hosted their UTV showcase, which turned out to be a prodigious display of all things UTV-related.
After contingency was finished up, everyone descended on the little town of Jean, which lies about 25 miles outside of the Las Vegas strip area. Jean plays host to the Mint 400 racing action, and it does so because of the open desert expanses found there. If you aren’t traversing over dry, hard pack roads, you are winding through washes or over dry lake beds at high speeds – it all makes Jean one of the best locations to host an off-road race hands down.
Race day came around on a cool and crisp Saturday morning. UTV’s staged around 5:30am, meaning clean line selection and abundant amounts of artificial lighting were necessary in order to see this rough and brutal course. The loop-style layout covered about 95 miles all the way around, making the course more brutal after every lap. UTV’s were ordered to leave the line after some of the faster class 10 vehicles, and after a double file race off the start line, every competitor had their sites set on the finish line.
After about 4 hours, Brandon Schueler of Jagged X Racing took the big Mint 400 Pro class win in his Jagged X Polaris RZR XP 4 900. From the looks of things, this stretched 900 is dialed in, making it hard for us to believe that he will be switching to the RZR 1000 platform anytime soon. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Just after Brandon arrived at the finish line, Marc Burnett crossed the stripe in his Monster Energy, Can-Am Maverick in 4 hours and 16 minutes. After a fairly dismal rookie season in 2013, Marc seems to have worked all of the bugs out of his Maverick and turned it into a winning machine. After his victory at the San Felipe 250 and his second place at the Mint, Marc looks to be on a tear in 2014.
Rounding out the pro-class podium was Branden Sims from the Lonestar Racing lineup. Branden came into the Mint fresh off his second place finish at King of the Hammers, and he looks like he is going to turn a ton of heads at Best in the Desert races this year as well. When we were on the track, we could see just how fast Branden was pounding through this course.
While many of the pro class UTV drivers get the attention, Best in the Desert also has very competitive SR1 and 850 classes. Taking first in the SR1 class was Jeff and Terri Kary in their number 1981 Yamaha Rhino. Not only are these SR1 cars extremely fast, they sound awesome to boot. Rounding out the top finishers at the Mint, David Lytle and Victor Herrera completed both laps their Kawasaki Teryx with a time of 5 hours and 9 minutes. It is good seeing a Kawasaki out there kicking butt again.
Some of the most appealing parts of the Mint 400 are the spectator areas. Best in the Desert and Mad Media teamed up with Oakley, Rigid Industries, Fox Racing Shox, and several other sponsors to help provide spectators with the best possible viewing areas of the race. All in all, we think the promoting sanctions had the right idea with these spectating areas, but they missed the mark in several key areas. First of all, we have never seen sanctioning bodies charge spectators to attend an off-road desert race. In our opinion, this needs to be a free amenity for race fans. In addition to keeping spectating areas free of charge, I think we all underestimated the huge amount of spectators that would be present at this race. The spectating areas filled up early in the morning, causing the BLM Rangers to send people back home, which caused mass chaos. These items need to be addressed for next year’s Mint, and we hope spectators have a better opportunity to see all of the great racing action.
Overall, the Mint 400 was a highly successful race for everyone in attendance, racers and fans alike. We are excited to attend this event again next year, and we hope more and more people get involved with Best in the Desert Racing. If this year’s Mint was any indication, the sport of UTV off-road racing is gaining momentum and does seem to be letting up anytime soon.