To finish first you have to first finish. It’s an old racing cliché but it was certainly true in the ultra-competitive General Tire Mint 400 presented by Polaris off-road race on Saturday.
Just ask Travis Pastrana. He astounded the off-road regulars by finishing fourth overall in his debut with Bryce Menzies's team in a thundering Trick Truck (better known as a Trophy Truck). In qualifying on Thursday, he was only 19th fastest as he was learning how to manhandle his Red Bull Ford truck around the sandy qualifying track. Menzies, who won the Mint 400 in 2013, was second fastest qualifier.
Pastrana said he took it easy during the first of the four laps around the 100-mile course. Was that his secret? It’s normally tough to slow him down, but Tyler Hall, his co-driver, kept him from hitting too many rocks or getting stuck in the silty sections and they completed the whole race without any punctures.
It was an awesome result for Pastrana who was competing against no less than 57 Trick Trucks driven by most of the leading and much more experienced racers. Dale Dondel, who had qualified first, had the advantage right from the start as he did not have to contend with any dust. He set a blistering pace on the first lap but blew his engine on the second. Robby Gordon, another favorite, fared even worse with a blown transmission just two miles after the two-abreast drag-racing style start.
Attrition rate was high with only 22 of the 57 Trick Trucks making it to the checkered flag. The inter-team rivalry between Menzies and Pastrana was somewhat like a tortoise and the hare race. Menzies hit a rock and had to replace a driveshaft. He recovered and came close to catching Pastrana but then suffered from a failing rear gear and eventually managed to finish in 20th place, over an hour behind Pastrana.
Andy McMillin, just one of many drivers from the McMillin dynasty of off-road racers, took the overall win by completing the 400-mile race in 6 hours 14 minutes. Second place went to Gustavo “Tavo” Vildosola, another Red Bull star, who has had many successes in off-road racing along with his father.
Initially, Pastrana was credited with third place, but after times were adjusted, Dan McMillin captured third, less than three minutes behind Vildosola and barely a minute ahead of Pastrana.
Ricky Johnson teamed up with Clyde Stacy, a regular Trick Truck driver and they finished 12th overall.
Without a doubt this year’s Mint 400 race was one of the best ever since it was revived in 2008 after a 20-year hiatus. Aptly named The Great American Off-Road Race, this year’s 400-mile long race drew entries from about 360 race teams, but the entry was limited to 325 so some teams were unable to run.
Since the track was run on dirt tracks just south of Las Vegas with easy access from the nearby Interstate it was a draw for spectators and thousands showed up to watch the race vehicles battle it out at speeds up to 130 mph. In fact, so many showed up that latecomers were turned away as access tracks and temporary parking lots became overcrowded.