Mint 400

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The Mint 400 is an annual desert off road race that was resumed in 2008 after a 20-year hiatus.

The race was for both motorcycles, until 1977, and four-wheel vehicles (buggies, cars and trucks) sponsored by Del Webb's Mint Hotel and Casino.[1] Del Webb, a real estate developer and friend of Howard Hughes, was owner of the Mint Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. It became known as The Great American Desert Race.

History[edit]

In 1967 Norm Johnson organized the first ever “Mint 400 Off-Road Rally” to promote and publicize The Mint Hotel. Norm sent two matching dune buggies across six hundred miles of scorching desert, from The Mint Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada - to the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe, California. The coverage by the national media caught the attention of race teams and off-road enthusiasts everywhere - and the endurance race became famous overnight.

The future of the Mint 400 race came into question in 1988 following the sale of Del Webbs Mint Hotel and Casino to next door neighbor Jack Binion owner of the Horseshoe Club. However as a testament to the race itself, the prestige and importance of the event created by veteran race director K J Howe and the Mint management team and the financial benefit this promotion brought to the City of Las Vegas, under new ownership the annual Mint 400 Off Road Race continued to be run in 1988 and 1989.

Unfortunately, two years removed from previous ownership and upper management that were themselves race competitors and motorsport enthusiasts, who understood and appreciated the importance of this event to the sport of off road racing and the local community and; now owned by an individual that once remarked the race, its competitors, tech inspection on Fremont Street and surrounding ancillary activities, was a negative impact on gambling and his Bingo players, the rougest and toughest racing event on U. S. soil was gone following the 1989 Mint 400 event. Considered a motor racing icon, on the level of the SCORE Baja 1000, a legendary event was dead and a historic era in off road racing had come to an untimely end.

The Mint went quiet for nearly twenty years – but was resurrected by longtime sponsor General Tire with help from the Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts group. General Tire has been the title sponsor of the race ever since. SNORE eventually sold the franchise to film and television producers Matt and Joshua Martelli – marking the next significant chapter in the Mints evolution. The race resumed on March 29, 2008.[2] The race was preceded by inspections of the vehicles on Fremont Street in the Fremont East district.[2]

In 2012 The Martelli Brothers partnered with off-road industry veteran Casey Folks, owner of the largest off-road desert racing organization in the world, the Best In The Desert Racing Association. The Mint was added to the Best in the Desert championship schedule, and a new one hundred mile race loop was carved out for the epic 400-mile contest. The number of entries swelled to an astounding three hundred and twenty three race teams, making the Mint 400 one of the largest off-road races in the world.

The Martelli Brothers featured a brand new event this year called the KMC Wheels Pit Crew Challenge! Sixteen pit crews from the top unlimited truck teams competed in a head-to-head battle to decide who had the best crew. Each of the three-man teams were given one jack, one impact gun, and one spare tire. The team who completed two tire changes the fastest, advanced to the next round. Over 10,000 spectators on Fremont Street, showed up to cheer on the teams. After several close and heated rounds the General Tire/THR team, which included drivers Mikey Childress, Rick Johnson, and crewmember James Walker - out pitted the field to win the inaugural KMC Wheels Pit Crew Challenge.

Winners[edit]

First Overall 83 & 84 Jim & Billy Wright

Motorcycle[edit]

Truck[edit]

  • 1970
  • 1971 Fritz Kroyer, Bill Harkey 13:30:42 [5]
  • 2008
    • Heavy Metal,
    • Mini Metal,
    • Stock Bug
    • Stock Full,
    • Unlimited Truck,
    • CLASS 1,
    • CLASS 1/2-1600,
    • CLASS 3,
    • CLASS 4,
    • CLASS 5,
    • CLASS 5-1600,
    • CLASS 6,
    • CLASS 7,
    • CLASS 7S,
    • CLASS 8,
    • CLASS 9,
    • CLASS 10,
    • CLASS 12,
    • CLASS 13,
    • CLASS 15,
    • CLASS 18,
    • CLASS 1450,

Notable entrants[edit]

Entrants in this 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.[6]

Mint 400 girls[edit]

K.J. Howe, Mint Hotel executive and longtime Mint 400 Race Director, conceived "The Girls of the Mint 400" in 1972 to add glamor and PR value to the race. Each year the Mint racing committee chose a contingent of women to reign over the events' activities. Local media representatives would help select the final ten from the hundreds of entries received from contestants from around the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. The Mint racing committee would select the final five who became known as the Mint 400 girls. This group includes Lynda Carter (who portrayed Wonder Woman in the television series) and Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White. Mint 400 Girls Tracy Vaccaro and Dona Speir were Playboy centerfolds and Vickie Reigle graced Playboy's cover subsequent to their Mint 400 publicity. Lisa Soulé, Anita Merritt, Angela Aames, Lisa Hunter and Suzanne Regard later appeared in various movies and television series as well as Mint Hotel and Casino advertising campaigns.

The Miss Mint contest [7] was revived along with the race with the goal to become the premiere beauty contest in motorsports. In 2012 the prize purses were increased dramatically, driving up the number of entrants to nearly double from previous years. The contingent of beautiful off-road women competed for a combination of online votes and judges’ votes. After a heated online battle and tens of thousands of votes – the competition was narrowed down to three lucky ladies. The talented Vanessa Golub-Ferrara was picked as The 2012 General Tire Miss Mint. She walked away with five thousands dollars and a Dirtsports Magazine cover photo shoot.

In 2013 the coveted Miss Mint was narrowed down to 10 finalist that competed against each other in a series of questions during The Mint 400's KMC Wheels Pit Crew Challenge. On legendary Freemont street in Vegas the new Miss Mint was crowned Taylor Cox, a model out of Dallas, TX. The prize package was more than ever before, Taylor walked away with five thousand dollars, a Dirt Sports Magazine cover and a brand new Honda Civic presented by Metro Honda Acura Dealership.

Impact on journalism[edit]

Hunter S. Thompson's novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas depicts the 1971 race in one of the earliest and best known instances of gonzo journalism. His suggestion that he would ride a Vincent Black Shadow (one of the fastest production road bikes ever made) was most likely tongue-in-cheek, since this bike is too large for off-road riding and the last one produced would have been 16 years old by that time. The Mint is also featured in the film based on Thompson's book.

Television and movies[edit]

Hunter S. Thompson's novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was later made into a feature film in 1998 starring Benicio Del Toro and Johnny Depp. The movie became a cult classic, solidifying The Mint’s place in American pop culture.

The 2010 and 2011 Mint 400 were featured on Fuel TV, while the 2012 Mint 400 was aired on Speed.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] "The Mint 400", Las Vegas Sun, Retrieved January 7, 2007
  2. ^ a b "News at 11PM". KLAS-TV. 2008-03-29. 
  3. ^ [2] "Champs Aren't Disqualified", dated between March 21 and 23, 1971, Las Vegas Sun, Retrieved January 7, 2007, Warning: PDF file
  4. ^ [3] "Vegas Rider Finally Wins Mint Jackpot", dated between March 21 and 23, 1971 [4], Las Vegas Sun, Retrieved January 7, 2007, Warning: PDF file
  5. ^ [5] "California Pair Take Mint 400", dated between March 21 and 23, 1971, Las Vegas Sun, Retrieved January 7, 2007, Warning: PDF file
  6. ^ [6] "Buggies roll at night", dated between March 21 and 23, 1971 [7], Las Vegas Sun, Retrieved January 7, 2007, Warning: PDF file
  7. ^ [8] "Miss Mint", Mint 400, Retrieved January 7, 2013

External links[edit]