The Mint 400 - Jackson and BFGoodrich win big in Vegas! March 17, 2016

Las Vegas, NV - 50 miles north of the California/Nevada border sits one of the largest attractions of the west. Built around endless miles of barren deserts, Las Vegas stands tall and proud above its dusty skyline where it was forged over a hundred years ago. Once a year the TrophyLite race teams travel to this desert oasis to try to conquer the odds against them, and go all-in.

The Mint is special in several ways; from a procession of race cars down Las Vegas Boulevard in front of thousands of newly acquired fans, contingency and safety inspection at historic down town Fremont, to the hype and international coverage of the ever popular race via TV and internet feeds.

Several TrophyLite teams made the trek to kick off the race week festivities by participating in the 10 mile drive down the ‘Vegas Strip’ on Wednesday afternoon. After quite the journey to get to the race, Chris Hutton and his team from Australia behind the wheel of the 6009 house rental truck would win the furthest distance traveled ever of a Trophylite team. A close runner up would be the 6061 Fast Line Driving School rental of Luiz Facco and his navigator Humberto Ribeiro from Brazil, whom were looking to try their rally skills against the brutal Nevada terrain. John Boyd would fly in from Austin, Texas in another house rental to take on the brutal Mint 400 course. The 6017 of Brandon Arciero from sunny Southern California in his FST Sand and Gravel sponsored truck among many others local to SoCal, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Texas will be looking to test their luck this year at the Mint!

Friday afternoon saw the 16 registered trucks pass through contingency in style many of which showing off new wraps and paint schemes, new faces and sponsors which just added to the Fremont Street flare. The TrophyLite House Rental program was in full effect hosting teams from Australia and Brazil along with John Boyd and company from Texas. All three of these teams would attack Saturday’s race course with energy and poise to finish well within the hunt.

As luck would have it, the 6081 entry of Larry Schmueser would have computer issues Friday and driving to Southern California to get a replacement, it already seemed they would be a shoe in for the $500 Metro Honda/Acura Hard Charger award before the race would even start. The 6081 team would continue to show their never-give-up attitude after tipping the truck over on two separate occasions as well as getting stuck at race mile 34. Larry would take the Schmueser & Associates / Two L Leasing truck across the line in 13th position after a long fought two days in Vegas. Amid their issues race day, the 6081 would also lend the Spitz entry (6021) a driveshaft as they were sidelined from hitting a rock in the first 10 miles of the race. True sportsmanship is always the first priority of all of the TrophyLite teams. No matter who is down, TrophyLite teams will find a way to help them out.

For a second race in a row, the 6002 entry of Todd Jackson would cross the finish line first but not without a fight from the veteran team of Jeff Mortis in the 6048 Challenge Motorsports entry. Mortis would take the lead at the end of lap 2 only to have a heart breaking flat tire with 8 miles left in the race, allowing the 6002 to assume the lead spot once again after a nearly flawless morning.

“We had a great start to the race, starting side by side with Arciero in the 3rd row, we knew it was going to be a race through the infield where Brandon got the slight edge on us. After we got around him we raced bumper to bumper and were able to put some time on him when he clipped a rock.” The Jakes Fabworks backed team would show their prowess at pit B when they were able to change a driveshaft that was going bad on the second lap. Only 15 minutes later, and losing just one track position to Mortis in the 6048, Todd was back on the gas with a fresh unit on board.

Chasing down Mortis on lap three and taking the win, Jackson would bring home the Elite Laser – $1000 Mash the Gas for Cash award, along with the $500 Metro Honda Acura Superior Performance Award for the second race in a row. “After six years of trying, we finally got the Mint 400 monkey off of our back!” The 6002 truck broke into the top 25 overall in the morning race, after starting behind nearly 90 other entries. Jackson goes into the BITD Laughlin two day race leading the TrophyLite points series. This win marked the first win for a new tire manufacture in the history of TrophyLite. With Jackson running the new optional BFG Mud Terrain tire, he was able to secure the win with zero flat tires throughout the rocky course all day. “We were always concerned about tire weights in the past, and now with this new BFG tire we were able to shave a large amount of rotating mass and gain some improved handling across the board” Jackson said.

Jeff Mortis would finish his flat tire change in the 6048 to finish a mere two minutes short after 360 miles of racing through the rugged Mint course. “The Challenge Motorsports team showed that we are competitors now. Two 2nd place finishes in a row for us, both less than two minutes from the win. We are ready for some luck to fall our way!” Chris Wacker shared driving duties on lap one, while co-driver Bret Young stayed in for the long haul only needing to get out of the truck to change the late lap 3 flat.

Rounding out the top three in the TrophyLite class was Doc Chantler in the 6098, PJ’s Performance, Southwest Title loans entry. Chantler would be close on time all day long with the two front runners, ready to strike if either had a lengthy mistake. Running a clean Mint 400 was vital for the 6098, as he now assumes the second position for the 2016 series points, with Craig Spitz and Brandon Arciero having troublesome days in the 6021 and 6017 respectively

Sitting atop the last podium position was the Craig Spitz entry in 6021. Craig would have a 2nd corner bobble that wouldnt take but a few seconds to recover from and had a great day after that. After settling into a great pace, the 6021 was looking for the finish and banking on mistakes by the front two which did not come. Coming away from the grueling Parker 425 sitting in third place points was a great day for the entire team. The 6021 is looking forward to the Mint 400 next!

Just outside of the podium spot, John Clark ran a nearly flawless day in the 6069. “We ran 3rd – 4th all day, battling with Doc and Josh Cobb in the KC HiLites truck. We had a brake line get snagged with about 50 miles to go, and my co-driver Rodney was able to keep pace and not let it affect him.” In just his second entry after purchasing the truck, Clark has shown he has what it takes to run at the front of the fast paced TL class.

Rounding out the top 5, Josh Cobb had an eventful start to his morning in the 6066 KC HiLites entry. “The truck was perfect for most of the day with a few little glitches that really slowed forward momentum. 3 miles from Pit A on lap 1, the team suffered a passenger side rear flat that was caused by an unseen rock sticking out of the side of a berm in the sandy washes.” After nearly a clean lap and a half, a throttle cable stuck causing a brief roll-over with 16 year old Josh behind the wheel on lap 3. “We were up, we were down, we were all over this place this weekend but we still made it to the finish and in a respectable spot.”

The new team of Jason Crabtree in the 6011 OFT racing entry was sporting a brand new look, hoping for a great race Saturday morning. After a driver change, Roland Silva took the wheel and also a Nevada dirt sample shortly after! Everyone was ok, and thankfully the TrophyLite platform is built to take such abuse when drivers temporarily run out of talent!

After a great start to the season, the FST Sand and Gravel, S&L Excavations entry of Brandon Arceiro would hit a speed bump in their 2016 plans. After edging out the 6002 truck of Jackson on the start, Arciero would clip a pair of rocks, the second of which would cripple his truck in the field. With the help of Rick Johnson from TrophyLite, Baja Pits as well as BITD retrieval Jimbo they were able to get the parts needed to continue on. Brandon and his navigator Tommy would fight on, only to fall 14 minutes short of a second lap.

The McKnight Racing team encountered some troubles once again. The 6025 race plan had Austin McKnight starting and finishing the race with father Russ doing the second lap. The co-driver, Daniel Plaza had a specific mindset of keeping Austin calm in the beginning, and pushing his limits as he became more comfortable with the trucks perfromance. "We started the race in the last row next to a fierce competitor, Josh Cobb, even though he is young, he and his team have a ton of experience in racing off-road along with 15 other trucks in front of us. Understanding that races are not won in the first 30 miles I made sure to not push my driver Austin right out of the gate." That was a strategy that sure looked like it was paying off in their favor as they began seeing other TrophyLites on the sides and off the track changing flats! Daniel continued "Once I sensed that Austin had become comfortable behind the wheel, that's when I decided to start pushing him and man did he get on it!" The McKnight team was running in 5th closing in on 4th place before they suffered a fuel pump issue that took them out of the race at rm56. After switching pumps multiple times and found no fuel heading to the engine, Russ called it a day and had the 6025 truck towed back to main pit. "We were on a mission and the truck felt amazing. The McKnights entrust me with the responsibility of navigating them through the desert and I take great pride in doing the best that I can. So what makes this break down the hardest, that Austin McKnight is an incredible driver with great talent and that we were not able to showcase that at The Mint 400" Daniel said. We are sure the McKnight team will resolve these issues and be ready to battle at Laughlin in May.

Throughout the grueling day, one thing was for certain and that was each and every team was able to rely on their spec Fox Racing Shox to soak up the brutal race course. In a driver’s class such as TrophyLite, setup and suspension tuning are about as important as it can get. Putting the power to the ground is the job of the Currie Enterprises F9 Fabricated housing and axles which are all driving Method race wheels. The lubrication throughout the truck is handled by high performance synthetic fluids from Maxima Racing Oils, which protects even in the most vital components in hostile environments that the TrophyLite teams can throw at it. When things do get a little head over heels, Mastercraft and Impact Safety products keep the drivers protected and safe within the confines of the chromoly spec chassis from TrophyLite. The TrophyLite organization would also like to thank Azunia Tequila, Tanimura & Antle Produce, Southwest Boulder and Stone (SWB), Jakes Fabworks and Elite Laser for their continued support of the series.

About TrophyLite

The TrophyLite Race Series was created to provide an affordable alternative to the high cost of racing. Drivers are pitted against each other in identical vehicles that provide the thrill of competitive offroad racing without the million dollar price tag. All TrophyLite race vehicles are precisely constructed to maintain parity and use the finest quality components available. TrophyLite allows you to compete in a fun, fast, race proven vehicle right out of the box. With generous sponsorship from KC HiLites, Metro Honda, Metro Acura, Currie Enterprises, Mastercraft Safety, Impact, Method Race Wheels, Azunia Tequila, Maxima Racing Oils, Fox, Children of the Dirt, K&N Filters, MagnaFlow, PCI Race Radios, Tanimura & Antle and Kreed Sunglasses.

Make sure to tune into the KC HiLites “TrophyLite Throwdown” Podcast – Available on SoundCloud and in the iTunes store search TL Throwdown. An easy way to gain insight to the race series and the teams involved who continue to make this so much fun.

Photo Credits - Deegan Newton, John Bitting, Gene Addison, Arciero Motorsports