The TrophyLite Veterans turned up the heat in Sin City!March 27, 2017
Las Vegas, NV - Just thirty minutes north of the California, Nevada state line, lies a desert oasis that plays host to the mecca of off road races in the United States. Surrounded by deserts, the Vegas area is the hotspot of desert racing in the southwest. The famous Freemont Street would play host to two days of festivities before the 16 TrophyLite teams took on the grueling 116 mile loop that the Best In The Desert crew had laid out to challenge the racers. 2016 Winner Todd Jackson would lay it all on black and test his luck against the TL series best, just 4 weeks after his third place finish at the season opener in Parker, AZ.
Todd Jackson had been chasing a win at the Mint 400 for many years until last year he was finally able to stand on the top spot of the podium. Much like last year the race strategy for 2017 would be to start out with a strong pace but take the first lap to figure out what shape the course was in. The Movement Supply Co. TrophyLite started 11th, in the 6th row and began quickly moving through the pack. Running 4th as they were coming to the end of the first lap, Todd had been getting calls from Mother Nature and had been hitting ‘ignore’ since he left pit b but would have to finally answer the call and make unscheduled pit stop at main pit. Todd said, “Coming into Main, Arciero had pulled out just 20 feet in front of us, I really wanted to push though it but I knew it was affecting my driving so after much deliberation, we pulled in for a driver only pit stop.”
Back in the truck and it’s time to move. Todd felt he would be able to pick up the pace a bit having seen the course once now and with Mike pointing out dangers ahead. After about 30 miles into lap 2 Todd gets around the 6048 truck and sets his sights on the 6017. Keeping visual on the lead truck up the course the 6001 would keep moving along. Nearing the completion of lap 2, around rm85, just after the dry lake bed they saw the Arciero truck parked off to the side. Now first on course and with Jeff and Bret in the 6048 they knew they would be giving chase. On the 3rd lap the crew noticed a tire low as they approached pit B the 6001 would be called in to stop. The low tire would be the result of a bent rim causing it to loose pressure. In and out of the pit very quickly they were able to hold on to their position on course and ultimately win the Mint 400 for the 2nd consecutive year. Todd finished 4 minutes quicker than his time last year.
In closing Todd said, “First time I finished a race with the driver getting out of the car and Mike not having to get out all day! Thanks to Jakes Fabworks for a great truck, Safecraft for the safety equipment and contingency! Metro Honda / Acura for supporting TrophyLite, BFGoodrich for making a great tire. Also would like to note BFG TL’s go 1st, 2nd and 3rd at the MINT this YEAR! KC HiLites, Currie for a bullet proof rear housing and axles, Method Wheels and Amen to BITD for putting on a great race, BOOYAH!”
Jackson starts 11th, takes the win and also grabs the Metro Honda Superior Performance award. Congratulations to Todd, Mike and the Jakes Fabworks crew on a truly superior performance. If you are considering the purchase of a new vehicle or ready for service on your current ride be sure to check out Metro Honda / Acura in Montclair or visit www.metrohonda.com or www.metroacura.com
With a win at the Mint, Todd also picks up an extra $1000 as part of the Safecraft Safety Equipment Triple Crown Bonus. The Safecraft Triple Crown Bonus awards $1000 to the winner of the 3 races featured in the Triple Crown, the Mint 400, Laughlin Desert Challenge and Vegas to Reno. Safecraft also kicked in an additional $2000 to the TrophyLite Race Series Champion at the end of the season. TrophyLite has always understood the need for safety which is why we consistently use the brands that have kept us safe over the years. Fire suppression has always been on our minds but as technology evolves so do we. Introducing Safecraft Safety Equipment in to our SPEC program is a move toward the future and in the event of a fire gives you the chance to extinguish versus suppress a fire when needed most. The Novec 1230 protection fluid is a next-generation halon alternative designed to balance industry concerns for performance, human safety and the environment. With its low toxicity, combined with high extinguishing efficiency make the perfect fit for our SPEC racing program.
Jeff Mortis knows every season is very different but the approach is pretty much the same. Prep and plan logistics to put yourself in a position to be close to the front of the pack toward the end of the race. In Parker, Jeff shared driving duties with Chris Wacker and the two were able to do just that. Hanging around 3rd or 4th position issues began to arise with some of the leaders and the 6048 move up to the front. Earning a hard fought win at the first race of the TrophyLite Race Series, the Challenge Financial #6048 team knew coming into the Mint, the plan would be about the same, except there is only 4 weeks to prepare, prep and test. Jake’s Fabworks finished the prep early enough to squeeze in a quick Barstow run/test session and off to Vegas the following week.
Race day arrives which will have Chris Wacker and co-driver Jared Crane in the truck to start the race and midway into lap 2 Jeff Mortis and Bret Young will take it to the finish. Aware of the fact Arciero is ahead them in the next row, and Sato right behind, then the ‘King’, Doc, Bragg and Cobb coming from the back there is a lot of talent around them so the strategy isn’t complex, Drive Clean and Drive Fast. Co-driver Bret Young remarked, “We can’t win the race in the first half so try to bring a semi-fresh truck to Mortis and I for the 2nd half to give us a shot at the win.”
Taking the hole shot off the start with Kevin McKeown it wasn’t long before they began to catch some TL’s ahead of them. Disappointed to see the 6010 on its side at about mile 18 yet surprised to see Louis in the 6061 in pit A, Chris and Jared settle in and move through most of the UTV class while keeping the 6017 in their sights. In the rear view, a freight train of TL’s trying to run them down from behind. Running 3rd & 4th through lap 1, clean pit stops and zero flats kept the team in a good position to make the driver change. Mortis and Young are in and quickly try to get a feel for how fast they can push the Challenge Financial TrophyLite. Feeling they could lose a position in the process of pushing through the rough Mint course it wasn’t too long before there was a TL on their tail. “Of course it’s the King filling our mirrors and after a few brake checks and jack rabbits we can’t shake him and Jackson passes us cleanly, little did we know that would be the last time we saw him until he was on the podium spraying champagne on Mike”, said Bret.
Pushing hard to keep the truck to the front of the pack a vibrations began to develop. After seeing Arciero off to the side near the end of lap 2, Jeff and Bret decided to make an unscheduled stop at main pit. After inspection of the driveline and axles the Jakes and Challenge crew gave the green light to continue. Lap 3 Jeff tried to close the gap on the 6001 but kept a strong pace to earn a 2nd place finish.
The Elite Laser Cutting entry has had its share of tough days out on the race course and after each race, the team dives in to make corrections and address issues from the prior event. Tony Sato and the #6056 showed up in stunning fashion with brand new and very eye catching paint scheme. Tony and the team had high hopes for this race and starting 6th would put them on the 4th row gave them a chance to get toward the front of the pack. Starting next to the OFT Racing, #6011 of Silva they were able to edge them off the line and begin making moves around slower vehicles into the desert. Tony said, “We started catching guys in the first 5 miles and I have never been pelted with so many rocks in the first 25 miles of a race in my life. My visor was completely destroyed by catching my competitors and those pesky UTVs”.
Feeling like they are making good time the 6056 begins to encounter some traffic. “We catch up to Young Barakus, who is on the bumper of the 6043, who is on the bumper of the 6010” said Tony. A few moments later the 6010 puts the truck on its side, fortunately everyone was ok. This situation let the 6043, 6017 and 6056 through and after a little while the 6043 moves over and now the race was on between the two. Battling each other along with maneuvering around UTVs made for a lot of fun until after pit A when Brandon hit the smoke screen. “It’s not worth to chance it at those speeds when you can’t even see the front bumper and knowing we are only 32 miles into a 350 mile race, so I backed it down knowing that our truck worked better in the rough with a long race to go”, said Tony.
Back on the road after changing a right rear flat, around rm60 they lost a rear brake line and make a stop at pit B to pick up a spare tire, fuel and brake line repair. Off and running again, passing UTVs and when stopping at a pit, they would pass us back. Through lap 2 the 6056 would get around all of the UTVs once again and with some clean air toward the end of the lap saw something off in the distance. Tony says, “What is it? A cow, a donkey? No, a Grasshopper!” referring to the 6017 stopped on course. Feeling excited about the encouraging gestures from Brandon as they passed by the 6056 had a stop at main pit. Now running in 3rd place Tony finds out they are just 12 minutes behind Jeff(6048) and with a short discussion they decided to see if they could run him down. At pit B Tony hears across the radio they are about 3 minutes back. Hopes of running up on Jeff would be shut down with another right rear flat. Quick tire change and off to the finish where Tony and the Elite Laser Cutting TrophyLite would round out the podium in 3rd place.
Josh came to the Mint 400 hoping to prove that he was one of the drivers to beat for the 2017 season. After a dismal Parker 425, the team was looking to rebound with a podium finish at the Mint to jump back into the points championship. Saturday, Josh’s dad Jason would start the race and was scheduled to go to Pit B on lap 2. Instead, after a strong start and getting around several TrophyLite’s in the first 74 miles, Jason decided to stop and work on the truck at Pit B on lap 1 to see if they could make the truck better. Because it was a longer than planned stop and the many gotchas out on the course, the team decided to put Josh in the truck early to avoid any long pits later in the day. Adding some compression and rebound the 6066 headed out with Josh behind the wheel. At the end of lap 1, Josh had moved up to mid-pack and was moving forward. Shortly after heading out into the desert, the 6066 began to overheat which sent the team to the side of the track to figure out the issue. As it was in Parker, once again the fan wiring had failed causing the breaker and fuse to fail. After hard wiring the fuse, the team was back underway with only 10 minutes or so lost. Still battling suspension that was way too soft for the brutal track, Josh began to make up the time lost as well as he could. At Pit B on lap 2 the team made another suspension adjustment and we sent Josh out for the last time out of Pit B still in mid-pack. Josh radioed in that the truck was awesome and began his charge forward. At RM102 the two had to pull over and replace the fuse link that they made earlier to make the fan work when it fell out. After a few minutes of down time, the duo were back on track and pushing forward. Through Main Pit for the last time Josh headed out to take on the last 116 miles. Putting together a good lap he felt a “pop” at RM 13 and found that they had broken the sway bar arm on the passenger side. Headed back out, they had to take on the twisty, rough course with tremendous body roll. Charging hard, Josh was able to move up to 4th spot physically on the road and in class by the end of the race. Not where the team hoped to be, but a step in the right direction to challenge for the TrophyLite Championship.
Starting in the first row would be the 6061 Vision Hype entry of Kyle Ahrensberg. Driving the first lap would be Louis Chamberland who got out to a blazing fast start until they began to have trouble cooling the transmission. While Louis was driving, Kyle and TrophyLite Race Series driver Craig Spitz, Kyle’s co-driver for this race, would take to the sky and watch from above the race course and the action going on. Louis would hand over a good truck to Kyle and Craig at main pit and while battling the course would lose their spare tire and just when they would need it. A slow leaking flat would appear as they approached pit A the 6061 would receive a tire from the Mortis team and change it for them as well! Kyle said he was very thankful for the Mortis crew for how helpful they were. After taking care of a power steering and drive line issues at pit B Kyle and Craig were determined to finish the race clean. The course was taking people out all over and Kyle was not going to be one of them. After picking up a 5th place finish Kyle said, “Crossing the finish line felt GREAT and there is no way we could have done it without Louis, Rick, Brenda and the whole TrophyLite crew. These people are the reason I can come out and race with everyone, without them it would be near impossible to handle a team with my schedule. I also want to thank Craig for trusting me with his life and hopping in the truck with me, lol”. The driver of the Vision Hype TrophyLite has been leaning how to pick up speed and has been gaining confidence while out on course. If you are racing for a podium spot keep an eye on your mirror as Kyle says he wants to be up toward the front and battle for a spot on the box.
Greg Bragg in the 6012 entry started in the 7th row, 14th position was out to a quick start. Knowing the course would be tough took it easy toward the beginning and still were able to move the Quest Nutrition TrophyLite through other trucks and UTVs. Pretty uneventful 1st lap and came through running in 5th position. However their luck would change when they would get their 1st flat tire about 20miles into lap 2. While attempting to change the tire the jack broke and the guys had to put everything back and try to find someone who could help. The 6012 came upon a BITD volunteer who had a jack, but it was a high lift jack. After oiling the jack, strapping the axle among other things ended up costing them 25 minutes. A stop at pit A Greg picked up a new tire and a bottle jack out of a chase truck. Lap 2 wouldn’t get any better as about rm60 another flat. Now a change with the bottle jack still cost them 15 minutes. As Greg and his son-in-law Nick Chivello finished up a brutal lap 2, began the mission to finish the 3rd lap and the Mint 400. Making up a couple of spots in route to a 6th place finish. Greg has been very consistent since he has started racing in the TrophyLite class is also picking up speed and will be another team to look for battling for a podium position.
The 6081 entry of Larry Schmueser II came to the Mint with a new paint job as well. Starting in 12th position Larry came out thinking about a Mint 400 finish. Doing his best to keep the truck in one piece and had a good run for 2 laps. However lap 3 would be a little different. Larry said, “A shout out to Gregg Bragg. The GB Racing crew saved our butts with a tire at Pit A! Third lap we had a battle going with Greg. We actually passed them fueling at Pit A. We were pushing a little too hard and barrel rolled it in the sweeper at mile 36. They passed us back and we never saw them again until the finish“. Feeling pretty excited about getting the finish they wanted Larry wasn’t too thrilled about the position and the acrobatic event at mile 36. The Schmueser family has been a staple in the TrophyLite community, making the trip from Colorado for each race for many seasons and always a strong competitor. Thank you Larry for supporting us.
The Family Truckster driven by Mike Slauko would have a tough day chasing a podium but taking home a finish alone at the legendary Mint 400 has him and the team pretty excited. On their escort to the staging area they would experience an electrical issue that would drive up the water temp, luckily once the race was underway the cool morning air would bring it down. Starting next to the 6017, the SOAZ Racing TrophyLite would be able to sneak just in front of him from the start and for the next 20 miles Arciero would be reconstructing the rear bumper of the 6043 as they both would catch the 6010. Mike said, “The first 20 miles is about as much fun racing as I have had. We ran nose to tail with the 10, 17 and 56 and all of us doing our best impression of NASCAR style bump drafting”. Then the 6010 rolled right in front of them putting the 6043 in the front of the pack running in 2nd behind the 6061 who had put some distance between themselves and the group. For the next 3 miles felt just as exciting but the electrical gremlin returned and shut off everything at once forcing them to coast to a parking spot to troubleshoot the issue. With a little bit of luck they were able to get the 6043 to run, just not very well and off to pit B. Some engineering from SOAZ and a driver/co-driver change and they’re off. A veteran of the desert Brent had a great lap and moved up 7 positions all while having a flat and losing the brakes with the exception of the left front. When Mike got back in at pit B on lap 2 and noted the difficulty driving with only one wheel being able to slow you down yet still found a way to move up 2 more spots into 5th position. After a quick pit at main by Wide Open Motorsports now on their way on to lap 3 just before pit B they destroyed their right rear hub. Collin somehow pieced a wheel and axle together enough to get them to the pit. Once again the SOAZ crew performed a miracle repair to help Mike continue to the finish in 9:14:17 for an 8th place finish.
Arciero Motorsports race team was very excited and optimistic to say the least for the 2017 Mint 400. Feeling they had a fast competitive truck at the Parker 425 before drive train issues and were hoping to have a successful run at the Mint 400. The day started with a decent starting position based on a random draw. Brandon said, “Our plan was to get to the front and try and pull away from the hard chargers who started behind us”. It took the FST Sand and Gravel TrophyLite a little longer to than they wanted to get past a couple of vehicles but once they did, “the fun began”. Coming up on several UTVs killed some momentum and then the bright yellow truck of Tony Sato showed up in their mirrors. Feeling like that is not a good sight, especially starting a minute in front of the 6056, it was time to get moving. Tony put on a good charge but encountered a flat while in the dust and the light faded away. Brandon and co-driver Tommy Payne knew a couple more trucks where going to be right behind and charging and they were correct. When pulling into main on lap 1 the 6001 truck was in their mirror, but after getting fuel and heading back out on lap 2 they were told the 6001 left main 5 min after us. Now the 6017 knows they need to utilize that time and try to build on it. Brandon said, “The truck was working and running great and Tommy and I were having a blast until rm90 when the flex plate broke the center and left us dead on the side.” Brandon was so defeated, leading Parker and now this race only to suffer a drive line failure in each race. But after radio call in to BITD retrieval they were able to get a quick tow to main (17 miles away) and the team jumped right in to replace a cracked flex plate that was given to them by Louis and Trophylite. After about 90 minutes the 6017 was back in action and headed out on to the 3rd lap when they were stopped for safety to allow the second race to start. Once all the second race starters left the line Brandon and Tommy were back on course with one goal, finish before the lead Trick Trucks catch them and they did just that. Rounding out the top 10 the 6017 would only receive a Grand Prix finish as they were towed around the finish line that would have completed their lap 2. Brandon said, “The mint 400 beat us again, third year in a row. We will be ready to go the Laughlin race in May”. Because of their determination to cross the finish line, The Arciero Motorsports team picks up the $500 Metro Honda / Metro Acura Hard Charger Award. Congratulations Brandon and the Arciero Motorsports crew.
The continued support of Metro Honda & Metro Acura provides TrophyLite teams with the opportunity to pick up $1000 in extra cash with the Superior Performance and the Hard Charger Awards. If you are considering the purchase of a new vehicle or you can bring in your Honda or Acura for service, be sure to check out Metro Honda / Acura in Montclair or visit www.metrohonda.com.
New TrophyLite owner John Slavic of Bel Ray Beach, Florida would be another new team to join the TrophyLite Race Series and take to the desert. New owner of the old Currie Enterprises TL would get some experience in the desert after taking some driving classes and getting some seat time, this would be his first time on course in a race. John, racing with his sons Jonathan and Elliot would find out just how tough it is to race a course like the Mint and yet held his own out there but would roll the truck on to its roof shortly before the end of the 1st lap. John and his sons would eventually complete the lap but only to receive a Gran Prix finish after the 2nd lap for a 12th place finish. TrophyLite is excited to have John and the Slavic 401k TrophyLite entry join us in the series and hope he and his family continue to do so.
Kevin McKeown in the McKeown Motorsports would have a good race going staying with the leaders for the 1st lap but lap 2 began to have issues of his own. Knocking the skid plate off the differential and eventually losing a bolt in the power steering rack that would end the day the 6028.
Returning TrophyLite House rental team coming all of the way from Brazil, Luis Facco and Felipe Costa would also battle the Mint course and have a rough day out there as well. Lap 1 was pretty uneventful and would the 6009 rental team would be charging with the leaders. But on lap 2 they would scrape the driveline on a rock the size of a bowling ball and have to swap the yoke. Continuing forward to try and complete the lap the transmission side cap exited which sidelined the Brazilian TrophyLite team and eventually a DNF for the Mint 400.
Other DNFs included TrophyLite Veteran Edmundo Chantler who lost a front shock early in the race and then the flex plate on lap 2 which ended their day.
Roland Silva and the OFT Racing team had a good run going and trying to chase down a finish at the Mint for the 3rd year but lost the motor just after 1 lap.
George Mortis in the 6010 TrophyLite rolled his truck early in the race and would go on to finish the 1st lap but would then call it a day.
TrophyLite would like to thank everyone who has come out to race the TrophyLite Race Series and take their shot at the awesome Prize Purse available to them from our great sponsors who are a tremendous help to make this all possible.
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.
Don’t forget to keep up with TrophyLite! Our social media channels are constantly updated with race information, teams activities and promotions.
Facebook: @trophylite (Trophylite Race Series)
We also have a podcast you can listen to and can be found at soundcloud.com/trophylite or in iTunes 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. We will see you at the MINT!
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About TrophyLite – TrophyLite.com
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
Method Race Wheels,
Challenge Financial Services,
Safecraft Safety Equipment,
Metro Honda &
Maxima Racing Oils
Tanimura & Antle
Fast Line Driving School
Southwest Boulder and Stone
Children of the Dirt,
PCI Race Radios,
K&N Filters, and
Photo Credits - Race-Dezert.com, Bobylax & Boyd Photography