For the first time since 1976, the legendary BF Goodrich Tires Mint 400 desert race included motorcycles and the revived race provided a stunning show befitting a Las Vegas production.
Brabec, Norman Win Mint 400
From the technical inspection/contingency row near Fremont Street in downtown Vegas to persuading J.N Roberts (winner of the first Mint in 1967 teamed with world-class motocrosser Gunnar Lindstrom of Sweden on a Husqvarna) to be Grand Marshal and wave the green flag, the Mint—round two of Best in the Desert’s American Off-road Racing Series—offered unmatched atmosphere.
As for the racing itself, it couldn’t have been much better. Rain earlier in the week helped minimize dust in most areas of the 80-mile loop that included many parts of previous races like the Whiskey Pete’s Hare & Hound World Championship, the Las Vegas 400 and the Henderson 250 as well as local MRAN events.
And with less dust to contend with, it allowed for closer racing, the battle for the lead being especially exciting between Off-road Support/TBT Racing Kawasaki’s Jacob Argubright (who wanted to go it alone), the Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda duo of Ricky Brabec and Kendall Norman, and Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Justin Morgan and Mark Samuels.
After getting the holeshot in the unusual (for a BITD race) “land-rush” start, Brabec tried to break away in the first team outing for the new Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Maxxis-backed CRF450X, but Argubright stuck right with him on his Kawasaki of Simi Valley/Golden Tyre/Fly Racing-sponsored KX450 with Morgan quickly slotting the Monster Energy/STI Tires/Maxima CRF450X into third.
It didn’t take long for those three to move away from the rest of the 160-strong motorcycle field, Argubright shocking many by being able to poke his way into the lead on a few occasions.
“On the first lap, I could kind of tell the pace,” the Kawasaki-mounted privateer explained. “They were laughing at me. In Texas [at the last National hare & hound], I said I was going to slow the pace down—‘I’m going to get in front and slow it down’—and I did that a couple times [today]. I really took it easy and I tried to save it for the last lap because I knew it would be a sprint—and it was! I just came up a little short.”
Indeed, the last lap saw Brabec make one last push after Norman handled the second lap.
“Jake kept us on our toes,” Brabec said. “Jake rode really awesome, but I knew from what Kendall had told me when he got off the bike at the end of the second [lap], he said, ‘Hey, it’s getting rough out there—be smart!’
“For me, being a bigger guy—Jake’s also pretty tall and thick like myself—but I was fresh so I knew I just had to hammer down and just take the bumps, let the back start burning and hold on.”
Brabec motored on that final lap and crossed the finish line after four hours, 53 minutes and 24 seconds with Argubright stopping the clock at 4:54:32—probably the largest gap between them all day.
Afterwards, Brabec declared, “When I was riding back in 2010, 2009, I thought how cool Kendall was. I would always want to be on JCR Honda, and for us to be teamed up in this legendary Mint 400 (the first time the two had ever partnered in a race) the first year the bikes are back and win it, this is going in the books for sure! I think Kendall and I and Johnny are going to take this memory and hold it with us forever.”
The Morgan/Samuels team also finished under five hours with their 4:56:00, Morgan sharing, “I know in a few sections my speed was good; I actually gained a little time in a few sections, and kind of went back and forth. But those teams [ahead of us] are really good; those guys are awesome. Ricky and Kendall’s bike is very similar to ours from what I know. We’re definitely going to refine the suspension a little bit and make a couple more adjustments [before our next race]. Top gear was a little high going uphill in the sand washes, but everywhere else it was perfect.”
Purvines Racing Yamaha’s Axel Pearson and Tallon Taylor teamed up to do the race on their own and ended up fourth in 5:09:25 followed by Cooper Motorsports 747 Honda-mounted Danny Cooper/Kyle Tichenor/Justin Wallis in 5:14:00 while Chidester Transport Racing/JS Buchanan Trucking Yamaha’s Brody Honea/Tuffy Pearson/Troy Vanscourt came in sixth overall.
Larry Roeseler, Ty Davis, Kellon Walch Win Mint 400 Over-30 Pro
Legends Ty Davis, Larry Roeseler and Kellon Walch divvied up the course in smaller chunks between them on a Team Green/Dunlop/Braking KX450. With Walch the youngest, they had to ride Over 30 Pro and did a tremendous job in winning the class and taking seventh overall.
The oldest of the crew, Roeseler was one of the few in the entire field who’d raced the ’76 Mint. He said, “When I heard they were going to have bikes back, I found out right away and I immediately said, ‘Okay, I’m going to ride this one way or another!’ ”
Hayden Hintz/Jeff Trulove/Sage Vincent finished seventh Open Pro and eighth overall on their KTM with Jason Alosi/Wyatt Brittner/Taylor Stevens ninth and Over 30 Pro runners-up Carl Maassberg/Jason Trubey rounding out the top 10 overall.