2016 Mint 400 Race Re-Cap
Alex and Dave ran super fast all day until a mechanical issue slowed us to 50% power on the last lap resulting in a second place finish.
The whole story:
Coming off a big win at the Parker race, the pressure was on from the moment we got home. GHA dominated at Parker, but the truck paid for it dearly.
The preparation list for the Mint was long and tedious. Dolores was reaching her 3000 mile mark and many items were due for replacement or repair. Front lower arms/uprights, spindle snouts, shock shafts, third member, diff housing, etc etc. The list was excruciatingly long and we had minimal time to get it done.
We faced many challenges and worked many tireless nights to get her done. Alex, Dave, Mike, Garrett, and new guy Jr were a huge help….thanks guys.
Several times, it seemed just as things started to go smoothly we would have another setback. If you happened to be as superstitious as I am, you would have wanted to quit from all the “signs” saying “don’t go”!! However, we took each hurdle as it came and kept plugging away. Even when it came time to test, the weather was against us with 40+mph winds and 10′ visibility!! We were only able to test about 15 miles or so…..which fortunately we did because those few miles did reveal a couple gremlins. The next day we were back at it, testing into the night. We were able to give her a few hard shakedown passes and we felt we were ready to go. Believe me I could go on and on about all the set backs we had, I can only say that Alex and the rest of the guys were great about stepping up when needed and doing whatever it took to get us to the race, including the guys from Camburg, Jason, Russell, Dave, Jonathan, Scott, and all the rest. What a great bunch of guys….thanks again for all your help.
All the way up until the last day, we had challenges. Alex actually had a bug fly into his eye while driving Dolores onto the trailer, resulting in an optometrist visit the day before the race!! I even had to repair the diff drain plug while the truck was on the trailer already loaded and ready to go!! (Oh I probably forgot to mention that to Alex)
Finally, we made it to Vegas and we were ready to go through tech and contingency. Everything went smooth aside from another setback when Garrett went to get the trailer and the chase truck had a flat tire!!! Arghhh! We got that handled and had our team dinner and finalized our pit strategy and got some rest.
The afternoon race starts are nice because they give us time to get ready at the pit and put the last minute touches on the truck, but the anticipation builds to the point that it’s nearly unbearable, pacing and waiting around for the race to start.
Alex and Dave finally get in the race at 1:07pm. It’s a side by side start and their competitor, Smiley takes the lead. Their team cheers them on loudly, and a couple guys I was with seemed a little bummed that we were now in second place. I quietly said to myself, “no problem, I know we will run them down”.
We returned to main pit and began tracking them on the pc. It looked as if there was a fierce battle going on for the top 3 spots. Apparently our guys had gotten into the lead at one point, per Alex and Dave, however a flat forced them to relinquish the lead. Dave quickly changed it and they were back in the hunt.
During contingency another competitor, Dave Kleiman approached me asking if I was driving tomorrow, I said no Alex was. I pointed out Alex and then Dave Kleiman went and told Alex that he would be coming for him and that Alex would need to push the pace. What he did not know is that Alex, Dave and myself had already discussed our race strategy and the other competitors were not a factor in our planning. The strategy was for us to run OUR pace….reason being, 6196 has not been passed on the road when running strong, and we intended to keep it that way. We had decided that if another competitor were to pass us while we are running strong, there is no way they could maintain that pace without making a critical mistake or without suffering a catastrophic failure….as was the case with the Kleiman truck as they were broken on the first lap and a resulting DNF. About halfway through the first lap 6196 recaptured the lead and held it through the first lap.
As we waited for them to come through for their first pit stop, the crew had a quick meeting so that everyone could understand exactly what to do. We then broke off into smaller groups so that the guys could finalize the strategy down to the finest details.
This planning resulted in a super clean pit stop of 47 seconds for fuel and a new spare tire put in the rear carrier. The crew looked liked a well oiled machine during this stop.
The boys began and finished their second lap uneventfully. They were doing work and had settled in. Calmly calling out mile markers periodically. At one point more than one person came up to me and said “is the tracker working properly because I don’t see anyone around them” I verified this information with eyes on the ground and at one point we had about a 12-14 mile lead. I finally got on the radio and told the Alex and Dave: let’s chill out a little you guys need to finish the race and you have a commanding lead.
Second pit stop we needed to replace rear tires and fuel the truck. Again, we had our crew meeting and the guys finalized the plan down to the smallest details. We got the guys in and out with fuel and tires in just over a minute and a few seconds. 1:07 if you need to know.
So here we are going into the third lap of the Mint 400 with a commanding lead. Could we actually win the Mint 400? The biggest off road race in the United States? Talk about a nail biter.
Myself, I had to just stay busy and try not to think to much because at this point it was up to Alex and Dave. All of this was giving me anxiety and making my heart beat.
Approximately 50 miles from the finish:
“Race to chase- do you copy?”
“Go ahead race, we copy”
“We have a problem, we’re losing engine power”
Yep. That’s how it started and ended. With about 50 miles remaining in the Mint 400, Dolores suffered a hit to one of her exhaust pipes reducing her power by about 50%. We did not now the source of the low power problem and we were racking our brains trying to think of a solution. The guys nursed her to the finish, but not before being passed by 6119 Sourapas, which left us in second place. Shame on me for not having the guys pull into pit B and have somebody cut the exhaust off with a sawzall….I even remember stating jokingly “maybe the catalytic converter is plugged”. Learned something the hard way I guess.
I guess I’m ok with a second place finish. We had so many challenges heading into this race it really would have been easy to just say forget it lets not go….frankly it was even mentioned a few times. But if it’s easy is it even worth doing? We fought till the bitter end and boy was it bittersweet.
Most people have been saying “congrats! Second is awesome!”
It’s not though. Once you’ve tasted victory, nothing else will suffice.
Our crew is awesome! It’s hard to imagine 20 guys that all get along great, no attitudes, no one is better than anyone else, everyone jumps in to help-including helping other teams when needed. I can’t thank all of our team enough! There is no way we could do this without you guys. Everyone has a safety first attitude and we really have an outstanding group of guys. Thank you guys.
So back to the drawing board and we’ll be doing a post race damage assessment this week.
I will say that although we are in a fantastic points position to make a run at the championship again, we are not going to.
Next stop Baja 500.