History was made and Justin Lofton and the Jimco-built Fox Racing Ford took home his third ever BF Goodrich Tires Mint 400 powered by Monster Energy win, marking him as the only driver to ever take it three times. All it took was a little luck and a running truck.
The BF Goodrich Tires Mint 400 powered by Monster Energy is more than just a race, especially in 2019. With the reintroduction of the bikes, the event was now a five-day celebration of open desert racing. This year, since I was shooting alone, I concentrated on the Unlimited Race and the Trick Trucks for qualifying. I had long time friend and fellow photographer, David Karey, working with me last year but he couldn’t make it for 2019.
Doing this as a lone journalist is quite overwhelming but doesn’t mean it wasn’t still fun to do. It did mean I had to pick and choose my spots to try and chase people down.
Time Trials and 4WDs
Time trials, this is where these guys determine where they start in their pairs. Well, save for the driver who qualifies in the number one position. That driver gets to start as the first driver without anyone around them and can play into a huge advantage for those who are able to capitalize on it. Last year, it went to a 1500 Unlimited car driven by Harley Letner. Harley didn’t repeat his time spot claim even in a new vehicle, the Concrete Motorsports Trick Truck (TT) that he shares with Kevin Thompson.
Instead, the top spot went to the 2018 Mint 400 winner, Bryce Menzies in the all-wheel-drive Red Bull Ford he debuted late last year but couldn’t drive in. This was because of a back injury he suffered during a stunt that went a bit wrong just before the Baja 1000. He came back with vengeance and proved that 4WD is a future that’s coming to these “TTs.”
Not that it hasn’t been tried before as we’ve seen Justin Matney in the Geiser-built dual-engine TT and Jesse Jones’ single engine Geiser 4WD, the Mason Motorsports 4WD pair that had Luke Johnson driving one with Team C in 2017, and the 1999 Terrible Herbst/Smith Motorsports Ford that won at the Baja 500 in 2002 and 2003 along with multiple wins and two class championships.
It’s unusual to think about it: why hasn’t there been any other successful 4WDs in the TT classes? It’s obvious that the technology works as Ultra4 4400 builds continue to look closer to Class 1/Class 1500 Unlimiteds in both design and power. Most of the speculation comes from issues with the transfer case, driveline angles with the travel of a TT, and many more, but it might just be simpler than those suggestions.
It’s more parts that can break and ruin a race. In races that can come down to seconds, anything that slows you down isn’t acceptable, and most TT drivers prefer to continue to use what has been proven to work: 2WD. However, it won’t be long. Once Menzies takes a championship or several wins across multiple series in the same truck, teams will act and build more 4WD Trick Trucks/Trophy Trucks.
The Race and How Desert Racing Can Be Fickle
With that much of an advantage, Bryce should have won the 2019 Mint 400, right? For most of the race, it seemed like it was likely but on the time sheets, it was a far closer story than many will admit. The real story was that he and Justin Lofton in the Fox Racing truck were swapping that top spot all day despite not actually being close to each other.
It all came down to that final lap. Menzies had taken a more comfortable lead but suddenly it went wrong. All because of a flat tire. It wasn’t that it was just flat, but he had trouble changing it out. So much so, he eventually gave up and ran to the finish, destroying it and his wheel until it was just the face and beadlock left.
The Winner Is A Repeat, But Makes History
Lofton, meanwhile, cruised into the finish line but he wasn’t determined to be the winner yet. According to the time sheets, another driver snuck up on everyone. The silver fox and long veteran of off-road, Rob MacCachren in the Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford was less than 2:30 back, the exact time he had to finish to take the win from Lofton. He was going to take that Mint 400, until he too blew a tire just a few miles before the finish.
This meant that Justin Lofton, with his little boy watching on the livestream back in his home state of Texas, took his third Mint 400 title and became the first ever driver to take three of them. His first win was back in 2015 and repeated that performance in 2016, now three years later he makes history. He takes home $35,000 in total prizes for the win of the “Great American Off-Road Race” in its 51st year.
A Great Ending to the Mint 400, But A Bigger Story Is Brewing
With Lofton taking the win, Brett Sourapas took home second. However, he took the overall in the opening event for the Best in the Desert Series at the Parker 425 just a few weeks before. His second-place finish puts him sixteen-points ahead of Troy Herbst – who finished in the top ten of the Mint 400 – and nineteen-points ahead of Mint 400 third-place finisher, Jason Voss in the King Shocks Ford.
Meanwhile, Brock Heger in the Method Race Wheels 6100 Truck took the overall at both the Parker 425 and Mint 400, giving him a sixteen-point lead over Taylor Mills in the Mills Motorsports 6100, and a nineteen-point lead over Terry Householder in the Householder 6100.
Finally, in 1500 Unlimited, Cody Parkhouse is capitalizing on his Mint 400 win and racing in the Parker 425 to keep a lead in his class points. He sits at the top with a just a six-point lead over Sam Berri and an eight-point lead over CJ Hutchins. Parker 425 winner and father of Mint 400 winner, Bob Lofton sits in fourth-place in points just thirty-eight-points behind Parkhouse.
It’s only two events of the 2019 Best in the Desert Series, and there are still three races to go for those Unlimited Classes, which includes another legendary and difficult race, the General Tire Casey Folks Vegas to Reno race that’s the “Longest Off-Road Race in the US.” It’s a 550-mile run straight north from Las Vegas to Reno, Nevada in the August heat. A mixed bag of sand, silt, rocks, and dirt; this race is always a challenge for even the best racers in the world.
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