Banning Motorsports had a busy week at The General Tire Mint 400, presented by Polaris in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition to race day itself, the “Great American Race” is packed with special events and happenings all week. The festivities began with qualifying on Thursday. The #1123 car of Ali Banning, Fernie Padilla, Bradley McFarlin and Cory Boyer was fastest; earning the first starting position on race day.
The #1178 car with Brian Folks, Rick Graf, Ryan Marley and Alan Dillemuth was right behind with the second fastest time so the two Banning cars would start first and second. The class 10 car was subject to a starting position draw. They were picked to start 25th out of over 30 cars entered.
After their success at qualifying, the team headed down town to Fremont street to display one of their cars and meet their race fans. They handed out tons of hero cards and cans of Troop Fuel energy drink. A percentage from the sale of each can of Troop Fuel goes back to support the troops. Our brave soldiers defend our freedoms and keep us all safe, Banning Motorsports is proud to support them. They allow us to pursue happiness and for Banning Motorsports, happiness is off-road racing.
Friday, the team had all three cars down on Fremont Street for contingency. The drivers are signed up for the race and the cars get a safety inspection before the event. The cars are pushed through the street with vendors and sponsors booths lined up on both sides of the street. Contingency takes on the form of a street fair allowing friends, fans and passer’s by to see the cars up close and talk to the racers. After contingency the team made their way to the main pits to take care of last minute preparations and sit down to their traditional home made spaghetti dinner.
The Mint 400 is split into two heat races. The class 11 cars would run in heat one in the morning. The class 10 would run with the fastest cars and trucks in heat two later in the day. The first heat would stage at 5:30 am for a 6:00 am start. As the chase teams headed out to the remote pit areas, the #1123 car started first and was out of sight in no time. The #1178 car was next with the rest of the field in hot pursuit.
The Mint 400 course laid out by Casey Folks was everything a racer would expect; dusty, rocky and very rough. The #1123 car led until they encountered the first of several flats for the day. The conditions were impossible for the tires. Due to the dusty conditions and the countless rocks, drivers were just unable to avoid slamming into the rocks that littered the course.
The #1178 took over and led until they also had a flat putting the Wilson car out front. The top three would then battle the entire way on the grueling course to the finish. Wilson held on for the win but the #1178 took 2nd and the #1123 followed in 3rd. “Another successful race with two cars on the podium was a great feet and we are all very thankful for our results,” said Lee banning after the race.
It’s typically the limited cars that complain about how rough the course gets. Normally the big unlimited cars and trucks start first chewing up the course for the limited racers that follow. This time, circumstances were reversed. By the time the #1023 car of Lee Banning, Lee Banning Jr and Chris Godfrey left the line the course was pulverized. The first heat and the big Trick Trucks that started earlier caused deep ruts that were filled with loose rocks in the bottom. To make matters worse, the slight breeze that did little to move the dust away in the first heat had disappeared, the dust was now blinding.
“We ran strong the first part of the race but just after clearing pit 1 we had a front arm break,” said Lee Banning, “With the help of BITD recovery crew made our way back to the pit without going backwards on course. The team was ready to do their magic; repairing the car to get us going again. From the start, we unfortunately missed our mark with chassis adjustments so it was not handling well. We were making adjustments along the way but were falling behind a few but still battling to get to the front. After the second lap, we did a driver change and made additional adjustments. At the completion of lap 3, we decided it was in the best interest of the car and the team to call it a race. We were still way off with the car and felt that in the dark of night and the roughness of the mint course it was best to not push our luck with getting stranded or suffering a crash.”
“The entire team battled valiantly to conquer The Mint 400 course with great success and unfortunately some failure too but we are proud to have been able to compete in this great race, said Lee, “Thanks to all the drivers, our whole chase and support team and all our sponsors and Family members that support and cheer us on as well. The MINT 400 is truly the GREATEST race in the world. After all the hard work and long hours, it was a relief to take the week after the race off to spend time with the family for spring break and Easter.”
Thanks to all of our sponsors; General Tire, Ford Racing, Neo Synthetics, FOX Racing Shox, KC Hilites, Foddrill Motorsports, Weddle Industries, Action Auto, Eibach Springs, Select Glass, P.C.I. Race Radios, MasterCraft Safety and Azuñia Tequila.
Visit www.banningmotorsports.com for more information.
Photo by: Brian Binkert