Lofton Earns Back-to-Back Mint 400 Wins
The top dogs in the off-road racing world duked it out Saturday for roughly 350 miles to earn the win at the biggest off-road race in the U.S. This year it was Justin Lofton who returned to defend last year’s victory and earn the overall win for the second consecutive year
Lofton, who was this year’s top qualifier for the Mint 400, held the physical lead for the first lap and heading into the second, but it was actually Jason Voss who was ahead on corrected time, and he was only 16 seconds ahead of second-place Rob MacCachren. Bryce Menzies, Lofton, Lalo Laguna, Jesse Jones, and Andy McMillin were all within 1 minute and 30 seconds of each other, so it was still a tight battle for the overall win.
By the end of lap two, the two Las Vegas locals, Bryce Menzies and Rob MacCachren, had moved into the lead, but now MacCachren was ahead on time. Primm is like a backyard for both racers, so it would take a mistake by one of them for the other to take the lead.
The third lap at the Mint is always the most challenging for the Trick Trucks because the course is beat up, nasty, and you have to deal with the dust and lapped traffic. Menzies started having mechanical problems that eventually led to a DNF and let Lofton regain the physical lead. MacCachren also started having a few issues, which caused him to fall back some.
At about the halfway point on the final lap Lofton led Andy McMillin by roughly two-and-a-half minutes. “We knew we needed to make up quite a bit of time,” McMillin said after the race. “I put the pedal down and let it all hang out.”
In the last 50 miles of the race, McMillin was able to take back almost two minutes on time, but when all was said and done Justin Lofton was crowned the 2016 Mint 400 by only 42 seconds.
“We had a race from the moment the green flag dropped,” said Lofton. “The level of competition with Bryce Menzies, Andy McMillin, Jason Voss and Rob MacCachren is unbelievable and they all have top-notch programs. So you can’t count on them breaking; you gotta hope for that one rock that’s sticking out to get ‘em or something like that.
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Lofton said that overall the day was trouble-free.
“We didn’t have any trouble at all really,” he said. “The only thing that really came into play was not anticipating these guys being so quick and pit strategy. They can carry a little more fuel than us, and Bryce only pitted once and we pitted three times so that’s where he got by us. We ran right behind him from there and that little bit of rain we had last night really made for a great race and kept the dust down. It made it a lot of fun and we could really run; I’d bet all the other guys would say the same. We drove for everything we had and we left it all out there, it came right down to the wire.”
Lapped traffic is often an issue on the later laps, but Lofton noted that the top-qualifying spot meant he was the first Trick Truck to run into the slower traffic, so essentially he helped clear the way for the field.
“The traffic on the first lap really came into play,” he said. “Usually when you catch those guys they know a bunch more of us are coming and pull over and let us all by, so I had to do all the work there and the rest of the field benefited. If that wasn’t an issue I don’t know if they ever would've caught us. I just am glad I was able to pull it off for Fox shocks, Jimco and BFGoodrich.”
Lofton was especially excited that he defended his win at last year’s race.
“It’s pretty cool to go back to back,” he said. “I told all my guys on my team, let’s make it a ritual: if we’re going to win one race a year and I hope we win more this year but let’s win the Mint every year. These guys give it their all and it’s pretty much 100% volunteer team. They leave their heart out there and I do my best to give them that win.”
Finishing just behind McMillin, and having his best finish to date in Trick Truck at the Mint, was Jason Voss, who rounded out the top three on the podium.
“We stuck with our strategy for the race and it almost paid off,” said Voss at the finish. “When we were at the start line we were looking at the competition and there wasn’t anyone that was going to hold anyone up, and no one that was going to clearly run away from anyone. So we weren’t going to try and go out and try to make any crazy passes on anyone, but we were going to do our best to chase ‘em down. So we stayed tight to them.
Voss was patient in his approach but still had to push the pace. He looked for any opportunity to move up the field during the three-lap race.
“Right off the start we got Jones and then we got Andy with a flat tire,” he said. “From there we ran them down and were in the lead on time. At some point on the second lap we broke a header, and at first thought we lost the engine but it was fine. From then on it was back and forth with the pit strategy between the three of us. Justin just had a clean run – congrats to him and getting it back to back.”
Cody Parkhouse of Long Beach, California, took top honors in Class 1500, covering three laps in 5 hours, 56 minutes, 42 seconds, beating out second place Sam Baldi by slightly more than five minutes, according to unofficial results. Scott Bailey took third place, crossing the finish line 14 seconds after Baldi.
“Right off the start we hole-shotted Pat Dean and we were first on the road in our class,” said Cody Parkhouse, who started the race. “From there we just tried to run a clean race until I handed it off to my dad. We had picked off a few trucks and put a good gap on the guys behind us.”
Brian Parkhouse took over for the second half of the race, an he praised his team and vehicle for the victory.
“This thing is just a tank,” Parkhouse said. “We just drove it around at a good pace. It’s fast and handles amazing. These Jimco’s just work so well. An 18-minute lead says it all.”
One of the coolest features of this year’s Mint 400 was the addition of the vintage class, which brought some of the Mint’s past to the present. The vast differences in technology and progression in contrast to what we have today was a sight to see. One particular vehicle that stood out amongst them with its history was the Challenger 4 that was once driven by legend Mickey Thompson. The car was recovered and meticulously restored by Rory Ward of Mohave Valley, AZ.
Thompson had campaigned the car at the Mint a few times, never with any success, but Ward would fulfill Thompson’s vision and gave the single -seat CH4 its first win and in the race for which it was built.
“We had a very eventful day,” Ward said. “First lap was going well until I tagged a rock half the size of the front tire and broke a wheel. The tire was still good but lost all the air out of it. On the second lap same thing – was watching my mirrors for the Class 10 cars and slammed into another rock and knocked the air out of the tire.
Hitting rocks is one thing, but then engine trouble looked to complete derail Ward’s quest to get the CH4 on the podium.
“Then about five miles before the finish the car sputtered to a stop,” he said. “I had burned up a fuel pump but lost all my tools at a tire change (another story). It took about 45 minutes to fix and then needed 5 gallons of fuel to get to the finish. I thought for sure we had lost it but it turns out luck was on our side. We dedicated our win to Mickey and Trudy Thompson who were murdered almost 28 years ago this week. We hope we made the Thompson family proud with this win.”
BITD now moves on to a new venue and new race for its schedule when it rolls into Laughlin, Nevada, for the Method Race Wheels Laughlin Desert Classic on May 5th through the 8th. Be sure to check back with Off-Road.com for more coverage of the 2016 BITD season.
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