The 2023 Mint 400 may go down as one of the most exciting and unpredictable races in its storied history. Many believed the course would be smoother and faster than ever with a weather-beaten desert track. That was not the case and the routes were fast but rough. The 2023 Mint 400 quickly became a contest of attrition. Leaderboards changed constantly through the race as some of the biggest names in the sport were forced to retire early. Off Road Xtreme has the race highlights, video recap, and photo gallery to show you how it played out in the sin city desert.
2023 Mint 400 Limited Race
A cool and overcast Friday morning welcomed drivers as the competitor grid took shape. Staged two-by-two, the field stretched back for what seemed like forever with over 250 vehicles ready to hit the course. The Class 5 cars were the first to take the green flag and drag race down the opening straight away.
For more than a few racers throughout the weekend, the end of that first straight would be about as far as they would make it. Many drivers’ race ended in less than a dragstrips distance from the start. And for the drivers that made it out of the infield, they were still facing 400 miles of brutal terrain between them and a finish.
Battle Of The UTV Classes
The overall win for the limited race was sure to go to a UTV, but whatever class that would wind up taking it was still up for question. As the times came in for lap one, it was still anybody’s race with four different classes in the adjusted top five. One name did stand out though, Joe Terrana, setting the fastest lap of the entire race on his first time around.
As the laps clicked down, Terrana kept up his fast pace as some of the biggest names in UTV racing fell into struggles on the course. But the race was far from over, and Bruce Binquest was charging hard and making up time. Mitch Guthrie Jr. was also only a few minutes behind and laying down very consistent times.
Crossing The Line
As the sun set around the Primm Valley, racers started to come across the line for the final time. Ryan Piplic was the first across the line in his UTV Pro 100. But his class had an early start and would have to wait to see if his time of 7 hours and 50 minutes would hold up for the overall Limited Class victory. Soon after Piplic arrived, Bruce Binnquist in his Pro Turbo came through the finish. His fast last lap put him ahead of Piplic as the new overall leader.
Bruce had started 15 minutes before Joe Terrana, who was the next car pinging on the tracker nearing the finish line. This meant Terrano would only need to bring it home within that window for the win. When Joe lit the flames of the finish line, it became clear who was the overall winner of the 2023 Mint 400 Limited Race. Finishing over a minute ahead of Binnquest on time, 22-year-old Joe Terrana had earned the overall victory for Can-Am in the Pro Turbo class.
“Las Vegas is my hometown, so this is my favorite race of the year. Last year was my first time doing it, and I had a blast, so we came back to do it again. I’m so excited. Looking up to all these big-name guys out here, coming out here and putting a beating on them is so exciting and fun.” – Joe Terrana – UTV Pro Turbo class
Ryan Piplic would hold on to a class win in his PR-100 RZR and third overall. Garrick Lastra piloted his Can-Am Pro Unlimited to fourth overall, leading his class. Mitch Guthrie also took his class, UTV Pro Open with a 6th overall. Four classes all mixed into the top six spots truly shows just how competitive the UTV divisions are compared to one another.
The Other Limited Classes
When looking at the top-ten finishers, we have to recognize Vincent Munoz in his 1450 truck. Vincent drove his MCC Racing Ford Ranger door slammer to an incredible seventh overall. Bradley Wilson was another highlight in the overall standing in his Class 12 car bringing home a ninth-place overall finish.
The Mint 400 course is brutal, and finishing is a victory in and of itself. To check out all the drivers that earned the finisher medal, you can check out the official Mint 400 race results.
2023 Mint 400 Unlimited Qualifying
While the limited cars were battling it out on the main course, the unlimited rigs lined up for their 4.2-mile qualifying runs. With multiple road jumps, fast straights, and short track-style infield sections, the drivers would have to battle hard to earn their starting positions. As the drivers pushed through the course, it was clear the all-wheel-drive (AWD) trucks held the advantage.
Justin Lofton was the fastest driver of the day earning the solo start on the pole. His time of 3 minutes and 41 seconds was over six seconds ahead of another AWD truck driven by last year’s Mint 400 winner, Kyle Jergensen. Rounding out the second row, Dale Dondel put down a great run as well, securing the third-fastest time.
Reminding everyone how fast he is in his buggy, James Dean pulled a fifth overall starting spot. In the Spec trucks, Brent Fox set the pace for the class. Next to him at the start would be Nick Isenhouer in his Heatwave Visual steel-cab Ford F-150. The short qualifying course seemed to favor the AWD trucks and big power, but with over 400 miles of desert to cross, we would have to wait and see what combination would win out.
Racing Hard From The Start
Much like the day before, the weather on Saturday proved to be ideal desert racing conditions. It was going to be a very fast pace once the racers hit the track. But before that, it was time for the Mint 400 grid walk. With fans all checking out their favorite race rigs and chatting with their pilots, it is another amazing part of the Mint experience. But as the start time came closer, the fans left the track and the trucks roared to life to take their starting positions.
When the green flag fell, Justin Lofton ripped off the line, taking full advantage of his solo start and heading around the short course and into the open desert. Next out was Jergensen and Dondel, drag racing for position down the straight. But at the end of that straight was the same hill that claimed several racers on day one. Dale Dondel fell to the same fate as many of the limited cars overcooking the jump and his hope at victory.
As the pairs of trucks took the flag, the battles continued. Harley Letner earned some body damage fighting BJ Baldwin through the first turn. Bj would take more than just body damage and have to retire on lap one due to the carnage from that early battle. Another great race ensued between Rob MacCachren and Robert Johnston which looked more like a short course duel rather than the early moments of a 400-mile race.
Battle Of Attrition
Kyle Jergensen felt the sting of the Mint 400 course early on as well. Less than 20 miles in, he caught a flat and fell back into the pack. More big names would start to fall from contention as well during the first lap. Ryan Arciero would have to take another DNF as his streak of Mint 400 bad luck continued.
As the adjusted times came in for lap one, Adam Householder was leading the field, looking to repeat his big win from King of the Hammers. He would have his hands full with Tim Herbst and MacCachren both only 8 seconds behind him. The trucks battled around the second lap, and several groups could be seen running tight and moving at blistering paces only seconds apart.
When adjusted times came in for lap two, they showed an amazing fight for the lead. The top three led by Tim Herbst were separated by only 12 seconds. Adam Householder was now in 2nd and Lofton had fought his way back to 3rd. Soon after starting that lap, Adam’s #24 truck would lose a driveshaft and also precious minutes to on-track repairs. Rob MacCachren was another to suffer a driveline failure that was unable to be repaired and his race came to a premature end.
2023 Mint 400: Race To The Finish
As the race wound down, a new leader emerged. Eric Hardin was maintaining a good pace and taking full advantage of the other drivers’ misfortune. Clocking a top speed of 147 mph across the lakebed, he was pushing hard to keep his lead. Keeping that lead is exactly what he did. Eric Hardin crossed the line first to earn the biggest victory of his career and became the winner of the 2023 Mint 400.
“Oh my gosh, the course was insane. At first, I thought it might be smoother like some of the other courses have been, because of the rain we’ve been having, but that wasn’t the case. The Martelli Brothers did an awesome job like they always do. It was a super fast course, but super technical, which makes it really fun.” – Eric Hardin – Unlimited Truck class
Christian Sourapas earned a 2nd place finish, by time, with Adam Householder taking the last podium spot. Adam’s strong finish means the fight for the Triple Crown will be between him and Hardin. This will all have to be concluded at the California 300 later this year. Dustin Grabowski was the first Spec Truck across the line repeating his class win from KOH.
Overall, this year’s race was an absolute battle. This was the kind of race that you will hear recanted in stories for years to come. Congratulations to Eric Hardin and all the finishers from the 2023 Mint 400. Stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme for more race coverage and news on the hunt for the 2023 Off-Road Racing Triple Crown.