Off Road

Justin Lofton leads Mint 400 qualifying, Dustin Jones wins Limited race again

3 Mins read
Credit: Torco Race Fuels

Justin Lofton and Gene Hirst are the only drivers to win the Mint 400 three times. Lofton’s prospects of adding a fourth grew more favourable on Friday when he set the fastest overall time in qualifying.

The winner in 2015, 2016, and 2019, Lofton crushed Friday’s qualifying session when his #41 Unlimited Truck set a time of 3:59.349. He was the only driver in the entire field to surpass the four-minute mark as second-placed Kevin Thompson was at 4:01.770. Defending race winner Rob MacCachren qualified fourth.

“Excited be to starting 1st on our quest for a 4th Mint 400 win,” wrote Lofton on social media. “Truck worked flawlessly this afternoon and have lots of confidence in it for tomorrow race! See everyone at the start line.”

Qualifying was split into two groups, with Unlimited Truck SPEC and Classes 7 and 10 being in the first while Unlimited Truck, Unlimited Truck Legends, and Class 1 comprised the second.

The first group’s session was led by Unlimited Truck SPEC’s Carey Chrisman at 4:23.207. Jeff Proctor, who won the 2019 race in Class 7200, was the only Class 7 driver and therefore claimed its pole; he was the fastest non-Unlimited Truck SPEC entry of the group. Class 10’s top spot was won by Preston Brigman with a time of 4:43.854 as he aims for another Mint win after last doing so in 2020. Bryce Patrick of Class 10 was the only driver to not set a time.

Hailie Deegan, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full-timer in her maiden Mint 400, was twenty-third among the Group #1 qualifiers and twentieth of the Unlimited Truck SPEC drivers. She, Lofton, and MacCachren all possess NASCAR experience, with Lofton having won a Truck Series race in 2012 while MacCachren ran Truck exhibition races prior to the inaugural season in 1995.

Among the Class 1 drivers, James Dean topped the order at 4:10.858. He previously won his class in 2017. Greg Adler was the only driver in Unlimited Truck Legends to go out on a qualifying lap as Robert Malone, the other name in the class, did not.

Credit: VP Racing Fuels

Friday also saw the Limited class race won by Dustin Jones for the second straight year. Jones, who was dirving a Can-Am UTV Pro Turbo, battled with Kristen Matlock and Branden Sims before the former retired from the race after completing two laps. Jones finished over twenty minutes ahead of runner-up Randy Romo for his third career Mint 400 victory, with the first coming in his début in 2015.

In a video posted on the Mint 400’s Instagram account, Jones described the race as like an “eight-hour fistfight for us. It was wild, it was rough.”

The Limited class invites a wide array of vehicles that do not meet regulations to compete in Unlimited, which resulted in plenty of unique entries such as Chad Hall‘s production Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck and Jim York‘s especially bizarre 1999 Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine. York, who ran in the Experimental/Supercar class, failed to finish while Hall was the best performer of the three Stock Production entries. Retired United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance sniper Robert Blanton won the Vintage class for military vehicles ahead of seven others.

Robby Gordon, the 2012 Mint 400 winner and a NASCAR veteran, supported his son Max in the Limited event. However, despite showing quick pace, the younger Gordon’s race ended after three laps when a steering universal joint from the electric power steering to the steering rack broke; mechanical gremlins also doomed the team’s efforts in 2020 and 2021. Gordon has long been adamant about the faults in electric power steering for off-road vehicles, hence why his SPEED UTV brand instead utilises hydraulic power steering in its vehicles.

Saturday will see the Motorcycle, Youth, and Unlimited races.

Qualifying results (top 5 per class)

Unlimited Truck

141Justin Lofton3:59.349Leader
270Kevin Thompson4:01.770+ 2.421
332Ryan Arciero4:05.014+ 5.665
41Rob MacCachren4:05.277+ 5.928
57Dale Dondel4:08.644+ 9.295

Unlimited Truck Legends

1L65Greg Adler4:16.627Leader
2L13Robert MaloneDNSN/A

Unlimited Truck SPEC

16148Carey Chrisman4:23.207Leader
2224Terry Householder4:25.446+ 2.239
3275Brent Fox4:26.921+ 3.714
4219Justin Blower4:29.650+ 6.442
5246James Scully4:35.666+ 12.459

Class 1

1175James Dean4:10.858Leader
2172Cole Barbieri4:11.093+ .235
3103Adam Lunn4:12.305+ 1.447
4167Loren Healy4:18.398+ 7.540
5162Nicholas Carolan4:24.712+ 13.854

Class 7

1709Jeff Proctor4:30.360Leader

Class 10

11075Preston Brigman4:43.854Leader
21004Cade Garcia4:52.074+ 8.220
31022Timothy Craig4:55.199+ 11.345
41009Johnny Gould4:59.333+ 15.479
51044Mark Lewis5:22.181+ 1:18.327

Limited race results (top 20)

1T978Dustin JonesUTV Pro Turbo7:54:22.811
2T974Randy RomoUTV Pro Turbo8:15:43.102
3T850Bruce BinnquistUTV Pro Turbo8:17:10.308
4T898Joe TerranaUTV Pro Turbo8:17:32.565
5T1913Branden SimsUTV Pro Turbo8:21:37.436
61434Joey DiazClass 14508:28:00.479
72911Tadamitsu NiihoriUTV Pro Unlimited8:30:34.285
8T919Brandon SchuelerUTV Pro Turbo8:38:07.318
9T815Ryan PiplicUTV Pro Turbo8:39:14.060
10T902Evan StriplinUTV Pro Turbo8:41:23.103
11S2975Travis ZollingerUTV Pro Unlimited Single Seat8:47:49.869
121407Roy TomkinsClass 14508:53:48.332
13T991Sierra RomoUTV Pro Turbo9:09:51.353
141925Zach SizeloveUTV Pro NA9:10:16.617
156086Clayton SullivanTrophyLite9:14:45.697
16998Cameron OrnelasUTV Pro Unlimited9:18:03.356
17T961Nate HaleUTV Pro Turbo9:21:43.647
181957Ethan EbertUTV Pro NA9:22:47.685
191995Kaden WellsUTV Pro NA9:23:33.362
202927Trey GibbsUTV Pro Unlimited9:26:42.482

Full qualifying and Limited race results are available on the Mint 400 website.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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