Off Road

Eric Hardin survives for 2023 Mint 400 triumph

3 Mins read
Credit: Mint 400

Last year, The Checkered Flag called the 2022 Mint 400 a “test of reliability” as every leader was knocked out by mechanical trouble until Kyle Jergensen held on for the win. Fast forward to 2023, and the carnage continued with Jergensen as one of the victims.

Saturday’s Mint 400 Unlimited race saw multiple frontrunners eliminated by mechanical trouble, which Rob MacCachren suggested was a byproduct of pushing the vehicle too hard in the first two laps. MacCachren was among those knocked out during said stretch with a transmission failure.

Every driver in the top five overall in qualifyingJustin Lofton, Jergensen, Dale Dondel, Ryan Arciero, and Tim Herbst—failed to finish, with Dondel being taken out almost immediately due to a hard landing off the very first jump. Said jump had also presented problems during the Limited race on Friday that resulted in officials urging competitors to bypass it when they start the next lap. Arciero, who was leading the 2022 Mint when truck problems struck, exited with a broken U-joint in his transmission.

Amid the chaos, Eric Hardin inherited the lead after Kevin Thompson‘s truck broke down on lap three and, despite fears of his transmission coming apart in the last twenty miles, held on to beat Christian Sourapas with a time of 6:46:37, over twelve minutes and forty-two seconds ahead. Sourapas was filling in for his father Steve, who had a medical situation prior to the weekend, and walked away with a runner-up despite having last raced a fully-fledged Trophy Truck in 2020 (he mainly competed in Spec truck models)

“I couldn’t be more humbled to able to honour my dad yesterday with a podium finish,” said Sourapas on Sunday. “I know he wanted to race so bad, so doing well for him meant the world to me.

“I couldn’t have done it without the amazing people who’ve supported me even during the hard, no fun times. It’s truly those individuals who give me the confidence and belief that I can still run with the best of the best and belong up front. I’m forever greatful.”

Adam Householder finished behind the two to win Class 1 after leading the overall on lap one. Dustin Grabowski was the highest finisher in the Unlimited Truck SPEC class. Householder extended his lead in the Unlimited Off-Road Racing Triple Crown Championship after also winning the first leg at King of the Hammers in February.

Akira Miura, three-time winner of the Dakar Rally’s T2 category and class runner-up in the 2023 race, retired after three laps when mechanical failure struck his Unlimited Truck SPEC. Also retiring among Miura’s classmates was a major scare when Patrick Gailey‘s truck burst into flames after its power steering pump broke, resulting in burns to his hands that necessitated an airlift to hospital for treatment. Gailey has remained upbeat since as he begins recovery, while co-driver Scott Whipple escaped the fire without injury.

Long after the leaders had departed the area, the Class 10 of Josh Burns stole the show as the last car on track once the start line closed in the evening. He was marred by multiple flat tyres throughout the fourth and final lap before a constant-velocity joint in his car broke with just five miles remaining, prompting a lengthy repair process until the death blow was dealt via a damaged transmission. While Burns would have been classified as a retirement regardless of whether he finished as it was well after the finish was closed, his Herculean effort drew praise from fans and those who stayed behind in the late hours, including a motivated PCI Race Radios communications team and workers who kept the Gonzo Pit (located fifty-seven miles into the ninety-four-mile course) open beyond its closing time for him.

While Burns came up short, YouTube personality and former NASCAR driver CJ Faison overcame a third-lap flip and broken belt to be the last competitor to reach the finish. Roy Tomkins, the final truck classified in the order, ran in the top three until a rear main seal leak struck.

“So much for my début in a spec TT, finished dead last,” Tomkins quipped.

Earlier in the day, Dalton Shirey won the Motorcycle race for the third time in four years with Dave Kamo as team-mate. The two also claimed the 2022 edition.

“The course was super fun, and that made it easy on the body, so I’m feeling great and not too tired,” commented Shirey. “The bike is in one piece, nothing too crazy. I had one little mistake in the infield, but other than that, it was a good day.”

Unlimited class winners

ClassOverall FinishNumberDriverTime
Class 132172Cole Barbieri9:45:55.845
Class 10201003Nick May8:21:33.073
Class 6800466817Troy Stone8:19:03.192*
Class 722709Ethan Ebert8:24:32.208
Class 868800Wyatt Wyllie1:58:16.673*
Ultra4 4400 Unlimited604482Cole Johnson5:11:32.616*
Unlimited Truck179Eric Hardin6:46:37.651
Unlimited Truck Legends15L65Thomas Fichter7:55:33.844
Unlimited Truck SPEC5272Dustin Grabowski7:13:43.395
* – Did not complete every lap or full distance not required for class

Moto class winners

ClassOverall FinishNumberRiderTime
0–200cc Pro79P383Piper WellsDNF*
0–200cc Sportsman72S360Nicholas Krizman7:24:15.068*
201–300cc Pro4P227Tate Dyer8:39:40.862
201–300cc Sportsman9S267Jordan Sobey7:35:31.718*
1975–1982 Sportsman60V110Taylor Baker3:42:03.480*
1983–1995 Sportsman58V269Victor Borg2:35:10.097
Adventure Bike Sportsman54A112Jordan Huibregtse3:17:23.623*
Hooligan Sportsman56H22Mark Atkins3:25:26.413*
Ladies Pro36W1Krista Conway7:40:598.184*
Open Iron Sportsman6I1Reed Christensen7:28:11.605*
Open Pro1P1Dalton Shirey7:34:04.346
Open Sportsman5S16Coleman Westbay9:06:43.206
Over 30 Sportsman7300James Justin Shultz7:29:56.395*
Over 40 Sportsman8401Stephen Berger7:34:08.711*
Over 50 Sportsman12525Marcus McManus7:56:00.980*
Over 60 Sportsman30656Cortney Whipple9:07:20.633*
Scrambler Sportsman55SC001Mikey Hill23:20:51.482*

Short course/Junior class winners

Class 11 Short Course1157Blake Wilkey
Youth 170O158Declan Shields
Youth 250Y237Jacob Williamson
Youth 570Y531Evan Atkins
Youth 1000Y1088George Llamosas
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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