Off Road

Justin Lofton tops Mint 400 qualifying again, Joe Terrana takes Limited race

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Credit: AHBEEF

Justin Lofton‘s quest to become the winningest Mint 400 victor continues into its fourth year, but his 2023 attempt is off to a good start as he beat defending winner Kyle Jergensen by nearly six seconds in qualifying on Friday.

Lofton, the 2015, 2016, and 2019 winner, set a time of 3:41.420 that was 5.8 seconds ahead of Jergensen. Although Lofton was the fastest in qualifying for the 2022 race as well, he was knocked out of contention almost immediately with a tyre puncture, foreshadowing a race that eliminated other leaders upon which Jergensen capitalised.

While Lofton was ahead of Jergensen by six seconds and the latter led Dale Dondel by nearly four, the margins from third onwards was much closer as Dondel held off Ryan Arciero for third by just .017 of a second. Arciero is looking to rebound after leading much of 2022 before his truck lost power.

The Class 1 of James Dean was the highest qualifying non-Unlimited Truck in fifth overall. Christian Sourapas, filling in for his father Steve Sourapas due to a late medical development, qualified fourteenth in his first time racing a traditional Trophy Truck since 2020. Multiple drivers rolled on their qualifying laps, especially due to a jump at the start that prompted others to be urged to avoid it; Kevin Adler‘s flip in front oh him forced Lofton to redo a lap.

In the Limited race that began four hours prior to Unlimited qualifying and subsequently ran concurrently, 22-year-old Joe Terrana won over Bruce Binnquist by just a minute and twelve seconds. Last year’s winner Dustin Jones was twenty-ninth.

The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, a week removed from racing and winning the T3 category at the World Rally-Raid Championship’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, contested the Mint with mixed results. Mitch Guthrie contended with Terrana early on and finished sixth overall, while Dakar Rally winner Austin Jones and Abu Dhabi victor Seth Quintero struggled with mechanical problems

Robby Gordon and his son Max Gordon brought their nascent SPEED UTV brand to the Mint, with the younger scoring a top ten in UTV Pro Unlimited in eighth. Classified three spots behind the elder Gordon, Robert Campbell retired after a bizarre crash in which he landed on his rear bumper, with his UTV facing upwards.

The Limited classes, due to their diversity in vehicles, draws a much bigger crowd than the premier trucks and buggies of the Unlimited event; as such, there were multiple drivers in the field with backgrounds outside racing. For example, Doug Lawler, former CEO of the Chesapeake Energy oil company who currently serves the role at Continental Resources, competed in the Open Sportsman class alongside his brother David Lawler and was fifth in class.

MMA fighter and occasional off-roader Donald Cerrone was twenty-ninth, a day before his five-year-old son Danger Cerrone, the youngest competitor in the field, enters the youth race. Colleagues Chuck Liddell and Cain Velasquez, the former having helped popularise the Ultimate Fighting Championship while latter was a two-time Ultimate Fighting Champion and WWE wrestler, teamed up with John Lynch in Class 5500; Lynch’s team struggled with mechanical issues throughout the day.

For 2023, the Mint introduced Gambler classes for unusual modified vehicles that would ordinarily never see off-road competition. Emme Hall won her Gambler class in a 2001 Mazda Miata nicknamed “Buddy”, while Jim York‘s fan favourite 1999 Lincoln Town Car limousine retired. Gambler entries were only required to complete one lap versus the four for the main categories. Giovanni Niccoli also had a souped-up sports vehicle with a 2005 Porsche Cayenne Turbo nicknamed the “Minted Cayenne” that competed in Open Sportsman but retired after the upright broke and damaged the passenger coil-over and bypass shock.

Two other Limited categories were intended for military vehicles and personnel, with the best finisher overall being Michael McCloskey of the United States Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in a Flyer 72 Ground Mobility Vehicle.

Unlimited qualifying results (top 5 per class)

Unlimited Truck

PositionNumberDriverTimeMargin
141Justin Lofton3:41.420Leader
2127Kyle Jergensen3:47.237+ 5.817
3100Dale Dondel3:50.646+ 9.227
432Ryan Arciero3:50.664+ 9.244
519Tim Herbst3:51.195+ 9.775

Unlimited Truck Legends

PositionNumberDriverTimeMargin
1L65Thomas Fichter4:03.933Leader
2L65David Payne4:26.020+ 22.087
3L22Robert MaloneDNSN/A

Class 1

PositionNumberDriverTimeMargin
1175James Dean3:50.733Leader
2172Cole Barbieri3:52.720+ 1.987
3174Brian Barackman4:26.264+ 35.531
4113Michael Frye4:32.622+ 41.889

Unlimited Truck SPEC

PositionNumberDriverTimeMargin
1282Brent Fox4:09.342Leader
2205Nick Isenhouer4:10.598+ 1.256
3223RJ Merritt4:11.880+ 2.537
4272Dustin Grabowski4:12.011+ 2.669
56173Conner McMullen4:14.295+ 4.953

Class 7

PositionNumberDriverTimeMargin
1708Ethan Ebert4:14.046Leader

Class 10

PositionNumberDriverTimeMargin
11012Abraham Gutierrez4:20.746Leader
21003Nick May4:30.177+ 9.431
31082Eric Everly4:32.561+ 11.815
41097Hank Winter4:33.499+ 12.753
51035Mike Coulter4:33.969+ 13.223

Limited class winners

ClassOverall FinishNumberDriverTime
Class 1/2 1600111627Fernie Padilla8:31:56.609
Class 111071108Rodriquez Tsosie10:35:57.222*
Class 1291238Bradley Wilson8:27:22.295
Class 145071494Vincent Muñoz8:19:00.075
Class 2000902055Kyle Thomas7:35:38.896*
Class 3000603013Bailey Cole11:03:32.824
Class 5 Unlimited25501Trey Hernquist9:00:19.491
Class 5-160044550Daniel Ledezma9:54:10.379
Class 5500995510Tim Montana8:50:38.510*
Class 7S2017189Kendall Glines11:13:19.653*
Class 9 Challenger163924Karissa Veenstra8:01:15.266*
Gambler 500/Hooptie X Modified219G069Jim YorkDNF
Gambler 500/Hooptie X Modified197G140Emme Hall4:19:52.900*
Jeepspeed Cup1812723John Williams11:12:39.016*
Jeepspeed Trophy1064742Savanah Parker10:23:29.388*
Modern Military152M501Michael McCloskey6:29:47.983*
Modern Vintage173V344Jose Pereyra13:01:04.027*
Open Sportsman848168Colin Guinn6:56:49.421*
Stock Production Truck Full-Size161851Austin Hall7:31:41.611*
Stock Production Truck Mini/Mid-Size1547330Chad Hall6:39:19.509*
TrophyLite396005Scott Whipple9:33:08.347
UTV PR-1003PR915Ryan Piplic7:50:30.371
UTV PR-100 Production14PRP1Wes Miller8:38:38.266
UTV Pro Big EngineDNFBE920Travis Zollinger6:48:51.440*
UTV Pro NA171925Zach Sizelove8:39:22.304
UTV Pro Open6PR951Mitch Guthrie8:16:16.858
UTV Pro Super Stock NA166K46Charles Cromwell8:54:41.879*
UTV Pro Super Stock Turbo13KT78Sara Price8:34:15.869
UTV Pro Turbo1T898Joe Terrana7:47:09.673
UTV Pro Unlimited42924Garrick Lastra8:00:03.562
UTV Rally Modified85UM974Justin Von Metal7:22:55.279*
UTV Sportsman96S968Dean Okonsky8:23:17.441*
UTV Stock87U946Landon Phillips7:323:55.678*
Vintage150V128Jon Schweers5:50:56.090*
Vintage Military170M22Danny Novoa10:14:21.871*
Vintage Open148V201Rick Freschet4:57:41.541*
* – Did not complete every lap or full distance not required for class
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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