Off Road

Wes Miller on Mint 400 withdrawal: “I was sitting on the starting line and then I was told to pack up and go home”

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Credit: Wes Miller

Wes Miller arrived in Las Vegas set to run the Mint 400. He left confused and without turning a lap.

Miller was supposed to compete in the Limited race on Friday, racing a Polaris RZR Pro R in the UTV Pro Stock category until the race’s sanctioning body Unlimited Off-Road Racing ruled his car did not comply with class regulations. Although Miller attempted to make contact with officials including series boss Matt Martelli, he explained he never received a proper answer for whether it was actually legal or not.

As the name suggests, the UTV Pro Stock class is intended for UTVs that are mostly to fully in their factory setting save for obvious safety modifications. After concerns were raised that some competitors had non-compliant cars at the series’ season-opening Parker 400 in January, Miller joined a conference call with race director Kilian Hamlin to properly outline the rules so they could be enforced at the Mint. During the discussion, Miller disclosed his car had a steering brace from SANDCRAFT installed, which keeps the steering rack stable and easier to control. While the steering rack must be stock, he noted there was “little bit of a grey area” since some changes could still be made to strengthen the suspension like adding material to the gussets.

“I’ve been running it for quite a few races now and had it on for two or three of the races already, and it was never an issue, so I was under the impression we determined that it was legal as well as another competitor that was on the call, that was his opinion,” Miller said in a video released Saturday to explain the situation. “I think Killian doesn’t really remember, but you know, he’s got a lot of stuff he’s dealing with.”

Once at the Mint, Miller noticed that many of the stock entries did not appear to be legal and expected “some protest disqualifications” to come. True to his suspicion, four cars ended up being disqualified from the race for illegal exhausts, among other components. Miller approached tech director Bill Savage for a personal inspection of his Polaris, who ruled that the aforementioned steering rack as well as the hood scoop were not allowed. While he complied and swapped out the scoop duct for a stock part, the steering rack ruling contradicted the previous discussion.

Miller went to Hamlin for clarification, only to be told that Martelli had the final say. The two made contact at the driver’s meeting, where Martelli assured him that the car was legal. Still uncertain, Miller went to Savage again for confirmation only to be told otherwise, leading Miller to go back and forth between them and Miller trying to find a single, cohesive answer.

Before the Limited race, Miller and his team met with Hamlin, who offered a compromise in which Miller would be allowed to race but faced disqualification if another driver protested his car. Miller quickly rejected the proposal as risky, and instead countered by suggesting to either approve his car for the class or move it to another division. Sara Price was subject to the latter as her Can-Am Maverick’s arms did not meet Pro Stock rules and she was moved to UTV Pro.

Hamlin left to speak with Martelli, though Miller did not hear back. With time running out, he attempted to text them, sending multiple messages over an hour with no response. Hamlin subsequently told him to talk directly to Martelli, who was at the starting line.

Credit: Wes Miller

Once Miller pulled up to his starting spot, he directly confronted Martelli for an answer. In video from Miller’s onboard cameras, Martelli can be heard telling him, “Good luck out there!” while Miller yells back that he’s “not moving until we make a decision!”

“What are we doing!? What class am I racing!?” Miller asked incredulously.

“You’re done. You are done. Go home,” came the answer.

“What class do you want me to race? I’ll race a different class, whatever. I need to know. Where do you want me to go?” Miller responded.

The back and forth continued as the race starter ordered him to move. Resigned, Miller drove off. Officially, he is listed as a DNS (“Did Not Start”).

“If we go and even if we won we know we’re going to get disqualified at the end, and now the owner of the series just told us to pack up and go home,” he recounted.

“So I messaged Killian and told him, ‘Hey, like we need to talk about this.’ I come back around to staging because I thought maybe in the end, cooler heads might prevail and they tell me to just start in the back and we’ll score you from there. I told Kelly, ‘Look, I’m willing to start in the back and I can work my way through and you guys can just score me, but we need to decide am I legal or am I not?’ And he said, ‘Wes, you know you’re done. Matt doesn’t want you racing.’

“We talked about the situation for a little bit while and I said, ‘How are we going to handle this?’ He told me that they would refund my entry and my RacingTraX fees and stuff like that. We went back to the pit to put on the trailer and loaded it up. That’s where we stand.

“That’s my explanation of what happened, you know, I think it’s a really unfortunate series of events. I think it was handled extremely poorly. I hope that Matt and Kilian and that the Unlimited series do what’s right. Honestly, I think that they should be covering my crew’s expenses because I had guys come in from all over, they took days off of work, they all came in to do this race, and we had two days to make a a decision on how this was going to be handled and instead I was strung along until I was sitting on the starting line and then I was told to pack up and go home.”

Miller has expressed hope that he could eventually have a proper discussion with Martelli and Hamlin over the debacle.

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