Trophylite racers showed up in droves to challenge each other and the Nevada desert at the legendary Mint 400 off-road race. 18 Trophylite’s, the largest field to date, would be racing for a healthy purse, some great prizes and the prestige of winning the great American off-road race.
In addition to the large cash and prizes up for grabs, General Tire put a bounty on the defending champion Troy Messer to make light of the domination he has displayed throughout the 2011 season and into 2012. The winner of the race would score a set of General Grabber AT2 tires. Not to be outdone, Azuñia Tequila was awarding the winner a case of their fine tequila for celebrating after the race and a side bet amongst the competitors was also worth an additional $1500 in cash. Not only does the Trophylite series pride itself on their tight, competitive racing but thanks to their marketing partners, they generously reward their team’s achievements too.
The race was held in two heats during the day with group one, which featured the Trophylite’s, heading out into the darkness at 6:00 a.m. Thanks to their KC Hilites, the dark skies where no problem; instead it was the thick dust and brutal rocks that would challenge the racers. Blinded by dust, Troy Messer tagged a large rock right off the start at race mile five. They quickly changed a damaged tire but with the cars starting two at a time at thirty second intervals much of the field got by in only a short time. In such a competitive class, it’s tough to make up time on the rest of the field. You have to play it smart, run a consistently fast pace and hope the others have their share of bad luck. That’s exactly what Troy and his team did. They battled back to finish second on the day. “I knew Steve (Hengeveld) would be coming for me,” said Troy, “they had some bad luck at Parker but got those issues worked out, I knew they would be tough to beat. Our team works real hard to win every race but second place is not too bad. We added to our overall points lead so we are happy for that and are looking forward to the Silver State, our next race of the series.”
For race winners Steve & Joe Hengeveld it was a seemingly flawless day. The team played their cards right after taking the lead on lap one. They had no flats and no issues all day finishing sixth overall in heat one. “I loved the course,” said Steve Hengeveld, “There were some really rough sections but in the tight, twisty washes the handling of the Trophylite made me feel like I was on a motocross track, it was fun. We got a great start putting about five minutes on the field on the first lap. After the second lap, we were fifteen minutes out front. From then on we just maintained a consistent pace till the end. We gave each of the team members a bottle of Azuñia Tequila from the case that we won and used the side bet money to take them all out for dinner after the race.”
The third place team of Brandon Hollander and Austin “Fish” Farner survived the brutal course to grab the last spot on the podium. They had stopped for a driver change on the last lap allowing Troy Messer to slip past. Brandon then had his hands full after the day’s punishment resulted in substantial damage only twelve miles from the finish. In spite of their wounds, the truck held together till the end allowing the team to get their first Trophylite podium finish. “This is our first trip to the podium as a team,” said Brandon, “I ran a couple of races last year with Ramsey El Wardani in his truck. This is such a driver’s class, I had to come out and run my own Trophylite. Our team is really coming together.
Sometimes I get down when things get tough but these guys never give up. They always give an all-out effort to help pull us through. I can’t thank everyone at Trophylite enough for putting on such a great series. Currie Enterprises, General Tire, Fox Racing Shox; we couldn’t have done it without them, they all have helped our team to get where we are.”
Brandon’s former racing partner Ramsey El Wardani and his co-driver Tony Cortes had a much tougher time. On the second lap the course got the better of Tony sending him rolling; damaging the truck to the point where they couldn’t continue. Luckily they weren’t seriously injured and Stewart’s Raceworks will have the truck fixed in time for the next race.
The V8 powered, Trophylite, R8 would compete in the second heat with the fastest racers. The big, bad unlimited horsepower vehicles would have the same challenges on the now chewed up course. Right off the start, drivers were stuck on the tall dirt berms; their spinning tires adding to the already thick dust. Jim Riley in the R8 however, was quickly moving up through the field. By the second lap he was dicing with class 10’s and Unlimited 1500’s that started well in front. After lap two, Jim was bitten by a stroke of bad luck. The wheel studs failed, leaving him stranded on three wheels far from a pit. It took an agonizing three hours to get the truck back on course. An energized Rick Johnson had taken over driving chores but could not get around the tough course in time to beat the cut-off for starting the next lap. That’s the nature of off-road racing. “Great pre-race festivities and a very tough race course are the two things I will remember most about the Mint 400” said Jim Riley after the race.
Winning, losing or just finishing can come down to the smallest detail. Apparently, a couple of crafty Trophy Truck drivers (who did rather well in the end) had already driven in the first heat getting a feel for the course and how to attack it. A couple of laps in a Trophylite might have made the winning difference for the duo.
The Mint 400 has always had a reputation for being one of the toughest races ever. This year’s event, on a different course, still managed to add to its already legendary reputation. Out of the eighteen starters only nine were able to finish in the allotted time. Trophylite racers like Fawn Finchum who was able to finish and Lance Wells who came all the way from Alaska to drive a Trophylite rental but suffered a dnf, all drove their hearts out for the chance to win some Mint 400 gold and the glory that goes with it. Win or lose, everyone who competed came away richer in the end.
Next stop on the General Tire Trophylite race series is the scenic BITD Silver State 300, May 4th-6th. For more details see www.bitd.com
Photography By Brian Binkert
Bink Photo – www.binkphoto.com
The General Tire Trophylite Race Series was created to provide an affordable alternative to the high cost of racing. Drivers are pitted against each other in identical vehicles that provide the thrill of competitive offroad racing without the million dollar price tag. All Trophylite race vehicles are precisely constructed to maintain parity and use the finest quality components available. Trophylite allows you to compete in a fun, fast, race proven vehicle right out of the box. With generous sponsorship from General Tire, KC Hilites, Mastercraft Safety, Method Race Wheels, Azunia Tequila and Impact you can cash in on the $50,000 in prize money that is up for grabs during the 2012 season. Visit www.trophylite.com for more information.
About General Tire
For more than 90 years General Tire has offered a complete quality line of ultra-high performance, passenger, light truck, off-road and commercial tires to meet all your needs. General Tire is a proud supporter of Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing, Chili Bowl, Pro-Pulling, Late- Model Dirt Series, Drag Boat Series, Boost Mobile FreestyleMx.com Tour, Spec Tire of Trophylite and Pro Truck. Team GT supports off-road and short course teams including Carl Renezeder, Rick D. Johnson, Jerry Zaiden/Jason Campbell, Jason/Rich Voss, Scott Steinberger, Ed “Clyde” Stout, Marc Burnett, Kent Kroeker, Mikey Childress, Jim Riley, Carey Hart, Josh Merrell, Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg, Jason Ellis, Robby Woods, Casey Currie, Ryan Hagy and Jeff “Ox” Kargola.
General Tire is part of Continental Tire the Americas, LLC. (www.generaltire.com). CTA, based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, is a company of Germany-based Continental AG. With sales of approximately €20 billion in 2009 Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers, Continental contributes enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also a competent partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently has close to 160,000 employees in 45 countries.