2018 Mint 400 | STORY | PHOTOS | RESULTS
2018 Mint 400 | STORY | PHOTOS | RESULTS
Justin Lambert, Dodge Poelman, & Rhys Millen, All Winners at Rough 50th Anniversary Mint 400
Primm, NV (3/10/2018) – Cognito Racing’s Justin Lambert turned a tough draw into a great finish as he won the 2018 BFGoodrich Tires Mint 400 powered by Monster Energy. Driving a Polaris RZR XP Turbo, Lambert beat out Phil Blurton and Ryan Holz for the victory in the Pro UTV Turbo class. Jason and Derek Murray finished fourth, ahead of Mitch Guthrie, Jr. The race was the second event for the 2018 Best in the Desert Series.
The largest entry list of UTVs in Mint 400 history showed up for what turned into one of the roughest races in recent history. The event was so popular in fact that race organizers had to start a waiting list, showing just how fast the sport of UTV racing has grown.
Weather started out cloudy with some sprinkles, which turned into light rain by the end of the UTV race. Winds kept the dust moving toward the end of the race. The track was the roughest in recent history through the rocky desert, sand whoops and dry lakebeds.
Parker 250 winner, Brandon Schueler, started first in the UTV Pro Turbo class and held the lead until he ran into issues, handing the lead to Dustin Jones. Both of them dropped out of contention late on lap one and Jason and Derek Murray held the lead with Phil Blurton taking the physical lead on the final lap.
Lambert, meanwhile, started 59th in the 69-car field and made up time during the race to take the lead on time during the final lap. This marked Lambert’s second Mint 400 victory and his first in the top Pro Turbo class. He won the Production Class in 2016.
“It was a dogfight all day, especially on that last lap,” said Lambert. “We were gaining positions at every pit, we kept the tires rolling, and this Cognito Polaris RZR did its job. We had a tough year last year, so we’re glad to redeem ourselves. We had to pour it on in the rough stuff and the tight stuff, but that’s how we like it.”
Defending Pro Turbo champion Blurton finished physically first and second on adjusted time in his Can-Am. After differential problems took him out of contention in the first race, he updated his car and had no issues during the event.
“We just cruised along and maybe cruised a little bit too much on the first couple of laps,” said Blurton. “The track was brutal, but it was exactly what we expected. The tight stuff is where we excelled the most and we like these conditions.”
Marc Burnett finished third in his Can-Am, but was assessed a speeding penalty that moved him to sixth. That moved the Holz team to third in the final order in its Polaris. They started 38th and ran a seven-tenths pace for the first two laps with Mark Holz driving the entire race. Realizing the pace was much faster, the team picked it up and ended up with a podium.
“At the end of the second lap, we had to pick up our pace so we put the hammer down,” said Ryan Holz, who split co-driving duties with his brother Jeremy for the race. “The level of competition this year is really high and the pace is very fast. It took a lot of speed and a fast pace to land on the box. This was the roughest racecourse I’ve ever seen.”
Jason and Derek Murray looked well on their way to victory. The tire issue on the final lap, however, put them fourth in their Can-Am at the finish.
“You win this game by minutes and seconds out here,” said Jason Murray. “Our Can-Am Maverick Max ran strong today and this will give us a good start for the UTV World Championship. The Maverick Max worked great out here in this Nevada desert. It was really rough and rocky and the long wheelbase allows us to really push the car in the whoops.”
In UTV Pro Production, Kaden Wells led from the start in his Polaris and held the lead until the final lap when Dodge Poelman took the lead in his RZR and held on for his second consecutive Mint 400 victory. Seth Quintero, in his BITD debut, finished an impressive second. Kristen Matlock was third, scoring her third consecutive Mint 400 podium.
Poelman started 35th and battled through the rough track to win. The win represented a sweep of the Pro classes by Cognito Polaris RZRs.
“In the first lap we were battling for fourth, and then we jumped to first,” said Poelman. “Then we got a flat tire at the end of the first lap and lost the lead. From there, we only stopped for fuel and that allowed us to make up time. We started pretty far back in the pack, and by the end of the race we were the first on course.”
Quintero is just 15 years old and he put on a show in his Polaris in his first BITD race. Taking the sand whoops and the high-speed lakebeds with ease, the young hotshoe showed how UTVs are the future of desert racing.
“My first BITD race went really well,” said Quintero. “We had a lot of good battles with a lot of cars in front of us that we had to pick off slowly. The Polaris is amazing. I was thinking during the race: ‘Why would I built a truck to race when I can just buy a RZR?’”
Matlock had a strong start and pushed hard through the first laps. Despite power steering and clutch issues that limited the top speed of her Polaris, she pulled off her third consecutive Mint 400 podium.
“We started off strong and passed a bunch of cars,” said Matlock. “There was a lot of dust and lots of cars off to the side. So we picked our way through. I had a clean run and didn’t have to get out of the car to fix anything. I have two seconds and now a third. We’ll work on that next year.”
In the Unlimited race, Rhys Millen won the event in a Polaris. Millen stated it was one of the roughest courses on which he raced, but his Polaris held together great.
“We’re super happy,” said Millen. “We had an amazing time out there in the Unlimited Class, running three laps. This is a great day for Rhys Millen Racing and for Polaris.”
BITD competition continues with the UTV World Championship April 6-7. The Polaris-sponsored event is being held in Laughlin, NV.