There is a reason why The Mint 400 is called The Great American Off Road Race…
2016 marks the 49th year of The Mint 400 and from the very first race in 1967 until today, the Mint 400 has proven that it’s one of the most challenging and physically demanding off-road races in history.
March 12th 2016 was no exception to the deep rooted history that is the Mint 400. Justin Peck again took the green flag but this time had Jeff Horsley, a seasoned driver and a Mint 400 winner in the 7200 class as his co-driver. Jeff’s aggressive co-driving style, his extensive racing career, and his knowledge of the course was a well needed boost to Justin’s confidence. They started on the outside of row 5 (10th) and from the drop of the green flag, the push for the lead was very apparent. Starting 5 minutes back from the leaders, Peck wheeled his #6149 truck to 4th on the road within the first 18 miles and literally cut the 5 minute gap in half by gaining 2 1/2 minutes on the leaders and proving that he was the fastest truck on course. It was clear that Peck was on a mission and that 2nd place was not an option. By mile 30, the gap had closed substantially, but due to a massive brake failure, Peck had to cut his pace back a little to minimize the risk of crashing the truck. Pushing as hard as he could, Peck kept good pace until mile 80 when in the rock garden, he cut the sidewall of the left rear tire which required a quick change. Once back on the road, Peck had lost 3 positions, but was still determined to push the truck as hard as he could.
A quick stop at main pit afforded Peck a full tank of race fuel, a new spare tire, and a brake bleed to fix the failing pedal. Once back under power, Peck pushed back to 6th and held that position as the sun set over the hot Vegas mountains. At mile 260, misfortune bit again. While flying down the pole line road at over 80mph and blinded by the setting sun, Peck hit an unseen boulder in the shadows of the trail which at the time, seemed to only blow the right rear tire, but as the story unfolds, the looming challenges of the desert would show their unforgiving head yet again. The tire was changed with no position loss and Peck made it to main pit for the driver change.
Ray Griffith jumped into the pilot seat and with the moon providing its limited light, he took off with guns blazing. Griffiths had caught and passed his way back to 6th and had 3rd to 5th in his sites. Closing the gap minute by minute, Griffith proved that his driving ability was second to none and that a podium spot was well within reach for the team despite the adversity they had suffered. With 30 miles left, fate bit one last time. When Peck hit the boulder 100 miles previous, it had bent the steering spindle bolt which didn’t manifest itself until it finally broke and collapsed the right front wheel. Through the hours that followed, Griffith and Horsley did everything they could to repair the damage on course, but eventually ran out of time and had to throw in the towel.
The team still remains pleased with the progress of the truck. With the DNF from the Mint 400 and placing 17th, it puts a damper on the championship points, but as Peck said “Desert racing is a sport of skill, luck, and a never quit mentality. We will learn from this and there is no doubt we will come back stronger than ever.”