We approached the starting line under the cover of darkness early Saturday morning. The class 1700 racecars left side by side with the first pair exploding off the line around 6:40 am. Our starting position, in the eighth row outside (position 16), left us to drag race to the first left turn where we settled behind the inside car.
After the first few miles it was obvious by the carnage of cars that we were in for a rough day. Lots of tires and broken down cars could be seen the first 30 miles. Our car was running good and was starting to make up some ground when a jump surprised me; getting too much air, a big, ugly, sharp rock in the middle of the track took out the right rear rim destroying the tire and rim. After a quick change of tire for a good spare, off we went again chasing the cars that had just passed us.
Swapping out the bad tire at the first pit for a fresh spare, a quick driver change and off we went again. Some nice high speed stuff between pit 1 and 2 gave us a chance to pass a few cars in our class and start a slow move up the ladder board. As we came round to the main pit for some much needed fuel, a check under the hood and under the car for any damage, we swapped out for the last driver change. Having moved up 10 slots, we left Pit 2 in sixth place aiming to continue to climb the ladder toward the top.
Our last lap was over thirty minutes faster than the first lap because there were no stops at any of the pits, just a slow buzz through each pit and then back heavy on the gas. No broken parts, no bad tires to report this time around. Approaching the finish line, there was one class 1700 car in our sites, but a buggy got between us. Darn!
We had to settle for a hard earned 5th place finish, thirty seconds out of fourth and seven minutes out of third, but a good spot for us knowing we fought our way up 11 places from the start. Team WP will be looking to improve in the next race the first weekend in May for “Silver State 300”, but all in all the Mint 400 was a great race, full of adrenaline and carnage, and it gave us a whiff of the sweet smell of victory!