Las Vegas, NV
When it comes to Las Vegas events, not many rival the Polaris RZR Mint 400 presented by General Tire. The racing is intense and the pre-race activities are amazing. Dale Dondel kicked things off when he extended his number one qualifying streak in the Roberts Racing #7 Trick Truck to 8 in a row! Dale received a 5K bonus from Method Race Wheels and his name on the prestigious top qualifier trophy! When co-driver Mike Dondel was asked how they keep the streak alive he responded with two words, “Go Fast!”
Roberts Racing driver Dakota Meyer had a mechanical issue during qualifying that put him at the back of the starting grid. Despite his starting position, Dakota is still #1 with the fans; he was treated like a rock star everywhere he went. Over 20 thousand of them packed Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas for contingency on Friday.
The street party stretched for 7 city blocks. There were press conferences, meet and greets with the fans, the crowning of Miss Mint 400 Amy Scott who joins past Miss Mint 400 winners Vanna White, Lynda Carter, Dani Mathers and Taylor Cox. The Mint 400 pre-race festivities were non-stop. The team also participated in the race vehicle parade that shook windows with the sound of high horsepower engines the entire length of the Las Vegas strip.
By the time the race rolled around, everyone was ready to get down to business. First off the line was Dale and Mike in the #7 Roberts Racing, Racer Engineering Trick Truck. With clean air ahead they charged into the desert, setting the pace for the entire first lap. When the ducked into the pits for fuel, BJ and Rob Mac went by. As they got back on course to close the gap, one of the countless rocks that litter the course kicked up and broke a brake fitting on the right front. Repairs were made quickly but once underway the race was halted due to a bad crash on course. Safety personnel were at the site causing a red flag stopping the race. Everyone was lined up at start finish trapping them back in fourth place.
When racing resumed they were able to get back in the hunt. They caught the leaders, passed them and put a 15 minute gap on second place. With only 80 miles to go, they slammed a rock in the dust killing their tire. When they engaged the air jacking system to lift the truck, a ruptured airline, possibly damaged by rocks, dropped the truck back down. They were stranded for 40 minutes until a jack could be borrowed from another racer. They swapped the tire and went full bore towards the finish line. They worked all the way back up to third when a second flat sidelined them again. By this time in the race the rocks were all stirred up to the surface, there was no way to avoid them, especially at the speeds they were going. It cost them another 15 minutes dropping them back to 11th in the Trick Truck class, 14th place overall. Not the finish they wanted, especially after running in the lead most of the day but considering the trail of wreckage and broken race cars that littered the course, it was a good result at the Mint 400.
After a misfire in qualifying, Dakota Meyer and co-driver Brian Busby had a tall mountain to climb in the Roberts Racing Class 1500 car. Starting in the rear, they were making good time despite the conditions on course. Loose rocks, some the size of watermelons, laid in piles everywhere. A thick layer of dust blanketed the entire valley dropping forward vision down to zero in some places. When the dust hangs like it did at the Mint, it traps you in a scary dilemma. If you slow down you might get punted from behind and will steadily drop through the field. Go too fast and you risk crashing.
“We hit some clean air so we increased our speed,” said Dakota, “When you hit a pocket of dust you don’t know if it will last for 10 feet or a mile. We were going at a good clip when we hit another bank of dust. We overshot a corner and rolled the car; going over 6 times. I don’t remember it all; we got our bells rung pretty good but the Racer Engineering car was still able to continue. It all happened so quick, it gives me a whole new respect for off-road racing.”
Best In The Desert safety personnel were quickly on site to check them out. They were banged up but chose to continue. Dakota and Brian soldiered on for another lap and a half before they decided to call it a day. The conditions were only getting worse and despite getting their bells rung, they had enough sense to know they were driving hurt and had no good reason to press their luck. They put in two full laps but were unable to make the finish. The mere fact that the car was able to continue is a testament to the Racer Engineering chassis and the finest quality components and support from Toyo Tires, Specialized Automation Services, MOMO, King Shocks, KC HiLites, Power Steering Solutions and F&L Racing Fuel.
Once mended both physically and mechanically, the Roberts Racing team will be at the Best in the Desert, Silver State 300 May 1-3. Pre-race festivities will be held at the Aliante Casino Hotel, in North Las Vegas before taking the start 130 miles away in remote Eastern Nevada. Breathtaking scenery and flat out speeds lay ahead for Roberts Racing when they take on this 300 mile point to point race.
Photography By: Bink Designs