2019 Mint 400 Race Report

Bikes back after 43 years

Kendall Norman
Kendall Norman held a 10-second lead over Jacob Argubright about 22 miles into lap two. It could’ve gone either way, but in the end, Norman and Ricky Brabec outlasted the persistent Argubright.Mark Kariya

A lot has happened since America’s bicentennial in 1976. Eight men have held the office of president of the United States. The Berlin Wall fell after more than 30 years of separating two Germanys, leading to a unified country. The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in the team’s only appearance to date.

Closer to dirt riding interests, long-travel suspension turned the sport around, with liquid-cooled engines also taking a permanent place in the mechanical evolution of things which include four-stroke engines with Formula 1-derived technology replacing power valve-equipped two-strokes in most arenas.

Larry Roeseler has seen all this in his storied career. Back in 1976, he was one of the young, fast pups in the desert beginning to make a name for himself and competed in the Mint 400 desert classic in Las Vegas, though Vegas native Jack Johnson and motocross world champion Rolf Tibblin of Sweden won that one.

LR went on to compete in many other desert races as well as other events globally, achieving much success and being inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. But with the '76 Mint being the last to include motorcycles, he resigned himself to accepting a hole in his trophy case where a Mint 400 bike trophy would fit nicely.

early in the race
This is early in the race—about mile 20—with Brabec leading Argubright, Justin Morgan third, and the Danny Cooper team fourth, all four having broken away from the rest of the field. Before long, it turned into a two-bike battle at the front with third slightly farther behind and waiting for a mistake.Mark Kariya

However, after lengthy negotiations, Best in the Desert (BITD) managed to make the 2019 BF Goodrich Tires Mint 400 part of its American Off-Road Racing Series where it’d be round 2 for bikes. That got the mental wheels turning for Roeseler.

“When I heard they were going to have bikes back, I found out right away and I immediately said, ‘Okay, I’m going to ride this one way or another!’ ” he shared. “I did ride the Mint in ’76. A guy yesterday in contingency came up to me and showed me a picture that he had. He was number 20 [that year] and he started right in front of me—I was number 21.”

Over the years, Roeseler has kept in touch with Ty Davis and Kellon Walch, among other Kawasaki Team Green alumni, and he quickly recruited them for a Mint 400 team.

Brabec
At this point, Brabec leads Argubright by about 35 seconds with about 57 miles to go.Mark Kariya

“Kawasaki got wind of it and said, ‘We want to be part of this!’ So they supplied the bike and actually built the bike for us. Bret [Leef] helped us with suspension and helped with everything—prepping it—and here we are!”

They and the 159 other teams faced an 80-mile loop based out of Primm, Nevada, that encompassed quite a bit of older courses like BITD’s Whiskey Pete’s Hare & Hound World Championship, the Las Vegas 400, the Henderson 250, and numerous local MRAN events. It had rocks, sand washes, fast roads, whoops, and even slower, more technical single-track than normal BITD courses.

Argubright and Brabec
Argubright seemed to catch lappers at more inopportune times than Brabec on that last lap and had to settle for a hard-fought second.Mark Kariya

“Because of the layout, Ty started and went from start to [pit] A (about 23 miles), then Kellon rode A to B (about mile 48), and I rode B to [main pit at mile 80]. The mileage [we each rode] ended up being really close, then we’d just jump in the truck and transfer back and do it again so we were able to do short sections, take a break then do a short section again. It worked out really well,” he explained. “Physically, to do a whole loop is pretty tough.

“It was fun, and with the rain and conditions, it made it a lot better!”

By comparison, back in the early days, the Mint course was north of Vegas and tested participants with an abundance of rock and endless silt beds. But one thing that remained very similar was the atmosphere surrounding the Mint.

“That’s why we made a big effort to come here,” Roeseler admitted. “Contingency [row] on Fremont Street, there’s no other contingency like it. For sponsors, for exposure—it’s just unbelievable!

“The response we had bringing Kawasaki back, and Ty, me, and Kellon; it was really amazing yesterday and people cheering us on today. It was really, really cool. Going through the pits [each lap], everybody’s just yelling my name out loud from end to end [of the pits]. I don’t know—I think if you’re going to do an off-road race and try to get some good exposure, this is definitely the race to show up to.”

Justin Morgan
Justin Morgan didn’t wait for teammate Mark Samuels to join him on the finish platform, the pair earning third after nearly five hours of racing.Mark Kariya

A number of top teams apparently agreed, with the Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda crew showing up with a new CRF450X that Ricky Brabec and Kendall Norman would share (the first time they’d ever teamed up). They were, of course, a pre-race favorite, but Off-road Support/TBT Racing Kawasaki privateer Jacob Argubright was pretty sure he could hang—and he did!

“I had my [mental] ups and downs [during the race],” he confided. “I was like, ‘I can do this!’ Then I’d be, ‘I don’t know.’ On the first lap, I could kind of tell the pace. They were laughing at me. In Texas [at the last National Hare & Hound], I said I was going to slow the pace down—‘I’m going to get in front and slow it down’—and I did that a couple times [today]. I really took it easy and I tried to save it for the last lap because I knew it would be a sprint—and it was! I just came up a little short.”

Kellon Walch, Ty Davis, and Larry Roeseler
The band got back together! Back in the day, Kellon Walch (left), Ty Davis (center), and Larry Roeseler were stars on Kawasaki Team Green’s all-conquering off-road squad. When LR learned the Mint would include bikes this year, he quickly got the trio on board and they not only won Over 30 Pro (since Walch is the youngest and ineligible for Over 40 Pro or Over 50 Expert), but they earned seventh overall.Mark Kariya

With his KX450 geared up two teeth, round 1 winner Argubright proved to be the thorn in the sides of Brabec and Norman, whose father, Morris, raced the Mint back in the day. In fact, Argubright defied the odds and led at several points, making for a great show for the spectators.

Mint 400
The Jaxon Bogh/Corbin Eatherton/Chase Hymas team enjoyed a great day that saw them finish 14th overall to win Open Expert in just under six hours, beating the next Experts (fellow Open Experts Brandon and Paul Krause) by two positions and less than two minutes.Mark Kariya

“Jake kept us on our toes,” Brabec noted. “Jake rode really awesome, but I knew from what Kendall had told me when he got off the bike at the end of the second [lap], he said, ‘Hey, it’s getting rough out there—be smart!’

“For me, being a bigger guy—Jake’s also pretty tall and thick like myself—but I was fresh so I knew I just had to hammer down and just take the bumps, let the back start burning and hold on.”

Brody Goff
Yes, Argubright was technically the first solo rider to finish, but he wasn’t an official Ironman Expert. Thus, Brody Goff topped the class, claiming 18th overall in 5:54:11 in the process.Mark Kariya

Brabec held on well enough to reach the finish line first, stopping the clock at four hours, 53 minutes, and 24 seconds with Argubright clocking 4:54:32—probably the biggest margin between them all day.

“The win would, of course, be much sweeter, but I believe I accomplished a great task today,” Argubright penned later in a press release.

BSA B50
The Mint offered more classes, which likely drew more diverse entries than normal at BITD races. In fact, there were two categories of Vintage with this cherry BSA B50 ridden to second in Vintage Evolution by Steve Erickson and Steve Yarborough, completing two laps in nearly seven hours! (Yarborough’s son Paul—along with Erickson and Ken Markling—won the class on Paul’s 1978-powered ’74 Husky 250 CR but only after welding a footpeg back on and dealing with a broken motor mount as well as a derailed chain.)Mark Kariya

“I committed myself early on, both mentally and physically, to racing as an ironman regardless of the talent that I would line up next to, and I think that strategy worked well.”

The Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda duo of Justin Morgan and Mark Samuels held third for most of the race but couldn’t get close enough to make a run at first and settled for the final podium spot in 4:56:00.

Women Motorcycle
Several teams entered Women Motorcycle with the Gina Alvarez, Kimberly Bussing, Mica Diaz trio taking the win, the only female team to complete all three laps and doing so in just under seven hours.Mark Kariya

Morgan reported, “I know in a few sections my speed was good; I actually gained a little time in a few sections, and kind of went back and forth. But those teams [ahead of us] are really good; those guys are awesome. Ricky and Kendall’s bike is very similar to ours from what I know. We’re definitely going to refine the suspension a little bit and make a couple more adjustments [before our next race].”

2019 Mint 400 Overall Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Ricky Brabec/Kendall Norman Honda
2 Jacob Argubright Kawasaki
3 Justin Morgan/Mark Samuels Honda
4 Axel Pearson/Tallon Taylor Yamaha
5 Danny Cooper/Kyle Tichenor/Justin Wallis Honda
6 Brody Honea/Tuffy Pearson/Troy Vanscourt Yamaha
7 Ty Davis/Larry Roeseler/Kellon Walch Kawasaki
8 Hayden Hintz/Jeff Trulove/Sage Vincent KTM
9 Jason Alosi/Wyatt Brittner/Taylor Stevens KTM
10 Carl Maassberg/Jason Trubey Husqvarna