NHRA Top Fuel drag racers Antron Brown and Steve Torrence are used to their races lasting less than four seconds and going 320 mph-plus at a distance of 1,000 feet.
But next week, both drivers will change gears significantly, taking part in the Mint 400 off-road race, which starts Wednesday, March 7, and goes through Sunday, March 11, beginning and ending in Las Vegas.
The Mint 400 is the biggest off-road race in the U.S., with 400 vehicles expected to take part and 50,000 fans to attend.
Brown, a three-time Top Fuel champ, and Torrence, a former Top Alcohol champ (and finished runner-up in Top Fuel last season) will compete in the 2018 Polaris RZR XP4 Turbo.
“Each 130-mile loop is probably further than Antron or Steve have drag raced in all of their combined years!” joked Star Car principle and syndicated radio and TV motorsports announcer Jim Beaver, who will co-drive with both drag racers.
“It only took me about three seconds to accept Jim’s offer to race in the Mint 400,” Brown said in a media release.
Brown began his drag racing career on two wheels, spending nearly a decade on the NHRA circuit in the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.
Torrence, who won this past Sunday’s Top Fuel title in the NHRA Arizona Nationals, was equally as quick to sign up for the Mint 400.
Torrence, who has owned his own Top Fuel team since 2012, has raced for more than two decades. He was forced to take a hiatus in 2000 to deal with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After a grueling battery of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he beat the disease and was able to return to racing and the family pipeline construction and maintenance business.
The Mint 400 will have over 100 vehicles in each of four classes for the desert race.
Check out an interview between Beaver, Brown and Torrence:
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.