Just like he did last year, Justin Lofton bested a deep field of Unlimited Truck racers on Friday afternoon in Unlimited Qualifying for the 2023 BFGoodrich Tires Mint 400. Last year, Lofton was more than two seconds ahead of his closest competition; this year, the gap was even larger, as he outpaced defending race winner Kyle Jergensen by 5.817 seconds in the unofficial results.
Lofton, who returned to BFGoodrich Tires for this edition of the Great American Off-Road Race, had an unexpected setback in qualifying when Kevin Adler rolled over near the finish of the lap. Because safety crews needed to get Adler’s truck back on its wheels, the three-time Mint 400 winner had to abort his lap and requalify in one of the tightest battles for the pole in recent memory. Up to that point, Dale Dondel had been the top qualifier, just .018 seconds ahead of Ryan Arciero, and third place Tim Herbst was also less than a second off the top time.
But Lofton and his all-wheel-drive Mason Motorsports truck wouldn’t be deterred by the re-rack, throwing down a blazing time of 3:41.420 with few competitors left to hit the course behind him. Harley Letner would go off course coming towards the finish line, leaving him between Herbst and BJ Baldwin at an eventual sixth place in class, while Jergensen’s 3:47.237 was more than three seconds clear of Dondel but still not enough to match Lofton.
In Class 1, James Dean and Cole Barbieri had a closely matched fight of their own, with Dean’s 3:50.733 good for the top class time and fifth overall and Barbieri’s 3:52.720 second in class and eighth among all qualifiers. Greg Adler posted the best time in Unlimited Truck Legends with a 4:03.933, good for 17th in the overall rankings and more than 20 seconds ahead of any other Legends entry.
The Unlimited Truck SPEC division saw defending race winner Nick Isenhouer nudge ahead of an evenly matched set of rivals, posting a 4:10.598 to pace the first qualifying group. RJ Merritt, Dustin Grabowski, and Justin Blower were all within two seconds of Isenhouer in the next three spots, while fifth overall in Group 1 went to Ethan Ebert in Honda’s Class 7 entry. The top Class 10 qualifying time went to Abraham Gutierrez, whose 4:20.746 was good enough for 10th in the group, and more than nine seconds faster than Nick May, his closest competitor.
Unofficial Unlimited Qualifying results for the 2023 BFGoodrich Tires Mint 400 were as follows:
Full live timing and scoring, as well as livestream and Weatherman radio coverage, can be found at live.themint400.com. Coverage of today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Limited Race continues as top UTV racers begin to hit the finish line.
The Mint 400 has held the title of the toughest, most spectacular off-road race in North America since 1968 when it was first run. Initially, the race was a public relations event promoting the Mint Hotel’s annual deer hunt, but what started out as a hotel promotion soon grew into a legitimate desert race. Since its 2008 revival, “The Great American Off-Road Race” has only gotten bigger and more prestigious, and deeper fields every year only make it tougher to win.