BFGoodrich Let Me Ride Shotgun in a Trophy Truck at the 2024 Mint 400, It Blew My Mind

Trophy Truck Ridealone at 2024 Mint 400 12 photos
Photo: BF Goodrich
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The 2024 Mint 400 was by far and away the most exciting event we've covered live this year so far. There's something about a race that lets just about any vehicle blitz through the desert with a bare minimum of rules that speaks to me on a primal level. At the same event that Hunter S. Thompson once no-showed to go start writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I at least bothered to do my job.
After two days of soaking in the sights and sounds in the BFG VIP tend, along with interviewing one of the two men who own the race, I'd already gotten an experience the average show-goer would be hard-pressed to have themselves. But that was just an aperitif for what was to come. Somehow, the BFG team that hosted us during our stay in Las Vegas had an even more amazing party piece waiting for us that we guarantee the average racing fan can't buy with their $30-a-pop ticket. On the sandy grounds of the Mint 400's infield, a 900-horsepower trophy truck was waiting with an open passenger seat.

Through my ever-wonderful PR contacts at BF Goodrich, who flew me out to cover the Mint, I was about to check off riding shotgun in a real off-road racer trophy truck as qualifying the next day's race was wrapping up. Words could not describe the power trip I felt as the Mint 400's security detail led me and a few other journalists past the metal security gates separating the infield track in Primm, Nevada, allowing us up-close access to two of the most powerful, capable off-road racing trucks ever built.

I can tell you that seat time in a real trophy truck is one of those childhood fantasies young boys fantasize about before it gets drowned out by a sea of other stimulations, usually never to return again. That's especially true for a kid who grew up driving virtual trophy trucks in the Colin McRae DiRT racing games and watching clips from Baja and Dakar every year on YouTube. These long locked-away core memories flooded back to me all at once as I walked closer to the trophy truck about to show me one lap of the Mint 400's infield.

I mean, how could a red-blooded American not get a kick out of a truck with at least two feet of suspension travel, 40-inch tires, and at least 900 horsepower on offer that sounds like it's shaking the Earth every time it passes by? Better still, the especially lax rules native to the Mint 400 since its inception mean no two trophy trucks on the trot that day were exactly alike. Naturally aspirated reproductions of big block Ford and Chevy V8s intermingled with turbo V6 Honda Pilots and all-electric Rivian R1Ts at this year's Mint 400. We have it on good authority that if you can squeeze a turbine engine under the hood of a trophy truck, the Mint's organizers would figure out a way to let you enter.

Trophy Truck Ridealone at 2024 Mint 400
Photo: BF Goodrich
But our ride that afternoon was a more traditional example. One with a Ford-style big block V8 machined in-house by a non-OEM manufacturer to the exact specs of a genuine Ford racing engine. With King high-performance shock absorbers and the finest BF Goodrich racing tires that money can buy, trucks like these are the fastest vehicles in the desert. Even helicopters sometimes struggle to keep up with trophy trucks as they top 140 mph over the sand. At the end of that session, it can cost as much as $300,000 to strip down the truck to its bare frame and engine block before building the whole thing up again to do it once more.

So the on-site staff told me, more people have driven trophy trucks professionally than have flown to space. As someone who also covers space travel here on autoevolution, I couldn't confirm whether this was entirely accurate. But the fireproof racing suit and helmet sure looked spacesuit adjacent as I tried to shove my chubby frame into one. I didn't get the memo that you had to take your shoes off before putting on a racing suit, but after an especially awkward five minutes figuring that out, I painstakingly climbed into the passenger seat of one of the fastest trucks in the world.

I desperately wish I had remembered my driver's name that day. But then again, he was already wearing a helmet when he introduced himself. I was only assured by the gentleman ratchet strapping my lower torso into the truck's racing bucket seat that my driver knew the course like the back of his hand. Soon thereafter, that glorious V8 engine roared to life and made the cockpit shake with the amount of torque it put out just at idle.

Now, I've driven some quick vehicles before, such as Porsche Taycans, Mercedes-AMG EQSs, Ski-Doo snowmobiles, and a Polaris RZR XP 1000. But there's just no way to describe how it feels to have a roughly 4,000-pound truck with the kind of dimensions this one has to accelerate at the same pace as all the other fast gadgets I've driven before. Only this time, we're nailing 20-foot high jumps over dirt inclines that even a Ford Raptor or Ram TRX would think twice about daring. Suffice it to say, being ratched down like I'm flying the Space Shuttle saved me a few post-concussive symptoms.

Trophy Truck Ridealone at 2024 Mint 400
Photo: BF Goodrich
So Matt Martelli, part owner and operator of the Mint 400 via Mad Media, a media distribution company run alongside his brother Joshua, told me that people across the globe tend to lose their minds when a fire-breathing American V8 roars past. One can only assume a life acclimated to turbo four-cylinders in everything makes a thumping great racing V8 sound like the Earth's crust splitting in half. From my perspective, the only thing allowing me to hear my driver was the in-suite helmet comms system.

In just under two minutes, I'd been shaken around like a paint can, had my lunch shaken halfway out of my stomach, and gotten as close to a zero-G experience going over some of these incline jumps as I could get without being an Air Force pilot or a NASA astronaut. But through it all, the BFG tires at all four corners of this rig made this truck's feats feel routine, almost mundane. If that's the sort of impression BFG wanted me to have by riding shotgun in a trophy truck, then mission accomplished. Stay tuned. We'll be talking with a BF Goodrich engineer soon to learn how the right tires make all the difference in the world.
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