We Don’t Need Roads: The Mint 400
I Got The Bug

Some of you long-time Speedhunters fans have probably been wondering, ‘What’s gotten into Larry?’ Or more precisely, ‘What’s up with all the off-road coverage recently?’ Well, the short answer is that I’ve been bitten by the off-road bug. But of course, it’s a bit more complex than that…

I actually started getting into off-road racing a few years ago as a means to keep taking pictures during the sports car racing and professional drifting off-season. Because with off-road, rain or shine, snow or sleet, they race; and therefore the season starts much earlier in the year.


It all started with the King Of The Hammers and the Mint 400, and since then I’ve covered the Imperial Valley race as well as recently my first race in Mexico.

The Mint 400

Previously, I’ve been able to either borrow a press car or hitch a ride with a friend. But of course, if I wanted to take it to the next level I would have to invest in the proper equipment, which goes way beyond proper camera gear.

The Mint 400

I’ve taken it seriously to the point of actually purchasing an off-road-capable vehicle for myself, as a way to chase these races.


Because there is no point in even trying to photograph off-road racing if you can’t even make it out to the shooting locations yourself.

The Mint 400

So what is it that draws me in so much? It starts with the race course: nature’s playground.


While I still love and appreciate sports car racing and nicely paved racing circuits, I’ve come to realize something recently.

The Mint 400

The road courses that I love the most are organic and they have character. Street circuits are my favourite, because they are imperfect and harsh. I love the fact that there is no run-off and you really have to have some guts to push it out there. Pikes Peak and Circuit De Guia are perfect examples.

The Mint 400

Of course, I also love race tracks with lots of character, like the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Spa. However, we all know there are never going to be race tracks like that ever again. New racing circuits are very sterile with no character at all. No grittiness, just perfect in every way with miles of run-off area.

The Mint 400

What I love about off-road racing is that the race track will always be the same – it’s in nature. But in saying that it does change, sometimes significantly after just a single car passes through the dirt.

The Mint 400

Another thing I love about off-road racing is the competition itself. It’s just insane what these drivers put themselves through to finish an event.

The Mint 400

While I am not saying that road racing is any less glamorous or dangerous, off-road racing has such a rawness to it. You could go off-course without anyone being able to find you for hours. Before the invention of GPS, you could straight-up disappear.

The Mint 400

The best part of it all? The teams, drivers and fans are all out there for the glory. There is no glamor; there is no big prize money.

The Mint 400

It’s all for bragging rights and knowing that you are the best. Either that, or you just had the most luck on the day.

The Mint 400

So what is there not to like? There’s so much the car culture and racing world has to offer, and in my six years at Speedhunters I’ve only covered a tiny sliver of it. I just can’t wait to go out and hunt for more.

The Mint 400
The Mint 400

The Polaris RZR Mint 400 Presented by BFGoodrich Tires is known as ‘The Great American Off-road Race’.

The Mint 400

This year the grand marshal was off-road racing legend Rod Hall.

The Mint 400

The week’s festivities kicked off with Rod driving down Las Vegas Blvd in his 1969 Baja 1000-winning Ford Bronco, with the full 2016 field of race cars behind him.

The Mint 400

I don’t think there is any other city in the United States that is more appropriate for hosting such an event. This is where American off-road lives.

The Mint 400

Over the next few days I covered all the activities that the Mint had to offer, including time trials near the California/Nevada border.

The Mint 400

The Mint 400 is one of the few races in the world that holds a qualifying session open to the public for viewing.


It also provides the perfect opportunity for me to get some awesome shots of drivers going full-tilt in an effort to get a better qualifying position.

The Mint 400

If you start too far back in the pack, it does not matter how fast you are – you simply won’t see where you are going due to all the dust.

The Mint 400

Along with qualifying, one of the biggest events leading up to the race itself is contingency and technical inspections.

The Mint 400

Las Vegas native and all around crazy guy BJ Baldwin was on hand to take pictures with fans and cause a traffic jam while doing so. What a showman.

The Mint 400

It seems like the entire week is buzzing with activities, including one of my favorite events where the Mint 400 challenges pit crews to compete against each other in a tire-changing speed test.

The Mint 400

The night before the big race all the teams gather at the Golden Nugget hotel in downtown Las Vegas for a drivers meeting.

The Mint 400

I have to thank the Martelli brothers, Josh and Matt, for inviting me year after year. There is no race in the world that caters better to the media than the Mint, and that is because they are a media company. When they are not doing official Mint 400 business they are running Mad Media, and they do everything from producing awesome videos to promoting drivers.

A Very Long Day

As always, the mornings are never easy on these events. My alarm went off at 3:00am and we were headed to the pits around an hour later.


The drivers are off the line for the first race at 6:00am sharp, so they don’t get to sleep in much either.

The Mint 400

While normally I would wait until a few cars had started, the race was run backwards this year, so I didn’t have a chance to stick around. If I wanted to catch drivers out on the course in the soft morning light, I needed to leave right away.

The Mint 400

Just as the sun was rising, the first racers were passing through an area called the ‘Shooting Range’, which is exactly what it is. All that stuff glistening in the sun? Empty shell casings and targets that people bring out into the desert to shoot at. Fun, eh?


While the first race had slower cars, they are always just as interesting as the bigger, badder and faster trophy trucks. I spotted this awesome Honda Ridgeline doing everything but driving straight after coming out of a silty corner.

The Mint 400

The lighter cars sometimes get even more hang time due to their limited amount of suspension travel. It’s just so cool to see these buggies flying through the air.


While I was not chasing a particular story, I was definitely trying to hit up as many spots as possible.


Of course, we always try to go out of our way to follow a few of our friends. We caught Casey Currie in for a stop at one of the remote pits.


He brought out his Ultra4 rock crawler and had run into some minor issues out on the race course.

The Mint 400

I love the fact that you can see so many different types of vehicles in one race on the same course. How cool is that?

The Mint 400

Midway though the day, the fast guys started leaving the line. We caught them for the first time on one of the many dry lakebeds in the area.

The Mint 400

You don’t really get a sense of the speed that these rigs can achieve unless you actually get close to them when they fly by. Some of these guys can go well over 150mph (241km/h) through these sections.

The Mint 400

We made a point to chase the lead pack as much as we could, and actually caught them six times over the course of the day before the sun set completely.

The Mint 400

The great thing about shooting a race like the Mint 400 is that there are so many competitors running at the same time, so there’s always race traffic to be found anywhere on the course.

The Mint 400

Because, by the time the trophy trucks are well into their race, the competitors in the first race are still working on finishing up.

The Mint 400

The course itself is about 120 miles (193km) long, so the fast guys have to do three whole laps, while some of the lower classes only have to complete two.

The Mint 400

Due to the popularity of the Mint 400, the Martelli brothers had to turn away quite a few competitors this year. There is a very long waiting list to race.


This makes me wonder if it will soon become a two-day affair. Who knows, maybe even motorcycles will make a comeback…

The Mint 400

We pretty much followed the race till the sun started setting, and then chose one final spot to shoot from.

The Mint 400

Outside of one of the remote pit areas was a big silt bed that everyone had to run through. While in some places on the course it’s hard to tell what line the racers are going to take, it’s easy when there is really only one way to go.

The Mint 400

This of course meant that it was the perfect spot to get some epic sunset colors as well as some roost shots before they racers drove into the night on their last lap.


So what do you guys think about all of the recent off-road coverage. Do you like it? Or do you hate my guts for it? I want to know… Like I said earlier in my post, there is an endless amount of things to enjoy in the Speedhunting world, so why not take a look at what other people are doing?

Till then, you will find me at more races like the Baja 1000 and hopefully the Dakar Rally soon enough. It’s definitely on my bucket list. Enjoy the Bonus Images chapter below!

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Cutting Room Floor
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These pictures proved to me that I need a proper offroad car of some sort. Dont know when or where I would drive it, but I still need one :D


Suuuuuure, the fj cruiser was absolutely needed ;) not just some excuse for a new toy.

ps- awesome photography as always, the action shots really capture the atmosphere of it all.


butterballs I think the conversation would go something like this "Honey, do you want me to get stuck in the middle of nowhere in Mexico? I didn't think so"


I'm not one to get hung up on people with money in Motorsports but the cubic dollars represented by every one of those vehicles boggles my mind. oh and sweet photographs.


Terrific photos. Keep covering the Off Road scene as you have the correct attitude for the sport. kj howe, former Mint 400Race Director 70's-80's!


Do I hate your guts for it? No Larry, no. Even if I could hate the subject matter its impossible not to recognize such fine art. Speaking of which, wasn't the Mint part Fear and Loathing?


What is your fstop in these photos?


@YouNutMySun Smaller the better.


kj howe It means a lot coming from you! Thank you!


zapsnyder That is definitely true and I get that it is super expensive. The part where people think it's worth saving for and spending a fortune on is what makes me happy. It's just awesome that it exists.


Google maps shows the place is littered with desert trails. All I knew Primm to be good for was the outlets and gas. I need to go off the beaten path more often. Awesome coverage.


"Do you like it? Or do you hate my guts for it?"
I certainly like it. One fine way to add variety to the crop.
Definitely would like to see a spotlight about one of the cars used in the race.


Larry Chen f/0.01


Good article, but I have an issue with this statement: "The teams, drivers and fans are all out there for the glory. There is no glamor; there is no big prize money."With the exception of F1 and NASCAR, I can't think of a single series where prize money (even for the winner) would cover more than a token percentage of the cost of entering.


Definitely keep this kind of coverage going. Living in Britain I cant think of anything even remotely like the spectacular scenery and back drop offered by some of these races, neither anything like the trophy trucks being raced either. Definitely have to get over there one year to catch a race like this, if not the Mint 400 itself!


fortytwoeyes Well, racing costs a lot of money, so there has to be big money involved, or else all branches of motorsport would fall on it's ass.

But who do you think pays the prize money?
Sponsors. If there's tickets involved, it's mostly for keeping of the grounds, tracks and bleachers. Fine tarmac is expensive you know.


Definately more of this stuff Larry!

This type of racing, man and machine, is so much better than F1 which is computer and one-time use machine (or atleast was one-time use machines).. Love it!


Beautiful images as usual Larry! Nice job. I extend all gear heads a warm invitation to race, party, and spectate "The Great American Off-Road Race" The Mint 400.


Love the offroad coverage! The more the better! And as always terrific photos, the offroad ones always end up as my background.


Danois fortytwoeyes I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say. My point was that there is no racing series (except for the two I named), on or off-road, where prize money matters. So it doesn't matter who pays it, because it's a meaningless amount in any form of motorsport. Sponsorship is a different matter, but judging from the pictures it doesn't seem like this type of racing suffers from a lack of sponsors.


zapsnyder Trust me though, there's classes where the cubic dollars aren't what you think they are.  The premier classes have budgets we probably can't comprehend, there's no doubt about that.  But we won class 7100 at the mint both in 2015 and just a last month at this years race.  The team is financed off an air force enlistees paycheck and a TON of sweat labor on my part free of change with my payment being seat time in the truck.  Not big money here but we're out there getting it done and doing pretty good in the process.   "TPF Racing" on facebook and instagram...  Find us, follow us...  "TPF"  Tax Payer Funded, AKA, a military paycheck!


*looks at first pictue*



@Kegs11 You definitely should. It's very spectator friendly.


Of course we like it! These type of events have such a great potential in terms of photography, I totally understand becoming addicted to it.


Epic. More. More.More. More. More.More.More.More.More.More.More.More.More.More.More.More.
And maybe different offroad racing as well, like truck trail or WRC, or grassroots rallying...


I dig the off road features would love to see a behind the shoot feature like Dino did for us amateur speed hunters !


adamindet I can probably make that happen.


BMueller I've been doing my best to shoot more rally, but as you guys can imagine it's quite hard due to the amount of traveling etc...

Here are a few stories that I have done over the years:



I can Imagine that... But I've Long lost my rationality around Cars ;)
I've actually read every Speedhunters article since it's inception so i've Seen These really awesome Posts but thanks for making me read them again :D
But I will gerät my fix, I've decided to See World Rallycross in Buxtehude, Germanys original Rallycross Track, in October, since i've moved to a town Not far away And Loeb is driving this Season . Feel free to stop by :D


Loving the offroad stuff, keep it up mate :)


"We were halfway to Vegas when the drugs kicked in." Makes me think of Fear and Loathing, j/k Larry. Your shoot is nothing like the movie.
Time to start eating only Top Ramen to afford a sandrail build!


Great coverage, another awesome race this year!
Please PM if possible, I have information about one of your photos.
Thank you.


I believe I've added more offroad pictures lately to my desktop & screensaver than any other stuff on Speedhunters. The action shots, mixed with the dust and/or sand with a sunset or sunrise are one of the most beautiful pictures!

When I was 10 years old I used to race RC cars of this kind of type of cars in competition together with my brother and father. Working & tweaking on full carbon buggy RC cars and racing them on a track.. I miss those days!


Excellent work! Great to see more offroad coverage.


To hone logic, supported with open minds and a lot to learn. For logic that is already extensive, balance it with humility


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