FIND PRODUCTS
Free shipping on orders over $10
AIRAID - Vehicles Needed
AIRAID Facebook   AIRAID Twitter   AIRAID Instagram
Become an AIRAID Insider
Be the first to hear about:
  • AIRAID's latest product info
  • Exclusive offers & promotions
  • AIRAID sponsored events

Matt Lovell Racing at the Mint 400 Sees Tough Breaks with a Big Effort

Matt Lovell’s #7244 all dressed and ready for the big event in Las Vegas, Nevada

Matt Lovell’s #7244 all dressed and ready for the big event in Las Vegas, Nevada

Coming off back-to-back wins at the SNORE Rage at the River this past December, AIRAID-sponsored Matt Lovell and his team had high hopes coming into the Mint 400. After taking a break from the Parker 425 to focus his efforts on building a new race truck as well, as prepping the #7244 mid-size trophy truck, Matt and his team were ready to tackle whatever the Mint was able to throw in their path. Unfortunately, some unforeseen obstacles dashed the team’s hopes for a win, but Matt and his team gave it their best effort on one of the most brutal courses in recent memory.

Matt Lovell attacks the course in his AIRAID-equipped truck at the Mint 400

Matt Lovell attacks the course in his AIRAID-equipped truck at the Mint 400

The Mint 400 has a long history dating all the way back to the 1960s. Originally organized by the Mint Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, the Mint has had its ups and downs throughout the decades. Today it’s more popular than ever before thanks to its resurrection in 2008. Virtually every known desert racer has entered the Mint 400, and a lucky few have even managed to win it. Unfortunately for many more, the legendarily brutal course has claimed more than its fair share of entries. Simply finishing the Mint is an accomplishment, let along making it to the podium. This year’s Mint 400 had a record number of entries, and Matt Lovell’s #7244 truck was lucky enough to draw first off the line for the 7200 class. This meant plenty of clean air and a chance to stay at the front of the pack.

Matt Lovell assembled a team of nearly 25 people consisting of friends and family members, all of them volunteering their time to help get #7244 to the finish line. After participating in the parade down Las Vegas boulevard with fiancé Jesse in the passenger seat, Lovell and the team took part in tech and contingency. Basically a giant party on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas, contingency for the Mint is the stuff of legend. As expected, Matt Lovell’s entry passed through tech with flying colors and also spent some time at several sponsor booths, including LazerStar Lights, Raceline wheels, King Shocks, and Falken tire. After a quick photo shoot with SnM Media, the team relocated to Primm, Nevada, which was the starting point for the Mint 400 this year.

Race day came early for the team as they made final preparations to the truck, organized spares and gear, and divided the team into three groups that would staff the main pit, plus two remote pits. The Mint is a loop race, so Lovell would have to make three laps on the 130-mile course. A loop race also means a full day of dodging slower vehicles and staying out of the way of the faster trophy trucks and Class 1 cars. Lovell lined up in the front of the 7200 class along with navigator Rob Nelson, all strapped in a ready to go. The green flag dropped and the duo was on their way, gunning to stay in front of the pack and make good time through the first lap.

The 2016 Mint 400 proved to be one of the toughest ever, and the desert took its toll on the competitors

The 2016 Mint 400 proved to be one of the toughest ever, and the desert took its toll on the competitors

The course for the Mint turned out to be more brutal than ever before. Already challenging on its own, the course was further chewed up with other classes that had run that morning, plus several additional classes that started in front of the 7200 class. All these vehicles took their toll on the course, making deep ruts, cavernous whoops, and kicking rocks and boulders into the two-track course through the Nevada desert. Lovell reported that the course was the worst that he’s seen in 7 years of racing. About 15 miles from the start, they experienced their first flat, caused by hitting a rock at high speed. Lovell and Nelson had the tire changed in under 8 minutes, but then managed to get stuck while getting back on the course. They spent another 30 minutes digging out but finally managed to get the #7244 on solid ground. Unfortunately for the team, this was just the start of the problems. Upon reaching the first remote pit to put a fresh spare on the truck, the pit crew noticed that the rear axle was leaking. The course was so rough that the axle had taken a hard hit to the fabricated ¼” steel Ford 9” housing right where an additional ¼” skid plate had been in place to help prevent damage. The skid plate had been torn away and a crack had developed in the housing, causing a serious leak. The pit crew sealed up the housing as best they could with silicone and topped off the housing, and Lovell roared out of the pit. Unfortunately, all of these delays had allowed the rest of the 7200 class to get by, but Matt was determined to reel them back in. He made good time to the second remote pit, where the crew once again sealed up the housing and topped it off with fluid. The course continued to be rough and was only getting worse, with Lovell estimating that he passed nearly 100 broken vehicles between the first remote pit and main, which is the starting point for lap 2. A second flat slowed them down again, but they rallied and made it to the main pit, where the truck was fueled, the rear axle housing was inspected and sealed again, the LazerStar lights were checked because nightfall was less than an hour away. Though a win was not in the cards at this point, Lovell and his determined crew were dead set on getting #7244 to the finish line.

Unfortunately, that was not in the cards either. The damaged rear axle housing took a second big hit somewhere between main pit and the first remote pit on lap 2, which caused the loss of all the differential fluid, which in turn caused the rear axle gears to fail. Most teams would have thrown in the towel at this point, but not Lovell. The Mint is a no-chase race, meaning that team members were not allowed to deliver spare parts to the damaged truck. Lovell located a friendly Best in the Desert official that was willing to bring him a spare 3rd member, which was located at the main pit. The crew met the BITD official and handed off the parts, which he then delivered to Matt (special thanks to the BITD crew). Lovell already had the rear axle apart and was waiting on the spares when the official arrived, but unfortunately during reassembly it was discovered that the damage to the axle housing was more extensive than initially though and some studs that held the 3rd member in place had sheared. There was simply no way to keep fluid in the damaged housing, which meant that the new gears would only last a short time before failing. With course closing times looming, the team had no choice but to accept that a finish was not in the cards this year. The Mint would be the first DNF that the #7244 team experienced in three years.

Not one to dwell on the past, Lovell is looking forward to Vegas to Reno, which is the next race on his schedule. Lovell has run AIRAID air filters exclusively on his race truck for several years and trusts no other filter to withstand the harsh conditions of desert racing. He uses a SynthaFlow oiled cone filter on the engine with a pre-filter and multiple breather filters for other critical drivetrain components. He reports that he rarely has to change engine filters during a race, and that the intake plenum on the engine is always spotless after a race, even one as long as Vegas to Reno (about 650 miles). He also uses AIRAID Helmet Air System filters to ensure he and his navigator breathe clean air regardless of course conditions. To find out more information about Matt Lovell and his team, visit www.mattlovellracing.com or follow him on social media, facebook.com/mattlovellracing, or on Instagram #mattlovellracing.


AIRAID PRODUCT SEARCH     WHERE TO BUY AIRAID


Horizontal Advertisement