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Off-road desert race Mint 400 roars into downtown Las Vegas

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Louis Chamberland drives in the Trophy Lite Class during the SNORE/General Tire Mint 400 off-road race at the Moapa Indian Reservation on March 27, 2010.
Photo: Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

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2010 Mint 400

Mint 400

Downtown Las Vegas is going to look very much like a racetrack tonight as four days of off-road racing make history with the Mint 400 headquartered at the Golden Nugget. Some 300 entries have been counted for the top off-road teams who will compete in more than 20 classes of race vehicles.

This Great American Off-Road Race is steeped in history and U.S. lore for the thousands of racers and celebrities from around the world who have attempted to tame the Nevada desert. Fans get the chance to see vehicles up close in front of Fremont Street casinos during the technical inspection before the vehicles head to Jean for the races on Jean Dry Lake Bed on Saturday.

The Mint 400 ran until 1988 and resumed in 2008 after the 20-year break. It started just for motorcycles in 1970, but four-wheel buggies, cars and trucks were added in 1976. Hunter S. Thompson was hired by Sports Illustrated to write about the race, but his lengthy piece was rejected. He gave it to Rolling Stone, who ran it in two parts, and the reaction was so positive that it became the underlying theme of his novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and the film.

Celebrities who have raced over the years: James Garner, Steve McQueen, Gordon Cooper, Mort Sahl, Parnelli Jones, Al Unser and Rick Mears. This year, our hometown hero racer B.J. Baldwin is going for the glory.

A highlight of the four-day fling is the Mint 400 Girls and the crowning of the Miss Mint from the final 10 selected from hundreds of entries. Vanna White and Lynda Carter began their careers as Mint Girls.

Here’s the Royal Robin Rundown:

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21

7:30 p.m.: Truck parade on Fremont Street West.

8:30 p.m.: Pit crew challenge on Fremont Street West.

9:30 p.m.: Welcome party at Insert Coins on Fremont Street East.

THURSDAY, MARCH 22

5:30 to 7:30 p.m.: Driver meet-and-greet on Fremont Street East.

8 p.m.: Time trial results and Miss Mint crowning at the Mint 400 Party at Golden Nugget.

9 p.m.: General Tire VIP party at Gold Diggers at Golden Nugget.

FRIDAY, MARCH 23

8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Fan contingency and tech inspections on Fremont Street East and West.

SATURDAY, MARCH 24

6 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Limited race at Jean Dry Lake Bed near the Jean exit on I-15.

12 to 10 p.m.: Unlimited race at Jean Dry Lake Bed.

We’ll have coverage over the weekend, so check back, plus Senior Editor John Katsilometes is driving one of the race vehicles for his first-hand report.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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