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The Mint 400, Las Vegas

The historic and colorful race isn't just a competition, it's a showcase of off-roading innovations

by Katharine Erwin in Design on 13 March 2014

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This weekend, Las Vegas is going to be louder and dustier than ever, as this year's The Mint 400 (aka "The Great American Off-Road Race") rolls into town. The race—which started back in 1967 to promote the former Mint Hotel (now part of Binion's Horseshoe)—has had a colorful history that includes Hunter S. Thompson dropping LSD and creating "Fear and Loathing" to a vast collection of epic battles played out by pro and amateur racers. While The Mint continues to maintain its gonzo amateur spirit, it's also shaping up to be a prestigious theater for showcasing new off-road technology. From tires, shocks and even the drivers themselves, developments in tech fields have enhanced performance and safety tremendously, but lighting in particular has left the "bug-eyes" of old in the dust.

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"Before LED, we were limited to big eight-inch lights that covered our roof and front bumper" says Pete Mortenson, crew chief for Menzie Motorsports. "LED lights have changed the way we set up our race vehicles with smaller, more aerodynamic lights. We can now place lights along the body lines and have a sexy yet functional race truck. " Although there is no award for looks in off-road, there is first place, which comes after the sun goes down. Breaking a light in the middle of the desert—in the dark—is something that Mint race teams know all to well. It can ruin a finish in an instant.

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Rigid Industries is the leader in off-road LEDs; outfitting at least half of the Trophy Trucks entered in this year's Mint. Rigid's products are able to produce almost twice as much sight distance with a fraction of the wattage of old-school pod lighting, making their systems a no-brainer for Trophy Trucks. Other classes, like Class 11 (Volkswagen Bugs), are able to run Rigid lighting and save power for other uses. But what makes Rigid's products the most enticing to off-road racers, are their unsurpassed strength, shown in Rigid's recent video, "Tortured."

Although LED lights are becoming more common on the road in OEM (original equipment manufacturer) consumer vehicles, OEMs still have a long way to go to catch up to companies like Rigid, whose race-tested technology is available to consumers of all motorized vehicles. "It is ramping up very quickly from trucks, to UTVs and even motorcycles," says Rigid's Vice President of Marketing Taylor Anderson. "It's not easy work to keep up with all that is going on, and making sure we have offerings for new models is always on our radar."

Even more technical innovations, power, colorful characters and sheer energy will be on show at The Mint 400, which takes place this Saturday, 15 March, and will be aired on NBC 6 July.

Images courtesy of Rigid Industries

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