In addition to serving as the backdrop for Hunter S. Thompson’s groundbreaking novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” the Mint 400 was the event for serious racers from all disciplines as well as actors, entertainers and even astronauts. During its heyday, the race attracted Indianapolis 500 winners such as Parnelli Jones, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, off-road racing pioneers Mickey Thompson, Walker Evans and Ivan Stewart, actors James Garner and Steve McQueen and astronaut Gordon Cooper.
The brainchild of Norm Johnson, the former publicity director of Del Webb’s Mint Hotel and Casino, the Mint 400 annually drew tens of thousands of spectators (estimates ran as high as 100,000 some years) to Fremont Street for tech inspection — much to the delight of local businesses.
Now, 20 years after its demise (the race foundered for several years after 1988 under a different name and sponsor before folding), a local volunteer group of desert racers has obtained the “Mint 400” name and will attempt to recapture the spirit of the original event.
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