Mint 400 brings back glimmer of past

The second edition of the revitalized Mint 400 begins north of Las Vegas on Saturday, but the essence of the legendary desert race takes over Fremont Street today.

One of the highlights of the original Mint 400, which ran from 1968 to 1988 before returning a year ago, was the convergence of about 500 race cars on Fremont Street the day before the race.

That glimmer comes back today when the nearly 240 race vehicles entered in this year's event will cruise from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. along Fremont Street in downtown en route to technical-inspection stations near Eighth Street.

The original Mint was held in 1968, but interest waned after the sale of the Mint hotel in the late 1980s. Las Vegas publicist Norm Johnson created the event as the Del Webb Mint 400 Off Road Rally, and the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts organization resurrected it last year.

Many teams spent Thursday morning pre-running the 100-mile course, which is about 30 miles north of Las Vegas.

The four-lap race begins at 7 a.m. Saturday.

The start-finish line is near the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza at exit 75 off Interstate 15.

Go to on the Internet for more information.

• SHELBY SALUTE -- Motor sports legend Carroll Shelby will be honored at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bellagio during the Mel Larson Night of Champions banquet to benefit the Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.

Fourteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force will be the guest speaker. Call 644-4444 for ticket prices and reservations.

• DRAG RACING -- Three teams of NHRA professional drivers, in town for the Nationals, will compete in the U.S. Bowling Congress Open Championships at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Cashman Center. The drag racing event runs April 3 to 5 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Floppers team comprises Funny Car drivers Robert Hight, Del Worsham, Jeff Arend, Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan. The Top Fuel Eliminators are Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, Rod Fuller and crew chief Chuck Worsham. The Pro Stock Holeshots are Tom Hammonds, Allen Johnson, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Jason Gray. ...

Driver autograph sessions Thursday:

Stratosphere: Tony Schumacher and Cory McClennathan, 5 to 6 p.m.; Ron Capps, Beckman and Hagan, 6 to 7 p.m.

Palms: Jeg Coughlin Jr., Cruz Pedregon, Lucas, Langdon, Urs Erbacher, Arend, Johnny Gray and Bob Bode, 6 to 8 p.m.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at or 702-383-0247.