The Racers of the Mint 400, Luxury+ Theatre and More

Melissa Eickhoff

Everyone thinks auto racing is a guy’s game. A few women have made it to the top echelon of the game, but not too many. You can name them, just about, on one hand: Janet Guthrie, Sarah Fisher, Shirley Muldowney, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick are a few that come to mind. Believe it or not, the world of Off-Road Racing has had ladies competing for more than 40 years, and the latest to join the sport are three outstanding women: One is a former Playmate and a case carrier on the popular TV show, “Deal or No Deal,” another is a housewife, mom, and a very experienced race car driver, while the third member is a mixture of racing, public relations, with thousands of miles in off-roading.


They will be competing for the first time, in the Mint 400, driving a locally built Zero One Odyssey off-road vehicle. And, one of the drivers will actually be out to beat her boss, actor Patrick Dempsey.


Patrick Dempsey

Pilar Lastra, Pattie Hughes Mayer and Melissa Eickhoff are excited to announce their entry in the General Tire Mint 400, March 20 – 24.  Long-time friends and racers, they’ve teamed up to apply their talents in the most challenging off-road race in America, The Mint 400, where they will drive in the Zero One Odysseys Desert Challenge class.


All three ladies bring racing experience to the team, but this will be their first time in the driver’s seat in an off-road race.  As a partner with Zero 1 Odysseys, Eickhoff has driven thousands of miles in the Zero One cars; while on tours, driving experiences and instructing.  Melissa has co-driven many off-road races, including the NORRA Mexican 1000 off-road rally, taking first in class in 2011, and third in 2012.  In a unique twist, she works with Patrick Dempsey’s American Le Mans Series race team –who they will be competing against in The Mint 400.

“I’ve been plotting this girls’ team since my first experience in the Zero 1 cars a few years back,” Melissa said. “It’s the perfect platform for us.  We’re busy people and appreciate the ease of showing up to a race and everything is taken care of –all we have to do is concentrate on driving.”


Pattie Hughes Mayer

Mayer, a housewife and mom, has been successful in a range of road racing hardware, from Spec Racer Fords, to the Women’s Global GT Series, including a stint in the SCCA and BMW Club Racing ranks, with seven class wins in various BMW and Porsche racing cars.  Additionally, Pattie successfully competed in the SCCA Michelin Pro Rally Series for two years, winning the Production GT Championship.  This success led to her recruitment as the first female racing instructor at the respected Mid-Ohio School in Mansfield, Ohio.

Mayer said: “I so enjoy road racing, but I’m very excited to get back in the dirt with the Zero One cars, and to share such a fun event with Melissa and Pilar. The Mint 400 is an iconic event and we are all looking forward to being part of it.  I’m sure we will all have some great stories to tell on Saturday night!”



Lastra, the former Playmate, has racing in her blood as well. Pilar has driven the Zero One cars over many miles in the Nevada Outback and honed her skills in road racing through a strong relationship with Mazda. She’s trained at the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED driving school, and raced in the Mazda MX-5 Cup. Pilar works with DXL Driving Experiences as a host and instructor, driving everything from Jeeps to Supercars.

“I’m excited to make the transition from road racing to my first off road-race,” said Pilar.  “I love the Zero One cars. I feel comfortable and safe in them, but it is my first off-road race, so I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little nervous. Excited and confident, but nervous.”  The former Playmate added, “I feel that Playmates have had such a great role, and participation in the Mint 400, since the early days of the great race. Several of them have held the Miss Mint 400 title. I’m so happy to be the one that plays a different role and competes for the trophy, not the crown, in the Mint 400 as a driver.”

Pilar Lastra

When the ladies aren’t racing, they have serious ties to the racing community. Melissa works with Dempsey Del Piero Racing, co-manages Race of Champions Team USA, produces motorsports TV, contributes to, and, and manages marketing for Zero One Odysseys.  Pattie teaches at the Porsche Sport Driving School, executes the Vitesse sports car program, and drives the IMSA Safety Car for the American Le Mans Series, as well as facilitating, instructing and consulting tasks for several tire and automotive OEMs. Pilar may be best known for her suitcase-carrying skills on the popular NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” and as a Playmate. But she’s transitioned her fame to the car world as the star of the hit web series “Hot Laps,” contributes to, Jet Set magazine, and High Performance Corvette, and wrote: “Treat Me Like Your Car, A Man’s Guide to Treating a Lady.”


For added confidence and race guidance, the ladies are working with racing veteran Kellon Walch as their co-driver. Kellon’s career in off-road racing is accomplished.  He’s navigated for Robby Gordon in Dakar and the Baja 1000, with multiple podium finishes, and he’s the 2009 and 2010 Best in the Desert 7300 Class Champion.  As a professional motorcycle racer from, 1999 to 2007, he was the first American to win a motorcycle stage in the Dakar Rally, has won four Best in the Desert Series Championships, is the 2006 Hare-N-Hound Open Class National Champion, and raced with the Factory RedBull/KTM team earning a Baja 1000 second overall finish in 2004, and much more.  Kellon’s day job is as a Clark County Firefighter in Las Vegas, NV. 

“We’re serious about this race,” said Melissa. “And realistic. Working with a pro like Kellon will propel our learning curve and help us reach our goal, the top of the podium.”



The Mint 400 Trio – Mel Larson, KJ Howe and Norm Johnson

For the first time in my personal memory, 50 off-road race vehicles will parade down the world famous Las Vegas Blvd, for the inaugural 4 Wheel Parts Mint 400 Off-Road Vehicle Parade, at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20. The procession will celebrate the 2013 General Tire Mint 400 presented by Polaris and the massive group of off-road racecars will be led by Mint 400 founders Norm Johnson, Mel Larson, and the 2013 Mint 400 Grand Marshall, KJ Howe. More than ten million dollars’ worth of custom fabricated off-road racecars will be on display, and thunder down the Strip, in tribute to the famed Mint 400 vehicle processions that took place on Fremont Street decades ago. The 50 plus vehicles are part of a massive field of more than 258 entries that will compete Saturday, March 23, just outside of Las Vegas, in Jean, at The Great American Off-Road Race. 


“Off-road racing is the most dynamic motorsport on the planet.  We are thrilled to be raising the profile of our sport, and to be making history by showcasing these amazing vehicles on the Strip for the people of Las Vegas,” said Josh Martelli, COO and co-owner of The Mint 400.  “We can’t thank the great folks at 4 Wheel Parts, and the City of Las Vegas enough for their support.”

The 4 Wheel Parts Mint 400 Off-Road Vehicle Parade will begin at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino and make its way three miles south to Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. Following the procession, Hussong’s Cantina will host the official Mint 400 Kick-Off Party beginning at 6PM.



Galaxy Green Valley Luxury+ Theatre celebrated its grand opening on Thursday, Mar. 7, at the Green Valley Town Center. The event featured a ribbon cutting with Henderson Mayor Andy A. Hafen, and Henderson Councilwoman Gerri Schroder, along with the Galaxy Theatre executives. Councilwoman Schroder presented the President of Galaxy Theatres, Rafe Cohen, with a special proclamation from Mayor Hafen, proclaiming Mar. 7-10 Galaxy Luxury+ Days. The first Luxury+ designed theater, and the only one of its kind in Nevada, features many one-of-a-kind amenities including: cushioned seats that fully recline with powered footrests and attached snack tables that allow for absolute relaxation while watching a first-run movie; aisles that measure seven feet that allow reclining patrons to stay in position, undisturbed while allowing enough room for other movie-goers to pass by – all for the same admission as a standard movie theater. Additionally, premium concessions including beer on tap and wine service are available for purchase in the lobby, and can be enjoyed in any of the theater’s eight auditoriums.


Model, actress and songwriter Terri Watts, won the “ECCOCI Boca Park Model Search for 2013,” on Saturday, March 9. As the top model, Watts won a $1,000 shopping spree, the cover of a quarterly ECCOCI magazine and an inside story. Terri moved to Las Vegas seven months ago from Denver, where she modeled for Wilhelmina Denver and also worked as a personal massage therapist. She moved to Las Vegas to pursue her dreams.  The mother of two adult children said she’s getting a late start and wants to encourage people to live their dreams. For the four runners up, who all tied for second place, each won a $200 gift certificate and will be featured in the magazine. All of the model participants had their pictures professionally taken for their portfolios. Second place winners were Kathie Haddad, Nickea Nian, Cindy Parker and Diana Chapman. The models, who competed in two different ECCOCI outfits, were judged by the audience in attendance at the store, and the following judges: Crystal Ball –fashion model, designer and owner of It Model Management Boutique; Cheryl Fortezzo Prater – “Mrs. North America Globe;” LJ Harness – legendary rock drummer, MC / host and sales, marketing and promotions for Cadillac of Las Vegas; and Jennifer Lier, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, entertainer, singer and emcee.

Well, gang, that’s about it for this week. Hope to see ya out on the desert during the Mint 400.

I’m outa here!

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