Drama in the Desert as MacCachren Wins the Mint 400 Two Weeks after Baja

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  • Rob MacCachren
    American racing driver
Photo credit: McMillin Racing
Photo credit: McMillin Racing
  • Just two weeks ago Luke McMillin and Rob MacCachren teamed up to win the SCORE Baja 1000 by a half hour over next competitor.

  • For the Mint 400, McMillin a MacCachren were on different teams again and were battling, almost to the end, when the desert weather suddenly changed.

  • The results said as much about sportsmanship as skilled racing.

Sometimes wind can be a problem in the desert, but sometimes a complete lack of wind can make things worse. In the 2021 BFGoodrich Mint 400 last weekend, in the desert outside Las Vegas, the calm, still air knocked the leader out of the race. Or rather, his former teammate knocked him out of the race... because of the calm, still air.

Let’s back up a bit.

Two weeks ago young racer Luke McMillin and veteran Rob MacCachren shared driving duties in McMillin’s truck in the SCORE Baja 1000, running a near-perfect race to take the win in Baja’s toughest desert race by a half hour over the next-closest competitor. The young McMillin had recruited the veteran MacCachren to share driving duties in the 1226-mile race that ran the length of the Baja peninsula in Mexico. McMillin even put MacCachren in as driver of record so he’d be eligible to win the driver’s championship, which he did. At the time MacCachren had nothing but praise for his Baja teammate.

“It’s an honor to be asked by Luke McMillin and the McMillin Race team to drive with them,” he had said.

Photo credit: FOX
Photo credit: FOX

But two weeks later the pair were competitors again, driving separate trucks on separate teams, both going for the win in the 53-year-old Mint 400, “The Great American Off-Road Race.” As the Mint progressed, McMillin was doing better than MacCachren, and better than anybody, much better. He had taken the pole and was leading the race all the way up till five miles from the finish. That’s when the wind died down and, instead of blowing out of the way so you could see, the dust just hung on the ground like a dropped crate of talcum powder, blinding everyone. McMillin was leading but MacCachren was gaining until, in the worst of the stagnant dust, the second-place driver spotted the first-place driver.

“We were just chasing Luke around, and it was materializing into a last lap battle, and the wind slowed down and the dust started hanging really low, which was weird,” MacCachren was quoted in utvunderground.com. “Sometimes you see the fog and it’s high, but on the dry lake, we couldn’t see the ground. We had a 90-degree left, a 90-degree right, and then my son (Cayden MacCachren, who was navigating for father Rob) said, ‘That’s Luke, right there.’ We turned the lights off on him and followed him through the speed zone and over the bridge.”

That’s when the trouble hit and hit big.

“We got in the dirt and some chicanes before the last couple of miles, and I don’t know what happened, but we got into the back of him in the dust and tipped him over.”

He didn’t just tip him over. McMillin rolled several times and wound up sideways on the course and upside down. MacCachren, who had spent the last race praising McMillin and the entire McMillin family, was beside himself.

“I was pretty bummed about it—we stopped and wanted to help him get back over. He’s the last person I’d want that to happen to. They’re an incredible family and an incredible team.”

McMillin, hanging there upside down in his race belts, allowed himself a very short period of upsettedness, then climbed out and immediately encouraged MacCachren to finish.

“The last lap turned absolutely nasty with lap traffic and really bad dust to say the least,” McMillin said afterward on his Instagram account. “That really cost us some time after clearing pit 1 on the last lap +4 minutes. The last 60 miles were extremely frustrating picking off lap traffic and Rob closed the gap...

“Then with 5 miles to go things got a little wild, but let me say now, it’s all good! 😆 Rob got into the back of us and sent us over, rolling about 4 times. We are ok! Rob felt horrible to say the least and stopped to not only try to flip us over but nearly refused to continue on. I was upset for about 20 seconds but then proceeded to yell at Rob ‘Go, you won this race, go win!”

Photo credit: BFGoodrich
Photo credit: BFGoodrich

(Imagine that happening in Formula 1, where Verstappen didn’t even stop to check on Hamilton after nearly killing him with his rear tire at Monza.)

“Even after the rescue trucks showed up to help roll us over Rob didn’t want to leave and take the win, so I pushed him back towards his truck and continued to tell him “go!”. I wanted Rob to win. I’m a huge Rob fan, always have been, always will be. It was unintentional and a racing incident. If we didn’t win, there is absolutely no one else I’d rather see win than Rob Mac!”

So Mac did go, and Mac did win, his second victory in the Mint 400, in a time of 6:55.47. McMillin’s truck was eventually rolled back onto its wheels by the rescue crew, but in the interim he was passed by Ryan Arciero, who finished second. McMillin finished third. Racing won.

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