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FOUR IS HIS LUCKY NUMBER Luke McMillin Wins The 53rd BFGoodrich Tires SCORE BaJa 1000 Presented By 4 Wheel Parts Story by Stuart Bourdon Photos by GetSomePhoto Winning the 2020 BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 1000 presented by 4 Wheel Parts was incredibly satisfying for Luke McMillin. It was the fourth time in a row he had been leading in the last few hours of the race. He has experienced what Luke refers to as “really crazy unlucky issues that took us out close to the finish.” He led all the way to race mile 916 just to have a shock let go during the 2017 race. While out front again during the 2018 race, the engine in his truck decided to say “adiós.” Leading once again at the 2019 Baja 1000, Luke’s race truck lost power steering with about 100 miles to go. McMillin told us the moment he was leading this year’s 2020 SCORE Baja 1000, he thought, “Oh boy, we’ve been here before. Let’s see what’s going to happen. Come on, one of these years, it’s got to go our way.” It did go his way in 2020, as he took the SCORE Trophy Truck class win and the Overall fastest finisher spot with an elapsed time of 19 hours, 21 minutes, and 24 seconds, with the help of co-driver and 13x SCORE Baja 1000 winner, Larry Roeseler. But right behind McMillin was 4x SCORE Baja 1000 winner Rob MacCachren. The two vehicles were separated by 11 minutes on elapsed time over a grueling racecourse that was longer than any loop course ever for a SCORE Baja 1000 at just a hair under 890 miles in length. Although McMillin described the day as “uneventful but exciting at the same time,” it was anything but easy, which may have been why he let Roeseler start the race. “There’s probably no one else I would let start the truck with the confidence knowing it would be in a good position on the road and in perfect condition when it got to me,” said McMillin. “He’s been co-driving with me for the last four years. I grew up watching him race and have raced against him too. When he became available in 2017, we started running together. His experience and natural talent made it the obvious choice.” Roeseler brought the truck to McMillin at race mile 430, and as predicted, the truck was in perfect shape after getting through what was probably the roughest section of the course. “I heard the mountain section was absolutely gnarly,” said McMillin. “Larry had pre-run it six or seven times and told me it was like threading a needle. If you put a tire in the wrong place, it could end your day. He handed the truck off to me and was third on the road. My brother (Dan) was out front, and Ampudia was second. We were excited because we know it runs really well down here (Baja) with me driving and with Jason Duncan in the navigator seat. We were within fighting range. We were just a couple minutes down from first and second and knew if we just let the truck do its thing, and if we had good luck, we were going to catch them. That’s exactly what happened.” McMmillin and Duncan were monitoring the radio and getting split times between them and his brother Dan, who was still in the lead. At about race mile 550, they knew they were only a minute and 20 seconds behind Dan. “We were thinking ‘wow,’ Ampudia is still somewhere in between us, but the dust made it impossible to see much of anything,” said McMillin. “Every once in a while, we would catch a glimpse of a big ‘roost’ ahead of us, so we knew we were close.” According to McMillin, the chase continued into the darkness, and he stayed conservative while keeping a competitive pace. “We thought that somewhere he (Ampudia) might get a flat tire or blow a corner,” said McMillin. “We wanted to be right there to capitalize on that mistake. But it was too early to start pushing it really hard. Sure enough, he eventually got a flat. We drag raced him into an area known as the ‘pump station’ and beat him out of there. We left him in our dust.” At that point, McMillin was second on the course, and the truck was still running strong. It didn’t take too long before they were on Dan McMillin’s tail and following him into Hautamote Wash. “We had pre-run together and shared lines. I knew he was driving the right line through the wash and that it wouldn’t be smart to try to pass him in there and risk hurting the truck. We are best friends, brothers, and teammates, and he got on the radio to tell me he didn’t want to hold me up and to go for it. We know the effort each of us put into this, and we’re always excited to see each other do well. He knew I was ready to run a faster pace, and so he pulled over and let me go by.” From Huatamote Wash, Luke McMillin still had more than 300 miles to go and said he was keenly aware that he had been in this position before. He was the first truck on the road during several SCORE Baja 1000 races where problems would occur that prevented him from winning. He decided to settle back into the careful pace they had been running, and keep it smooth and smart. “I wanted to make sure we were there for the last 150 miles and make it to the finish line,” he said. McMillin had clean air ahead of them from that point on. When they were about 60 miles from the finish, Luke said he began getting reports that Ampudia was right behind him, and MacCachren had been moving up fast. McMillin was getting split times from his chase crew, and he knew they were all within a 10-minute elapsed time spread of each other. “Ampudia is a good driver, and MacCachren is one of the best off-road racers of all time. I knew if I soft-pedaled it, they might get me,” he said. “We had ourselves a real race now, and I drove it (the truck) for all it had. I wasn’t going to let those guys catch me now. It was no longer time to be patient. I didn’t want to make a mistake, but with those guys on your tail, it’s go-time!” “We passed Ojos Negros (about 30 race miles from the finish) and were still getting split times from our crew there. I knew Ampudia was out by then (he had crashed the truck), and MacCachren was still running, but our split-time through Ojos was now 12 minutes. It was then I teared up a little and realized we’ve got just 30 miles to go and a big lead. All I have to do is keep it (the truck) on the road. We knew we had the win.” As important as Luke McMillin’s 2020 SCORE Baja 1000 Overall win was to him, knowing that he and his brother were running 1-2 on the road for a while was significant. “That was very cool. We are family, and we have been racing for a long time. We call our team the ‘Big Blue M’ and still run the same logo on the side of our trucks that my dad ran years ago. My brother dan won the Baja 500 this year, and Andy (their cousin) has also won the SCORE Baja 1000. My dad won lots of Baja races in the 80s, and he and my mom believed in us and always supported our racing efforts. There have been some tough years, and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to win the SCORE Baja 1000 in a Trophy Truck. It’s a great feeling to carry forward the family legacy, and I have to thank them for giving me the opportunity to win it.”

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