If one were curious about the intensely competitive environment present in today’s top-level off-road racing, there is no need to look beyond this past weekend’s incredible 50th running of the BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 500. Like world-class sport car endurance races of recent years, saving equipment is now an obsolete concept, replaced instead by an all-out sprint mentality — despite having to conquer some of the roughest terrain in the world for more than 11 straight hours.
That fact was clearly demonstrated as Rob MacCachren (pictured above) took full advantage of his pole position start to claim his second consecutive overall SCORE victory in 2018, never losing the physical lead from the pole position he earned via his win at the San Felipe 205 season opener. It may seem rather mundane on paper, but four of MacCachren’s closest competitors all crossed the Ensenada finish line within just nine minutes on elapsed time.
Las Vegas native MacCachren, 53, drove to victory over the 542.12-mile course in his No. 11 Rockstar Energy/BFGoodrich Ford F-150 (built by Geiser Bros) in a penalty-free 11 hours, 21 minutes and 15 seconds, averaging 47.75mph. Race title sponsor BFGoodrich Tires paid a $25,000 contingency bonus to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer to commemorate this year’s racer and celebrate BFG earning its 32nd overall 4-wheel Baja 500 victory. It was MacCachren’s sixth Baja 500 class win and second overall triumph.
The first part of the race saw a spirited battle between MacCachren and the No. 16 Monster Energy/BFGoodrich Geiser-built Ford of Cameron Steele. While Steele’s progress was slowed with drivetrain issues in the remote mountains near Rancho Melling, breathing down their necks was a pack of unrelenting Trophy-Trucks driven by Luke McMillin, Dan McMillin/Larry Roeseler, Andy McMillin and Ryan Arciero.
With no room for mechanical or mental error, MacCachren Motorsports’ well-oiled crew kept Rob up to date on the all-important time splits. MacCachren pushed hard to the end, knowing his lead was a fragile one. Luckily, his equipment once again held up thanks to a now time-proven package.
“This truck honestly has had very few problems over the last four or five years,” he shared at the finish line. “I want to thank my crew chief, who has gotten us three SCORE Baja 1000 wins in a row, two San Felipe 250s in a row, and now a SCORE Baja 500 win. That’s good stuff — we love being here!”
While MacCachren has been on top of his game of late, it has been the resurrection of the McMillin family that has been one of the sport’s most popular stories in 2018. Representing three generations of Baja champions, the McMillin name has been synonymous for top-level efforts in decades past. While Andy McMillin has been competitive for years, in 2018 brothers Dan and Luke (Andy is their cousin) have raised their game substantially.
Three minutes, 32 seconds behind MacCachren came 25-year old Luke McMillin, piloting the No. 32 Mark Racing Ford F-150 in a solo effort. Dan McMillin, 30, teamed with 61-year old legend Larry Roeseler to finish fourth in the No. 23 Mark Racing Ford F-150. Andy McMillin, 31, finished fifth overall in his Red Bull/Toyo Tire-backed No. 31 McMillin Racing Chevy Silverado.
The sterling performance represented the first time the McMillin family has placed three Trophy Trucks in the top five overall and in class. The first and second generation McMillin racers did it first in the 1981 SCORE Baja 1000 when they claimed three classes victories while finishing in the top five overall. Mark McMillin, Dan and Luke’s dad, finished first overall and in Class 1, late family patriarch Corky McMillin finished second overall and won Class 2 and Scott McMillin, Andy’s father, finished fourth overall while winning Class 10.
“We put in a lot of hard work and this team just keeps getting better and better,” explained Luke McMillin at the finish. “We had a good day, but just couldn’t catch the robot, Rob MacCachren.”
Splitting the McMillin group was another fan favorite now also enjoying a recent resurgence in pace. Thanks in large measure to the welcome (and needed) performance found in his new Herbst-Smith Levi’s-backed Ford, Ryan Arciero, 44, took full advantage of the truck’s reliability and speed to split up the MacCachren/McMillin juggernaut to come home a solid third – his best Trophy-Truck performance in years.
For certain, the Trophy-Truck wars are heating up in 2018, with a Geiser Brothers-built truck (MacCachren), two Racer Engineering-built Fords (Luke and Dan McMillin), a new Mason truck (Andy McMillin) and Arciero’s Herbst-Smith created machine all present in the Baja 500’s top five overall standings.
Of course, the race also represented many more victories, losses and adventures for the 321 official starters in this year’s race. Thanks to an extended 22-hour time limit, 187 of them saw the checkered flag to earn an official finish. Baja always gives much more than it takes, and the 2018 BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 500 certainly lived up to a legacy still vibrant 50 years later.