When 32-year old Andy McMillin met with the management at Red Bull to support his revamped Trophy-Truck program in 2018, the third-generation desert racer had one basic value proposition. It was all about winning – nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
In a time when the amount of social media followers can and does trump race victories and championships, McMillin’s direct pitch must have resonated within the halls of the internationally-recognized brand. At last year’s SCORE Baja 1000, Andy debuted a new Red Bull livery on his No.31 Chevy, joining the No.7 Ford of Bryce Menzies.
In the first two SCORE International races of 2019, that no frills, no BS promise by McMillin has been realized, with the San Diego resident taking first overall honors at last month’s 51st running of the BFGoodrich SCORE Baja 500. Enjoying clean air afforded him via an overall victory in April’s SCORE San Felipe 250, McMillin and co-driver Johnny Nelson outdistanced a field of 245 trucks, buggies, motorcycles and side-by-sides to take top honors. Despite overcoming some of the nastiest Baja 500 terrain on record, the duo still managed to complete the 485.02-mile course in a time of 9h49m12s, good for a rather sluggish average of just 49.39 miles per hour.
The win marked McMillin’s third overall victory in the SCORE Baja 500 – one in 2010 with his father Scott McMillin, along with his solo driving efforts in 2017 and again this weekend. Andy joins his father and uncle, Mark McMillin, with three overall crowns each in this race, giving the family a combined 11 overall wins. Andy’s grandfather, the late Corky McMillin, also posted two career overall Baja 500 victories, while his father Scott is a highly accomplished champion off-road racer as well.
At one point in this year’s Baja 500 it looked to be a McMillin podium sweep, with Andy’s cousins Luke McMillin (No.83 Ford) and Dan McMillin (No.23 Ford) all running in first, second and third.
“We had clear air all day, just a couple of motorcycles and quads especially there toward the end, and then it got silty,” shared Andy after completing his run. “We had a couple of mechanicals we had to stop for out there, but other than that, we had three planned pit stops and it went flawlessly. My cousin Luke was really pushing, and we were running neck and neck. He got within a minute and 20 seconds on the beach, had me by 40 to 50 seconds, and then we kind of whipped it up and put 5 to 10 seconds on him. At Uruapan we were about neck and neck at times, and I was like, hey this is it, last 30 miles, show him what you are made of…’
‘It was definitely pretty treacherous; a lot of silt, a lot of blind rises, and with Luke pushing me, we had to go a lot faster through there than I was planning on.”
After starting the season with the overall at the 33rd SCORE San Felipe 250 in April, McMillin’s 11th career SCORE Trophy Truck race win moved him into a tie for second with Ed/Tim Herbst, Larry Ragland and Robby Gordon. That group trails Rob MacCachren, the all-time winningest SCORE Trophy Truck racer with 17 career victories.
“It seems to be coming together, and we are taking momentum from race to race,” Andy said. “I’m really not sure what it is, but we keep doing the same thing. One thing that is helping is that we brought all of our pit and chasing stuff in house, and our own crews. This is helping us get our pit stops down to just 20 to 30 seconds, which keeps us competitive, for sure.”
Staying competitive has remained at the top of Andy’s list of objectives. Desert off-road racing today is in line with all top-tier motorsports, with the performance bar constantly moving forward. McMillin’s Baja 500 winning, Mason-built, two-wheel drive truck has already been sold, as he is moving on to a recently completed Mason all-wheel drive machine. In what may be one of Andy’s defining seasons, the timing seems, once again, perfect.
“To be honest, at the Baja 500 we lost about 14 minutes in 100 miles to Bryce Menzies over the Mike’s Sky Ranch loop – and we were leading in fresh air,” he explained. “He kind of came out of nowhere. We had obviously made the decision to go to all-wheel drive earlier this year, so the timing of the new truck was perfect considering the advantage they seem to have.”
The new truck is a masterpiece of form and function, a virtuoso CNC and carbon fiber piece of modern motorsports art. It’s all-billet aluminum front hubs, known as portals (pictured), are the newest thinking in unlimited Trophy-Truck racing, offering less constant velocity joint angle and more front wheel travel. The interior of the new Red Bull machine also incorporates an air-conditioned fresh air system that blows cooled (not hot desert) air to the driver and co-driver (below).
It all seems too beautiful to get dirty. Almost.
With Fox shock tuning by master guru Todd Tenbroek, Andy has already logged many test miles in preparation for September’s Lucerna SCORE Baja 400. “The new truck is working great, but I am fine tuning it for my driving style,” he said. “We are gathering data on tires and fuel mileage to get ready for the Lucerna race. The biggest difference is the speed, it is brutally fast. It’s pretty unbelievable. In fact, my dad had the chance to drive it, and he had to pick his jaw off the ground.”
Making a mid-season change in the midst of success may either be the recipe for failure or further domination. Considering McMillin’s long and victorious history, we will place our bets on the latter.