San Felipe, Baja California Mexico
The SCORE San Felipe 250 is known for its punishing terrain. Not only is there miles of rocky desert terrain found throughout the course, but the whoops are especially demanding. At only 250 miles, there is not much strategy involved; it’s a full on sprint race. For McMillin Racing’s Luke and Dan McMillin, there would be no holding back.
The race weekend got under way during qualifying on Thursday. This was the first time qualifying would take place for the San Felipe race. The course was located in the sand dunes south of town. The deep, power robbing sand took its toll on several competitors who suffered rollovers or equipment failures, but both McMillin trucks did extremely well. Meticulous preparation, strong support, and the best quality components make for a strong combination. DLM Properties, BFGoodrich Tires, KING Shocks, Maxima Racing Oils, Baja Designs, K&N Filters, Walker Industries, Method Race Wheels and Impact Racing make it all possible. Luke took the 5th spot in qualifying and Dan was also solidly in the top ten with an 8th place run. Dust on race day is always an issue. Starting with the lead group of trucks is crucial in a short, fast paced race.
“Our race day started off great,” said Luke, “We passed BJ Baldwin on an alternate line by mile 10 and left him in the dust. We were the quickest Trophy Truck to VCP7, (Virtual Check Point) and won the “King shocks zone” $4000 bonus. That was pretty cool because we were actually running pretty conservatively through the rough bumps. We had a clean first half of the race, not making any mistakes and being somewhat cautious. When we got to Borrego in the top 3 physically, we were right there for the lead on corrected time. Our pit before diablo lake bed went great. The guys did a good job; we took 2 tires and 80 gallons of fuel in 33 seconds! By the time we got down to Morelia junction, we were only 2 minutes behind Rob (MacCachren). We started 4th so we had him on corrected time. Cameron Steele was out front, but ended up getting a flat so we were right there in position to fight for the win. With less than 50 miles to go, we had some crazy bad luck. A battery cable rubbed against a fitting and caused a short. It fried the alternator, regulator and the batteries caught on fire. It all happened within about a minute. We were in a great position to win the race. It was a big disappointment but we know we have the speed to win. The issue is already fixed and our team is looking forward to the Baja 500.”
Dan also got off to a great start passing Austin and Jesse Jones before they got to the highway 3 road crossing. They were the 7th physical vehicle on the road and could see the leaders’ dust ahead. “By the time we came back around to Borrego at race mile 130ish, we were the 5th physical truck on the road,” said Dan, “We passed Tavo in the #40 Trophy Truck; he pulled over and had the hood off. We got BJ Baldwin right before Borrego on one of our very good lines we found during pre-running; it paid off big time. Coming into Dia Del Sol road, Apdaly Lopez had just pulled out in front of us after pitting so I knew we were in good company and running in the lead pack. At our main pit before El Diablo dry lake bed, we had a 40 second stop for 2 rear tires and a full load of fuel. BJ got back around us during the stop but it was still early on in the race.”
Dan was running 80-90% but found out it was not enough when Toby Price (now driving the #76 AWD truck of Jesse Jones), and Billy Wilson passed him in the big sand whoops. “I knew that we had to push the pace to 100%,” said Dan, “We came into Huatamote wash, which we pre-ran 5 times, so we knew it well, and saw that Toby was stopped changing a flat. We were gaining on Billy when we saw Luke pulled over with catastrophic failure. Even at 100%, I knew I had to push HARDER to get a McMillin on the podium. Right before the end of the wash, I hit a rock but didn’t think it was bad. It sounded like it hit the skid plate. I saw it the whole way and didn’t think anything of it.
We started to get a Vibration at 70 mph so the verdict was that we dinged the driveshaft. It was a bummer because we were catching Billy. We took a good line that Billy missed and drag raced him into a hard left turn at a VCP. A motorcycle racer was in front of us both which made the situation sketchy. I got to the corner first, but had to check up to avoid the rider. Billy got hard on the brakes but slid into my left rear tire, causing us to get a flat. With a dented driveshaft, and a flat left rear, our hopes of a top finish were over. We had no choice but to pit at race mile 240. It took longer than usual for the driveshaft to come off because the splines were loaded with sand and dirt. Usually a 5-8 minute fix for our crew, it took closer to 15 or 20 minutes. It was heart breaking as we watched trucks pass us. We finished 8th Overall, about 25 mins on corrected time behind race winner Rob MacCachren. We are very pleased with how strong the truck ran and are looking forward to running strong again at the SCORE Baja 500.
Photography By: Bink Designs