Las Vegas, NV
A huge field of 50 Trick Trucks showed up to take on the legendary Mint 400 race in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brothers Luke and Dan McMillin love to compete, that’s why they are following in the footsteps of their Father Mark and their Grandfather Corky, both icons in off-road racing. Luke is refining his #83 Trophy Truck after a great season last year. Dan is developing his brand new Racer Engineering #23. The Mint would be a good test for both drivers.
The Mint 400 is loaded with fun events and happenings that take place before the race. Competitors kick the event off with a parade down the Las Vegas strip on Wednesday to the delight of thousands of fans who line the street.
The parade is fun but Luke and Dan would have to wait until time trials on Thursday before they would get a chance to hit their throttles in anger. Qualifying order is determined by a random draw. The later you qualify, the more torn up and loose the qualifying course becomes.
The Trophy Trucks and the Unlimited cars both qualify on the same course. In total 79 vehicles would run two laps; one as reconnaissance, one for starting position. Dan’s qualifying draw was 51st; Luke’s was a staggering, 66th spot. By the time they would get back to the hotel, all the hot water would be gone. Luke had a respectable 18th fastest qualifying time, Dan lost some time in a corner when the intercom cut out at the worst time. His time put him in the 31st starting position. Both McMillin Racing drivers had a steep hill to climb on race day.
“It was not the best weekend for the #83 truck,” said Luke, “We were a little too conservative during qualifying. I knew it would be tough to win from the 18th spot; there were too many fast guys in the top 10. The Primm course is a rocky single track and it gets very dusty. On lap one, we passed a couple cars but got a flat tire at mile 30 which really set us back. Chris Olimon and I changed it quickly; only a handful of cars went by.
Unfortunately, we were stuck in the dust behind one of those cars for the rest of the lap allowing the leaders who had clean air put a lot of time on us. We would have to charge hard to make up time on lap two. A rock kicked up and took out a brake line; we had no brakes. By lap three we decided it was best to set a steady pace and bring the truck home in one piece. We made up a lot of places finishing in the top ten in eighth place overall, which was not very satisfying for us.
We know what we need to do to improve on the truck and are confident we will be in the winner’s circle soon. We are ready to get back down south of the border for the Baja 500. We led most of the race last year. We’re looking forward to finishing where we left off last year.”
We started next to Steve Olliges on the grid,” said Dan, “Steve got us out of the gate but we quickly reeled him in up the first sand wash and made the pass. We caught and passed a couple more before we made it to pit one. The rest of lap one went great; we made up quite a few positions.
Lap two was off to a great start but we lost a driveshaft. We didn’t hit anything, it just let go. Casey and I changed it very quickly, about 10 minutes or so, but about 10-12 vehicles passed us. Many of those that got by us were cars we had passed on the first two laps; we had to do it all over again. We stopped at pit one to grab another drive shaft and charged back into the desert. We caught and passed more vehicles, some of which we had passed once before, others were new catches.
We were going at a fast pace until our luck ran out and we got a flat tire. When we went to change it, we noticed our jack handle was missing. We used the breaker bar as our jack handle, it took slightly longer than usual but thanks to some help from the awesome course workers, we only saw a few cars go by. From there we charged hard to the finish.
I don’t even know how many cars and trucks we passed during the race but we started 31st and finished 14th. When we got back to the shop we found our jack handle. It worked its way loose and was jammed between the coil over shock and the back of our seats. It was starting to punch through the driver’s side door panel. We were lucky it didn’t do any more damage than that.
The Mint proved to be the challenge McMillin Racing was hoping for but not the results. Both Trophy Trucks proved they have competitive speed. They hope to tap into that speed when they compete at the 48th SCORE Baja 500 June 1-5 in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
Photography By: Bink Designs