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'The Luke' shares thoughts-- upcoming SCORE Baja 1000
By Dominic Clark / Photo by GetSomePhoto
SCORE MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic Clark, Dominic@SCORE-International.com October 30, 2023 ‘Celebrating 50 Years of SCORE Desert Racing Excellence’ Presented by K&N BFGoodrich Tires 56th SCORE Baja 1000… Luke ‘The Luke’ McMillin prepping to capture four-peat With big help from Rob ‘G.O.A.T.’ MacCachren in Baja Starting for first time in La Paz, Baja California Sur, finishing in Ensenada… SCORE Baja peninsula race to be held Nov. 13-18 UP Baja California, Mexico; epic event is finale of the four-race 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship; legendary ‘godfather’ Sal Fish, Grand Marshal for the 2023 SCORE racing season more info at… https://score-international.com/raceinfo/2023-baja-1000-nov-13-18-2023/ #SCOREBaja1000 ENSENADA, Baja California, Mexico—‘Celebrating 50 Years of SCORE Desert Racing Excellence’ this year, with official pre-running on the official race course continuing for racers from across the U.S. and around the world, San Diego’s Luke ‘The Luke’ McMillin will be attempting to go where no racer has gone before…capturing the overall victory for the fourth consecutive year in November’s iconic season-ending BFGoodrich Tires 56th SCORE Baja 1000, presented by K&N, the season finale of the four-race 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship. LA GRAN CARRERA The Granddaddy of All Desert Races, the SCORE Baja 1000 is at the pinnacle of motorsports as the most iconic, oldest, prestigious, toughest, and longest, continuously held desert race in the world. This year, starting for the first time in La Paz, Baja California Sur Mexico, and finishing in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, race-week festivities and the race itself will be held Nov. 13-18. This year’s race, the 25th Peninsula run in race history, will be a point-to-point race of 1310.94 miles UP Baja California’s majestically masterful, poignantly picturesque peninsula. 56th SCORE BAJA 1000 The world’s best desert racers will be in action at this year’s massive BFGoodrich Tires 56th SCORE Baja 1000, presented by K&N. There will be live streaming from two days of pre-race contingency and start-to-finish live coverage on the SCORE website and social media channels. Race week activities will be held Nov. 13-18. Over 300 vehicles are expected at the start line with racers from nearly 40 U.S. States and as many as 20 countries anticipated. Pro and Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, UTVs, motorcycles and quads will be competing in the Granddaddy of All Desert Races. This year’s SCORE Baja 1000 will be a point-to-point race of an exhilaratingly exhausting 1310.94 miles starting for the first time in La Paz, Baja California Sur and finishing for the 29th time in Ensenada, Baja California. La Paz is the Capital of Baja California Sur, located nearly 1000 miles from the U.S. Border at Calexico, Calif. Ensenada, “The Off-Road Racing Capital of the World” is a coastal city on the Bahia de Todos Santos area of the Pacific Ocean, 80 miles south of the U.S. border at San Diego. This race is annually the finale of the SCORE World Desert Championship, which has been held exclusively for the past eight years in Baja California. THE LUKE & THE G.O.A.T.’…SUPER TEAM A special phenomenon occurs every year around this time. Just in time for the Granddaddy of all Desert Races. One of several ‘Super Teams’ appears on the desert horizon and none will be more captivating and alluring then the aligning once again of ‘The Luke’, 30, and Las Vegas’ Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Rob ‘The G.O.A.T.’ MacCachren, 58. This celestial pairing has won the last two consecutive overall and SCORE Trophy Truck titles in the SCORE Baja 1000. And for ‘The Luke’ he will be shooting for an unprecedented four-in-a-row as he won this hallowed race in 2020 with Larry ‘Mr. Baja’ Roeseler as his second driver. Continuing to emerge as the ever-youthful ‘Face of SCORE’, San Diego’s third-generation desert racer ‘The Luke’, roared his way to the top of the point leaderboard in the SCORE Trophy Truck division and eventually the top of the SCORE Overall point leaderboard as well in 2022. Driving solo the first three races of 2022, Luke McMillin finished first in the SCORE San Felipe 250, sixth place in the SCORE Baja 500, second-place in the SCORE Baja 400 and capped the season with the help of the G.O.A.T. (Las Vegas’ Rob MacCachren who drove the first 394 miles) by winning the season-ending SCORE Baja 1000 to complete his championship 2022 season in the SCORE World Desert Championship. The youngest of the current active McMillin racers, Luke McMillin won the featured SCORE Trophy Truck division and the SCORE Overall and SCORE Truck title in 2022 in his McMillin Racing No. 1 4 Wheel Parts All Wheel Drive Chevy 1500 built by Mason Motorsports. Luke McMillin opened the 2023 SCORE World Desert Championship with a flawless SCORE Trophy Truck and SCORE Overall race victory at the King Shocks 36th SCORE San Felipe 250, fueled by Baja Vida, followed by a fourth place in the BFGoodrich Tires 55th SCORE Baja 500 and a second place in the K&N 4th SCORE Baja 400, presented by VP Racing Fuels Luke McMillin now has five career SCORE Trophy Truck race wins. In this year’s SCORE Baja 500, ‘The Luke’ overcame mid-race mechanical issues and fought back to a fourth-place finish and continue to be second in SCORE Trophy Truck season points, just nine points behind the class-leading Bryce Menzies. Overall, ‘The Luke’ has five career class wins in the venerable SCORE Baja 1000. Preparing for an unprecedented feat that only two racers before him have done—Larry Ragland (1995, 1996, 1997) and Rob ‘The G.O.A.T.’ MacCachren (2014, 22015, 2016), ‘The Luke’ took time to answer some relevant questions from SCORE recently before heading to Baja for two weeks of pre-running on the race course… -SCORE: What is the single biggest thing you remember your grandfather (Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer Corky McMillin) teaching you regarding desert racing? I was young when my grandpa passed away (2005), but I spent much time with him in Baja. I’ll never forget riding with him over the crossover road in one of his class 1 open-wheel race cars, calling out notes for him. It was a ton of fun. I also remember my Grandpa being a very loving person but very serious because I got to see him not only at home or on the holidays but also at the races. Having seen both sides, I see much of my Grandpa in myself. But as far as what I learned from my grandpa, I’ve learned more from him since his passing… I’m fortunate to work with people who worked with my grandpa for over 20+ years, both in the racing and business worlds. I hear stories about how he handled business and how he dealt with the people. From hearing those stories and watching his interview, I feel like still, to this day, I am piecing together the person he was, not just knowing who he was but how I can relate to him. It’s hard to put into words, but I see a lot of my Grandpa in myself, and as I go through experiences in life, I remember the stories I’ve heard and the things I knew about my Grandpa, and I’m able to apply those to my life today. -SCORE: What is the single biggest thing you remember your father (Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer) teaching you regarding desert racing? My dad taught me never to give up. Win or lose, my dad expects us never to give up and maintain a good attitude. Regarding direct racing, my dad knows how to win Baja, especially SCORE Baja 1000s. My dad has taught me when it’s time to be conservative and when it’s time to push hard. You can’t finish first if you don’t finish, and I think maintaining that mentality correlates to success in Baja more than any other form of motorsport. -SCORE: Other than your grandfather and your father, who have you admired most in your career in desert racing? I look up to Rob MacCachren and Larry Roeseler… and I would have given you that answer even if I hadn’t won SCORE Baja 1000s with both of them! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: LR is the greatest Baja racer of all time, and Rob Mac is the greatest desert racer of all time. I also like their style and how they go about their racing. They aren’t doing this for the “fame” and “followers” but because they have a passion for racing. I’ve seen both of these guys line up in my SCORE Trophy Truck to take the green flag at the SCORE Baja 1000, and the confidence and focus they show is unbelievable. Even though I’m racing with them, I’m just a huge fan. These two guys are absolute machines. I have so much confidence in them and have a massive amount of respect for their raw talent, dedication, and experience. I strive to be the best, and I’m fortunate that the two greatest of all time have been an example for me to race with and learn from. -SCORE: As you look back on the last three years of the SCORE Baja 1000, what is something significant that you remember from each race that helped take you to the overall victory in each? I think there’s a common denominator from all three wins. It’s an obsession mixed in with a ton of hard work that almost no one will ever see. And it’s even more hard work to win these races consistently... It’s the relentless effort, a driving force that pushes us to double-check everything from start to finish, and I’m not talking about the green flag to the checkered… I’m talking about all year long, every single day, thinking and thinking and thinking… The analogy "there’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle” best suits winning a SCORE Baja 1000. It takes a lot of time and hard work. You better have all the pieces put together correctly, and when you think you do, you'll still find pieces scattered on the floor… It feels like we started with a 50-piece puzzle, and now we have a 1,000-piece puzzle… It takes a big team to do this, but there are two of us on my team who put our hands on every single piece of the puzzle; without both of our 110% effort these past sevem years, we wouldn't be going after our fourth SCORE Baja 1000 win. -SCORE: While you logistically prepare for this race, what are some of the things that you are doing physically, mentally, and emotionally to prepare for this great race? We are on the "road to the SCORE Baja 1000," and there's a long checklist. Once something’s done, there’s no going back. So, as long as I know I’m not letting anything get by me, I can stay mentally and emotionally sane. Once doubt gets in your head, it’s a slippery slope, and hard to get back on track… And I’m talking about every aspect of the race… The past few weeks and the next few weeks, there’s not much time for friends or partying… I need to ensure I’m putting all my energy into things I can control and make a difference. My week now consists of getting my work done in the real estate world and immediately going downstairs and spending time in the race shop every day. In the race shop, my lead engineer and I have personally reached out to every single vendor about every part that’s going in every component of my race truck. I’m talking about every gear, bearing, seal, every nut and bolt, etc…. Now the truck is going together, and I’m personally watching every single part go onto my truck. It’s a long road to winning a Baja 1000, and once the truck is put together, there’s no looking back and wondering if a particular part is the perfect part or if everything was installed correctly. I better be 100% certain. At the end of the day, I go home and spend time with my wife and baby; I get a couple of hours with the baby before it’s time for her to go to bed. Once she's down, we’re either in the gym or I’m on my iPad reviewing race course… Next, it’s onto pre-running, pit practices, and testing… The final 3 weeks will be a massive amount of hard work, time, and dedication. We will work 24/7 if needed until I feel 100% confident in the race truck and the race course. So, to answer your questions, as long as I'm giving my 100% along the entire road to the SCORE Baja 1000, mentally, emotionally, and physically, I will be ready. -SCORE: Knowing the Baja peninsula so well, what are your first thoughts about this race course and how long it might take you to finish the 1310.94 miles? It’s a great race course. In 2021, the last peninsula run. I think we were right about 59 MPH average… I think the San Felipe side will be faster than the peninsula's west side that we ran in 2021… However, it’s a longer route, so with attrition, we may need to drive slightly slower… I’m guessing it will be right around 59mph again, so just over 22 hours. -SCORE: What parts of the course do you think will be the toughest? The most challenging parts of the race are my favorite sections. I think the 130+ mile loop around Catavina will be tough; it gets very silty out there, and it’s also very remote. There’s not a lot of help or pit support out there. If you double-flat or have an issue, you could be in serious trouble. I love it! San Felipe will also be a tricky section for many. Typically, on a peninsula run, SCORE takes us through San Felipe quickly, but this year, they run us through many washes. Another aspect that is different in this section, for a peninsula run, is that when we leave San Felipe, we will go uphill through the infamous San Felipe whoops, which are even harder on the truck. It will be interesting to see how the field is laid out in the San Felipe section. It will be late in the race, and the terrain will be brutal on equipment. Anything on the truck that may be worn out or tired will break! I’m confident we will carry good speed through San Felipe while being gentle on the truck… I think many drivers will either be too slow or break the truck in this section, which is why it will be tricky. -SCORE: How does it feel to have the G.O.A.T. as your additional driver for the third straight year? Like I said above, there’s no one better. I’m extremely confident in Rob. Mentally, I have a huge advantage, knowing I can 110% trust my codriver with every aspect of the race and that he will match my effort in winning this race. Rob and I think a lot alike, and not many competitors want a win as bad as we do! -SCORE: At this point, how do you think you will split up the driving for this race? We will each take on about half of the mileage. How we split up the course is still a bit undecided. We need to strategize based on our starting spot and the competition. -SCORE: What are your thoughts about being the first racer to win four 4-wheel vehicle overalls in the SCORE Baja 1000? Winning three in a row was really cool because of the very small list of people who have achieved the three-peat (Ragland and MacCachren). Those are two names that I wanted to be associated with. Four in a row would also be cool, but I want to win as many as possible at this point, so I’m not too focused on the #4 this year. I’m just focused on the race and getting it done. I know once we win four, then we will want five, and then we will want six… Hopefully, that happens in the next few years. I think once I get to five or six, maybe then I will stop and think about it, but until then, I want to keep winning as many SCORE Baja races as possible. -SCORE: Other than the race course, what drivers/teams do you expect to be contending for the overall victory besides you and Rob? There’s a lot of great competition out there. Regarding the SCORE Baja 1000, I always have my eye on any team with Rob Mac, LR, or a McMillin (Dan and Bebo-Andy). Good thing Rob Mac is with me! I think it will come down to the #7 (Bryce Menzies/Andy McMillin/Tavo Vildosola) and #23 Dan McMillin) racing against us, but there’s no way to count out the #10 (Alan Ampudia), #16 (Cameron Steele, and #43 (Larry Roeseler)… We’ll see how everyone's equipment and co-drivers hold up to the task! -SCORE: What are your thoughts about how this season has gone for you, driving solo in the first three races? It was great to win the SCORE San Felipe 250. The SCORE Baja 400 and SCORE Baja 500 were extremely frustrating, but that’s all behind us, and we learned a lot this season. Now it’s onto the big show that counts: The SCORE Baja 1000. GREEN FLAG It is an elapsed-time race with staggered starts with the green flag dropping on Thursday (Nov. 16). Motorcycles and Quads will start at 1 a.m. MT, Cars, Trucks, and UTVs will start at 9 a.m. MT. While the fastest vehicles in the 1310.94-mile race are expected to finish in about 23 hours, the elapsed-time race will have a 50-hour time limit to become an official finisher. A HAPPENING… Two days of the colorful pre-race Manufacturer’s Midway, Contingency and Tech inspection will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 14-15) along the captivating El Malecon along the Sea of Cortez in La Paz. CITY EXPRESS… The City Express Hotel on the Northeast end of El Malecon in La Paz, will host racer registration and media registration on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (Nov. 13-15). On Monday (Nov. 13), racer registration will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST. On Tuesday (Nov. 14) it will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST, and on Wednesday (Nov. 15) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST. SCORE Media Registration will be held at the City Express on Monday (Nov. 13) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. MST and from 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 14-15) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT. The race will start along the picturesque El Malecon in La Paz. BFGOODRICH TIRES UNMATCHED BFGoodrich Tires, the official tire of SCORE for 47 years, was honored after the 2022 season as the SCORE Contingency Company of the year for the 32nd time. BFGoodrich Tires has been the choice of 35 of the 55 overall winners of the popular SCORE Baja 500 and 34 of the 55 overall winners of the legendary SCORE Baja 1000. BFGoodrich Tires is also the title sponsor of both iconic races again in 2023. BFGoodrich Tires also has been the choice of 30 of the 36 overall winners of the SCORE San Felipe 250, all three SCORE Desert Challenge races, the lone SCORE Challenge of Champions in San Felipe, the one SCORE Baja Sur 500 and one of the four overall winners in the SCORE Baja 400. This year’s SCORE San Felipe 250 overall victory by San Diego’s Luke McMillin marked the 103rd SCORE Baja overall race win for BFGoodrich Tires. BFG BIG BONUS SCORE major sponsor BFGoodrich Tires has posted a US$25,000 contingency bonus for the overall 4-wheel race winner to help commemorate the Granddaddy of all Desert Races. SCORE SPONSORS… Official SCORE Sponsors: BFGoodrich Tires-Official Tire and Race Title Sponsor, Ford-Official Truck and SUV, King Shocks-Official Shock Absorber and Race Title Sponsor, Polaris RZR-Official UTV, VP Racing Fuels-Official Fuel and race presenting sponsor, Baja Vida-Official Snacks and race presenting sponsor, Optima Batteries-Official Batteries, Rugged Radios-Official Radio Communications, Wide Open Excursions-Official Arrive and Drive Company, Crystal Bay Casino-Official Casino. SCORE Official Partners: The Satellite Phone Store, Instant Mexico Auto Insurance. Additional SCORE Associate Partners: Baja California Secretary of Tourism, MEXICO Secretary of Tourism, San Felipe Foundational Municipal Council, Ensenada Municipal Government, San Felipe Marketing Tourism Committee, Ensenada Marketing Tourism Committee, Ensenada Hotel and Motel Association, Proturismo Ensenada, Cruz Roja Mexicana, Baja California Sur State Secretary of Tourism and Economy, Baja California Sur State Tourism Trust (FITUES), Municipal Government of La Paz, Municipal Government of Comondu, Municipal Government of Loreto, and the Municipal Government of Mulege. For more information regarding SCORE, visit the official website of the SCORE World Desert Championship at www.SCORE-International.com.