Andy McMillin knows something about the demands of the Baja 1000 off-road race.
He was the overall winner of the 2006 Baja 1000 while teaming with Robbie Gordon. And his family's racing roots are firmly planted in Baja California. His uncle, Mark McMillin, is a five-time overall champion in the Baja 1000.
Now Andy has won a race that, in his words, is different but equally demanding as the Baja 1000.
“In the Baja 1000, you have the booby traps, the logistics, the all-out run to the finish,” Andy said.
“But this race, the temperatures and racing conditions were a lot harsher than you have in the Baja in November. And you're going hard three straight days.”
The race McMillin is talking about is the Las Vegas-to-Reno run in which he took overall honors last week.
In years past, the Best In The Desert promoters ran a direct line between the Nevada resort cities. This year, they broke the race into three stages totaling 1,000 miles. Racing temperatures — over 110 degrees all three days.
Teaming with father Scott, who covered about 10 percent of the miles, Andy finished with almost a four-minute edge on Nevada's Tim Herbst after more than 17¾ hours in his full-race Ford pickup.
In addition to winning the overall title, McMillin picked up the win in the BITD's equivalent to SCORE's full-race TrophyTruck class. Mark McMillin finished eighth overall and sixth in the truck class.
The team of El Cajon's Greg Parker and Santee's Tim Lawrence finished 22nd overall and won a limited truck class.
In the pro quad division, Ramona's Danny Prather teamed with Greg Stuart of Yucaipa to win the overall title while El Cajon's Wayne Matlock was second.
Vista's Keith Blatt was the leading rider on the winning quad amateur team.
“This is the second-biggest win of my career to that 2006 Baja 1000,” said the 22-year-old McMillin, who has two wins and a third-place finish in three BITD races this season in addition to a victory in the SNORE Mint 400.
McMillin posted the fastest qualifying time and held the overall lead through the first day's 332-mile run to Tonopah, hitting a top speed of 136 mph over one section of the course.
But a series of flat tires suffered by dad Scott and Andy on the second and third days dropped the McMillin team into second overall when race leader Pat Dean broke 80 miles from the finish.
“The difference came down to some amazing pit stops we had,” McMillin said. “One time we took on 50 gallons of fuel and changed the two rear tires in 27 seconds.
“But we also lost 12 minutes on the one flat tire because the jack got stuck, and dad and (Andy's sister) Jessica had to change two tires in about 50 miles in triple-digit heat.
“We were very fast. We needed a break at the end, but we also had our share of bad luck earlier. It all goes with desert racing.”
Andy McMillin is a close friend of Poway's Brian Ickler, who is making his mark down south in NASCAR.
“Although we're both into racing, we actually met on the Poway National Little League All-Star team,” McMillin said. “We were good enough to make the team, but not good enough to play. So we'd sit on the bench talking about dune buggies and desert racing.
Other top local finishers in the Las Vegas-Reno race were:
Trucks/Cars: Dave Mason (Escondido, 29th overall, fourth in class), Robbie Pierce (Santee, 31st overall, seventh in class), Marc Burnett-Rick Johnson (Chula Vista, 45th overall, third in class), Ross-Ryan Mattox (El Cajon, 51st overall, 10th in class), Mike Falkosky (Fallbrook, 66th overall, second in class), Jason Rodriguez-Ian Austin (Alpine, 67th overall, fifth in class).
Motorcycles: John Williams-David Rinder (La Mesa, third in class), Steven Orton-Matthew