ORR: What typically goes through your mind leading up to a race. The day before as well as lining up to the start?
LUKE: With our teams recent success over the last 2-3 years, it has really instilled a lot of confidence in us. Not only me as the driver but our entire team and program. We’ve really worked hard on our equipment to be very reliable and that really helps relieve the nerves. I’ve been off road racing my entire life and for years I was overwhelmed with nerves before a race but now I have more of a feeling of excitement and confidence to go racing. Of course as the race gets closer I start visualizing qualifying and the race to reassure myself that I know what I need to do and I just need to go out there and do it. Once Qualifying is over and the start positions are set, nerves really calm and I just take the next day or two to think about a strategy based on where other drivers are starting and how well we qualified… When lining up for the start line I really focus on just remaining calm and not worrying about what’s going to happen the first lap or 2, I just need to drive and not make a mistake early.
ORR: Do you stick to a particular diet/workout regimen leading up to a race, like boxers/fighters?
LUKE: I definitely try to take care of my body and mind, I do believe it makes a big difference in my performance. While at home we definitely try to eat clean and work out. Core and shoulder strength play a big role in driving, as well as cardio exercises. We have a gym at our house with a lot of work out equipment along with a row machine, which I spend a lot of time on. It’s a little bit tough to maintain a diet at the races since we are traveling so much and staying in hotels, so with the being said, whether I am at home or at the races I strive for more of a well balanced diet so that my diet maintains similar leading up to the race. The last thing you want to do is shock your body right before a big race. Driving for 8 hours and hundreds of miles at a time requires a lot of mental and physical strength. The more you can keep your heart rate low and steady, the better decisions you are going to make and of course you need the physical strength to maintain comfort and speed when it comes down to the last lap and the whoops are even bigger and the course is even rougher!
ORR: Any major issues during the race, you thought might threaten your win, or even your finish?
LUKE: No major issues with the truck which was awesome to have on such a grueling course! Like I said earlier, our team has put a lot of focus on the QC of our preps and making sure we know our equipment is up for the challenge. I knew the last 40-50, miles once we gained the physical lead back, that my only job was to not get a flat tire, that was the only foreseeable thing that could have happened to cost us the win. But luckily we have BFGoodrich tires on our side, the best tire in the sport which are incredibly tough. So our run was pretty flawless.
ORR: What went through your mind, the second you found out you took the win?
LUKE: The last mile or two, I had to just put my head down and focus on the course turn for turn, I was overwhelmed with emotion but I could not let that get to me yet. This is when I really rely on my co rider Jason Duncan to keep me focused and calm. We made the last turn and headed for the finish line jump, I put my foot to the floor, hit the last jump and yelled out of excitement. So many feelings of excitement, accomplishment, and relief that we did it. I didn’t hop on the radio or anything I just calmed back down to really understand what just happened, I was seriously almost in shock that we had won the Mint 400! …it wasn’t more than an hour after the finish I was beyond excited to get to the next race, I’m hungry for more!
ORR: What was the first thing your father said to you upon wining?
LUKE: I got a big hug from my both my brother and my dad, they were just as excited as me. I heard “ You f’ing did it” and “Congratulations, I’m so happy/proud for you”. It was so cool, not only my dad and bother were there but also my Wife Jen, Mom C’Ann, Sister Macy and my in laws, who are all in with me on this racing.
ORR: What role does your family play in your racing career?
LUKE: A huge roll. I was born into the McMillin Racing team, my dad, one of the most successful drivers in desert racing history has been a great leader for our team and really paved the road for me. The other person that comes to mind is of course my Wife, Jen, she sticks with me and supports my addiction to racing and my desire to win. She’s at every race and a lot of pre runs with me, she motivates me to be better and stands by my side though thick and thin of my racing career over the last 7 years. Of course my brother, who is my team mate, he plays a huge roll in every one of my races. He didn’t race this race because he is getting his truck ready for the Mexico series, but he ran our pit all day and kept me up to date with great information.
ORR: If not this win, what is your fondest memory of racing?
LUKE: Of course our first big O/A win at Ultra 4 KOH race is one of my fondest memories as well as leading the Baja 1000 overall 4 or 5 times in the last 6 years. We also had a great year in 2012 sweeping the Mexico series in class 1. Those moments really resonate with me and that’s what gets me fired up and excited to go racing, always dreaming of the Baja 1000.
ORR: What does this win mean for you and your family’s legacy?
LUKE: This is a huge win for our family, another 3rd generation McMillin has won the Mint 400. As many know my Grandpa, Dad and Uncle all raced when we were growing up. McMillin Racing was DOMINANT, dating all the way back to the 70’s and especially the 80’s. The technology and trucks have come a long way since then, so it is so incredibly cool to see our family name continue to dominate desert racing with not only myself but my brother Dan and cousin Andy!
ORR: Whats next for Luke McMillin and McMillin racing
LUKE: More wins, I hope! We are continuing to step up our program. We are currently developing two AWD Trophy Trucks, built by Mason Motorsports. My brother is racing the #17 AWD truck this season which is really exciting and my new truck will be done in July. In the meantime I will continue racing our 2WD, it just won The Mint 400, so it can’t be too bad! Haha! All Wheel Drive really is the future of our sport/class and I want to be on the leading edge and create an advantage there. Testing and timing is really the key with these new builds. I am really looking forward to taking everything we’ve learned over the last handful of years with our current TT and apply the same thinking to a new AWD TT and be at the top of our class. That’s my goal for the team and I’m sure they will by my side the whole way through.