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Prerunning With Pros: McMillins

Posted in Events on November 1, 2011
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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Gillespie Airfield in El Cajon, California, to meet pilots Bill Allen and Robert Arce and board the McMillins’ private twin-prop plane, “Beagle.” Here was an entire family who figured out how to combine their work and passion with sponsors including McMilllin Realty, BFGoodrich, and Fox Racing Shox, with deeper roots in racing heritage than any I’d ever had a chance to travel with. The McMillin pride wasn’t the first family team to start racing off-road, but together they definitely have more competitive racers than any before them. Two brothers, Scott and Mark, are the patriarchs of the family. Both successful racers in the Trophy Truck class, they are united as a whole but with their own definite way of doing things. While the entire family races under the McMillin flag, Scott has his own race shop in National City, where he, his son, Andy—who won the Baja 1000 in 2006 with Robby Gordon and 2009 with his his father, Scott—and his daughter, Jessica, all call home base for their race trucks. The other half of the family is headed by Mark who has his shop in El Cajon, where he and his two sons, Luke and Daniel, race Trophy Truck, Class 1, and Class 1/2 1600 cars.

I hadn’t met any of the family before, and starting the trip on a private plane definitely set the mood in one general direction. I had gotten there only minutes before we were supposed to take off (a sure way to miss a flight) and was feeling the about-to-miss-a-flight anxiety. Bill and Robert casually strolled up as I ran into the airfield’s waiting room. “Hey, you must be Jerrod. Nice to meet you.”

“Good to meet you guys! ‘Really sorry I’m late. Is everyone already on the plane and ready to go?”

“Nope, you’re the first one here.”

“Really?! I thought we supposed to take off in a few minutes?”

“Well, we sort of take off whenever everyone gets here and is ready to go.”

I was in a different world now. So this is what having the ultimate support and chase crew is like? I could easily get used to this, and it was going to be a good few days.

We arrived in San Felipe’s tiny airport with three overbuilt Super Duty chase trucks waiting out front. They were our escorts and ride from the airport where we would meet up with the rest of the McMillin clan for a few days of prerunning before the next race.

The morning meeting at base camp prior to prerunning. Scott delivers the game plan for the McMillin Realty team, quoting his father and reiterating the three all-important Ps that Corky had taught him: Plan, prepare, and practice. Scott is just who you’d expect him to be. He’s quick to take charge of a situation should he see the need, but understands that a delegation of authority allows the most to be done and maximizes the race effort.

On the calm waters of San Felipe at the El Cortez Hotel, we arrived to a mobile race shop set up in the middle of the hotel’s sprawl. The entire team (both Scott’s and Mark’s teams) stays together in the hotel. Scott and Mark have been doing this for years and both have custom RVs that they bring and park right along with the shop trucks, chase trucks, prerunners, and race trucks at the hotel. Though they are two separate teams, both McMillin teams stay together in the same location, lend parts and help to each other if needed, and will often trade pit help during race day.

Their comradery in racing and in business was taught to them by their late father, Corky, who really was the one that got everyone started in racing. A long-time team member who originally worked with Corky on his first race vehicle let me in on a bit of the family history. “If it were not for him, we wouldn’t be here. Corky made all this.”

You could feel the huge amount of respect that every member of the McMillins’ teams—most who have been part of their race efforts for years—felt for Corky whenever he was mentioned. He was definitely the one who injected racing into the McMillin veins. Now, Scott and Mark have taken lead positions and inspire the family’s race efforts. Since I never had a chance to meet Corky, I can only imagine how proud he’d be watching how well his two sons stepped in to fill the big racing boots and lead their families to multiple off-road race wins.

During the prerun in San Felipe, I was witness to some of the most professional efforts I’d ever taken part of and was privileged to ride in the fastest truck (hands down) I had ever been in. But for me, the most impressive part of the trip was the passion and the unity of the entire team. Everyone there was there because they wanted to be.

Through thick and thin, the McMillin teams work together to make up two winning, championship race efforts.

Scott is very obviously proud of all his kids, and makes sure that they always enjoy what they’re doing, all while the race effort is taken seriously. Well, not too seriously, as you can see by Rhiannon’s bunny ears on Scott from the back seat.
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