Rob MacCachren would take off from school to watch his dad compete in the Mint 400 and would soak up being around the famous off-road race that attracted celebrities like a Hollywood premiere.
He began racing dirt bikes around Las Vegas as a youngster, and in 1973, at 8 years old, he won the Nevada State Motorcycle Championship.
A path in motor sports seemed in front of him, but whether that was off-road racing was uncertain because MacCachren wasn’t sure he would like it. He decided in 1982 to give it a shot by competing in the Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts circuit and the Mint 400.
Turned out to be a great career move. He was named the Nevada Rookie of the Year.
MacCachren, who turns 49 on March 24, has built one of the sport’s best resumes and was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2011, owning close to 300 victories.
He will compete in the event that is near to his heart, another Mint 400, on a 100-mile course Saturday at Jean. The limited race begins at 6 a.m. and unlimited at about 12:40 p.m., and both are free to the public. Four spectating areas are set up, and those will be open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This is a race that was the place to be in the 1960s and 1970s when actors Steve McQueen and James Garner drove in the event, as well as Indianapolis 500 champions such as Parnelli Jones, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Jones will be the grand marshal of this year’s race.
When he was younger, MacCachren would wake up early on race day, and he couldn’t wait to get to the Mint 400 to see how it unfolded.
That’s when the Mint 400 took place by downtown, which then was surrounded by open desert. Las Vegas’ downtown now is like most urban areas, covered by concrete, and the race is in its second life. The Mint 400 disappeared after the 1989 race and was revived in 2008.
“It’s really coming back,” MacCachren said. “It’s got that feel again. Everybody’s talking about it, and they want to participate in it. I believe it’s the biggest race in the United States, as far as off-road goes. It’s starting to rival the Baja 1000 on media exposure.”
MacCachren would badly love to win this race, and he knows something about crossing the finish line first.
He has won the Baja 500 five times and the Baja 1000 another five times. He was the 2007 DirtSports magazine Driver of the Year and has won 20 championships.
Not a bad career for someone who wasn’t sure he would enjoy it.
The key break occurred in the late 1980s when famed Walker Evans Racing offered him a seat.
“I didn’t know I was getting paid,” MacCachren said. “Then they told me I’m getting paid, and I’m, like, ‘OK.’ I was racing about 14 times a year then, but I’m still working (as a casino valet). In the early ’90s, I started getting paid more and more money and was able to quit working.”
His team folded in 1996, forcing MacCachren to reassess his career. He then ran his own team and is still his own boss.
“It’s basically a business to me,” MacCachren said. “It’s my livelihood. It’s my career. I’m one of the handful of people that do this for a living.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter @markanderson65.