Las Vegas’ Rob MacCachren primed for repeat in Mint 400

Updated March 8, 2018 - 3:53 pm

It will mark its 50th anniversary Saturday, which makes this year’s Mint 400 off-road race special in the eyes of most drivers.

One thought the 49th anniversary of the Mint was a pretty big deal, too.

Rob MacCachren had won about everything there was to win in off-road racing with the exception of the Mint, which he added to his resume in 2017. A lot of desert racing types said it was a long time coming, creating an impression that the Las Vegas dust devil had been running the Mint forever with nothing but futility to show for it. Which wasn’t close to being true.

“Really, there were only about 10 races that I even had a chance to win,” he said of running for class victories instead of overall titles.

The 52-year-old MacCachren, who still pretty much looks like a choir buy, remains one of the nicest guys tearing around the desert. He wasn’t about to spoil the storyline.

And, yes, he still considers winning last year’s overall title by overtaking Andy McMillin and holding off Jason Voss a career highlight. MacCachren said winning these loop races can be more daunting than conquering the Baja 1000 (which he has done four times), especially when Baja is run point-to-point.

“The first lap you’re saying ‘this isn’t so bad,’” he said of avoiding flat tires and other hazards on the Mint’s rugged and ever-changing course. “By the second lap, you can tell there’s been a race. By the third lap, it’s like there’s been an explosion on the course.”

Rob MacCachren will again be one of the favorites when the unlimited class rolls off the starting line at 12:30 p.m. behind Buffalo Bill’s in Primm. He is hoping the 50th anniversary running of the Mint 400 will be as special as the 49th, or perhaps even the third race in 1971, the one at which gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson almost made it to the starting line.

Green, white, checkered

— Kevin Harvick, who won Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway so easily they should have called it on the mercy rule after 350 miles, has been penalized by NASCAR after his rear window sort of caved in during the race.

Did it give him an edge on the rest of the field? Who can say?

NASCAR, one supposes. It docked him seven playoff points, fined his crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000 and suspended his car chief Robert “Cheddar” Smith for two races after the rear window brace failed, according to Childers. The team also was docked 20 points and 20 owner points.

— NASCAR-mandated air guns that misfired during pit stops and caused consternation during the second race of the season at Atlanta caused a little more consternation at Las Vegas.

Wrote 26th-place finisher Daniel Suarez on Twitter: “It’s hard to explain the amount of people that work so hard to get sponsors, go to the racetrack, make race cars go fast, perform well in the race, then at the end of the day have an issue with something out of your control … that’s frustrating.”

— The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway opens its 34th season Saturday night, with a 50-lap event featuring the NASCAR Super Late Models topping the 7 p.m. program.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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