GOODSPRINGS, Nev. – If you look closely enough, you can still see bullet holes in the wall of the Pioneer Saloon. It’s one of those quintessentially western places outside of Las Vegas that teeters on the edge of kitsch and danger, which is to say it’s extremely Nevada Desert. Not much has changed at the Pioneer Saloon over the years. The beers are still cold (although you can get an IPA now). The ghost burger is still on the menu (with ghost pepper sauce). And it’s still a hangout for bikers, off-roaders, and just about anyone who can’t quite be put into a box and wouldn’t want to if there was an appropriate noun for it anyway.
I wouldn’t have ever found the Pioneer Saloon if it wasn’t for Rob MacCachren. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have done a lot of things I’ve done over the past couple years if it wasn’t for Rob MacCachren.
Rob is a living legend in off-road racing. And he just so happened to be the first off-road driver I ever met. For all his time in the desert, in Baja, on dirt tracks, and even in the snow, MacCachren still races the same way.
“I’m usually not leading at the beginning,” MacCachren tells me in October as part of a BFGoodrich ridealong in Jean (Nev.) across part of the original Mint 400 course in his personal buggy. “You watch me in videos and I’m not on the highlight reel. I never make highlights. I’m never jumping the highest. I’m never jumping the farthest. But I’m there and I’m always a player at the end.”
MacCachren’s personal mantra is that “you have to race slow enough to win.” It’s hard to argue with the results. He was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame at the age of 45, has won just about every race you can win in off-road (including a three-year streak at the Baja 1000), and took home his first ever Mint 400 overall in 2017 – an important one for a Vegas native.
He’s practically zen, if a racer could ever be zen. And his approach carries into everything he does, from racing to parenting to his rooting interests in other sports (he loves how the Warriors have transformed basketball, but prefers the Spurs’ – and Gregg Popovich’s – process to the game rather than Golden State’s rush to snag Kevin Durant).
“His mental game is so high and he’s been coached by some of the people who created the sport,” Mint 400 CEO Matt Martelli says. “He will go out and qualify fifth on purpose.”
It was MacCachren who inspired me to chase off-road racing despite never having been on an ATV until two years ago, MacCachren (and off-road historian Marty Fiolka) who pushed me to go to Baja for the first time in the first place, MacCachren who put the idea of getting a truck (okay, a 1986 Ford Bronco II), and MacCachren who helped me fall in love with the desert.
If someone could be that passionate about this after all these years, there had to be something there.