The gas gauge in Carlos Cardenas’ vehicle was not looking good. You know the expression riding on fumes? If that’s technically possible, it was certainly happening at that moment. “I needed to stop. It had already hit the empty warning,” the 27-year old admitted.
That decision has helped make him a wealthy young man. While he was at the Whittier ARCO ampm gas station (10121 Whittier Blvd.), something told him to buy $5 worth of Mega Millions® tickets. After all, the jackpot was a cool $94 million. “Something told me to buy a ticket. I usually play when it (the jackpot) gets above $60 million. I had an little eerie feeling to buy one, like ‘get it, get it, get it!’” Cardenas remembered with a laugh.
On Wednesday, after he and his brother picked up a birthday present for his mom, Cardenas said he stopped at a convenience store to get a smoothie. When he was there, he decided to check his Mega Millions numbers. “I thought it was an error (after scanning them on the check-a-ticket machine). Me and my brother were like ‘I think it’s broke…it doesn’t work!’” he recalled. “So I was like, you know what, I’m going to scan it again. I was like, ‘no dude, the same thing happened. It’s not broken! I won it. I did hit it. I won the Mega!!’”
Cardenas checked his phone and the California Lottery website just to make sure. He was right. And then there was what you might describe as controlled chaos and confusion inside the store where he’d stopped. “I was kind of loud. Well, loud enough,” laughed the Southern California casino worker. “The clerk, I don’t think she understood (what was going on). She probably looked at us like ‘what are these bozos happy about?!’”
He and his brother had every reason to be happy – and loud! Carlos won $910,781 after correctly picking five of the six numbers during Tuesday night’s Mega Millions draw. And get this – Cardenas came oh-so-close to winning the $94 million jackpot. His Quick Pick® winning numbers were 25-44-49-60 and 73. He missed the Mega number by just two! The winning Mega number was 9. He had 7!!
Cardenas isn’t complaining though. He says he plans to help pay off his family’s debt, maybe purchase a new home and help expand his father’s Wholesale Produce business with a new truck and warehouse. “We’ve also been planning a road trip to Vegas since last year. This is a nice little chunk of money (to do it now). I’m not much of a gambler, but I’m lucky!”
And remember that birthday present he bought his mom right before he found out he’d won nearly $1 million? “I’ll be buying her something nicer,” Cardenas assured us with a laugh. “This is still unbelievable. I hit it?! It doesn’t seem real.”