Nearly a dozen years after Max McLaughlin first witnessed the World of Outlaw World Finals as a toddler, the Mooresville resident now has his sights set on the prestigious event as a competitor.
The 15-year-old son of former NASCAR driver Mike McLaughlin will make his big block modified debut in the Nov. 5-7 Bad Boy Buggies World of Outlaw World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte; an event in which his father never expected to see his son compete.
“Last year he was like, ‘Dad, I want to run one of those modifieds,’” recalled Mike, who never competed in the World Finals. “I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, Max.’ I thought, ‘We’ve got a long way to go.’
“It’s probably a little ahead of schedule, but I feel it’s an opportunity ... that we definitely have to go with. I think once he gets the feel of it we’ll be fine. He’s confident. We don’t lack anything. It’s just a matter of Max getting comfortable in his surroundings.”
Max earned the right to participate in the World Finals by attempting to qualify for a Super DirtCar Series event earlier this year in a car fielded by Tyler Siri. That race at Brewerton, N.Y., Speedway was canceled due to rain. He then was scheduled to make his big block modified debut in HBR’s powerful dirt car Oct. 24 at Weedsport, N.Y., but rain scuttled that race as well. Now, his big block modified debut with HBR will come in the World Finals.
“It brings a lot of pressure,” says Max, whose dad is emphasizing a realistic approach. “But you’ve just got to go into it like you do any other race and try and get a good result. You can’t think of it as any different from the rest of them.
“Obviously, I’ve wanted to run this race since I was a kid watching the World Finals, so it’s pretty cool running it at age 15. It’s the biggest dirt race in the world. ”
Mike said his son’s car control on dirt had progressed faster than he anticipated.
“We have moved so fast that it has felt like every step has been too fast, but we’ve always been able to see results” Mike said.
Before the World Finals Max captured the Millbridge Speedway Outlaw Mini Sprint championship, his first-ever title. He also won his first UMP Modified feature at Gastonia’s Carolina Speedway in the Skyler Trull Memorial and claimed the King of the Carolinas dirt modified event, also at Carolina Speedway. In 31 races this year, he has produced 13 victories, 23 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes and been the No. 1 qualifier on 20 occasions. Max cited qualifying as his biggest area of improvement this year.
“Last year we had three or four poles and this year we have 20,” Max said. “Just being able to start up front is a huge difference.”
Max improved his qualifying by studying the tracks where he raced and becoming more comfortable with every car he drove.
“Just getting seat time in anything helps,” said Max, who discovered his passion for racing at age 11. “I’ve been able to get a lot more seat time this year than I have probably in my whole career and it’s really showing.”
This year Max has driven five cars: a late model, an UMP Modified, a midget-type sprint car, a mini outlaw and the big block modified. Prior to this year, he had primarily driven a mini outlaw.
In 2016, Max would like to compete in 100 races.
“I would like to run the Super DirtCar Series, but I will run anything I get the opportunity to drive,” said Max, who’s home-schooled. “Anything with four wheels and an engine, I’m going to get in it.”
Concord Speedway is the site of this year’s John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout in Memory of Charles Kepley.
Scheduled for Nov. 5-7, the event consists of six races: 50 laps for SK Modifieds; 125 laps for the PASS Super Late Models; 125 laps for Tour Modifieds; 60 laps for Southeast Super Trucks; 75 laps for Limited Late Models; and 25 laps for Vintage.
The races begin 2 p.m.Nov. 7. Grandstands open 11 a.m. with qualifying 11:15 a.m. An on-track pit party is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. General admission is $40 for adults and $10 for youngsters ages 7-14 with ages 6 and younger admitted free. Reserved seats may be purchased for $45 and top row sits with pit admission acquired for $60.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer: email@example.com.