He might only have two starts in an asphalt Modified, but Max McLaughlin might just be a driver to watch as a potential contender this weekend in the John Blewett III Memorial at the 18th North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway (NC). Partnering for second time in 2020 with veteran driver/car owner Gary Putman, ‘Mad Max’ feels he’s got what it takes to claim the trophy in this big Tour-type Modified showdown.
In summer of 2019 at Thompson Speedway (CT), McLaughlin showed more than a glimpse of a knack for driving a ‘Ground Pounder’, driving for 2010 NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion Keith Rocco, and nearly beating NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece in a 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature.
Then one month ago, McLaughlin in his second Modified start, and first in a Tour-type, he dazzled the crowd at Stafford Motor Speedway with a late dash through the field in the Putnam No. 77, to finish fourth in the 150-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event.
“Stafford was a pretty good showing for us. I feel like we proved to a lot of people we had the speed to win. My radio went out about halfway through, so I missed my pit stop, and had to pit late. But, still came back through and ended up fourth. The car definitely has the speed and we got a great team with Gary Putnam and his guys. If everything goes correctly, we should be in the fight,” McLaughlin told Speed51.
At just 20 years old, the second-generation racer is proving to be one of the most versatile drivers currently in short track racing. On dirt in Outlaw Karts, 600 Micro Sprints, and Big-Block Modifieds; while on asphalt wheeling Super Late Models, ARCA Stock Cars, and now the ‘Mighty Modifieds’.
“It’s just a good kind of racecar, it helps a lot when you can get in something that’s good equipment too. Remember Nick Hoffman saying in the past about guys like Kyle Larson getting in new cars and going fast. If you are a versatile driver; like I’ve tried to be the last few years, jumping around different racecars has made me a better driver. The good guys can get in anything and as long as it’s a good racecar, they can win.”
Like his time in a Tour Mod, McLaughlin’s track time at Caraway has also been brief, with prior starts in Late Models. But, the track already holds some personal significance.
“Not a whole lot of laps, but I did run my first ever asphalt race there. But, I lost brakes and only made about 40 laps there. I got some track time, so that helps.”
‘Mad Max’ is also looking forward to taking on a different batch of Modified stars this weekend, a unique mix of North and South, that the Shootout always provides.
“It’s going to be an awesome weekend, one of the marquee events of Modified racing. You got some of the best talent in, not just Modified racing, but all of asphalt racing this weekend. It’s going to be a good test of ability; done well in my first two Modified starts, hopefully we can cap it off with a win.”
It has already been a big Autumn for McLaughlin, who celebrated a long awaited first career feature win in the Super DIRTcar Series in early October at Weedsport Speedway (NY). Despite the obvious differences, ‘Mad Max’ is a firm believer that momentum for a driver can be a major difference maker in the short term.
“Having momentum in this sport seems to make things easier, and it seems we got that lately. Hopefully it can carry over from the dirt to the asphalt this weekend. It would be awesome to win the North-South Shootout. Just seeing us run Top 5 in my Modified Tour debut was such a cool feeling, seeing the amount of support throughout the fanbase up north, and seeing how excited Gary and all the guys were. We got what we need, everything just needs to go right, and be there at the end.”
This weekend Speed51.TV will be live on November 6 and 7 at Caraway Speedway, for the 18th North-South Shootout. First, with qualifying on Friday at night at 6pm ET; then with all racing action on Saturday at 1pm ET. Broadcast will be available to all Speed51.TV yearly and monthly subscribers.
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-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51