There is an anxiousness among young drivers in racing that are eager for instant results and wins. There’s a belief that they must instantly perform upon moving up the racing ladder, especially at the higher levels. But there are also drivers that have some maturity and patience beyond their age. Those drivers accept the learning curve at each level and know that with hard work their time will come.
One of those young guns is Max McLaughlin, the son of “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin, who after cutting his teeth in Outlaw Karts at Millbridge Speedway (NC), decided to return to his family’s original roots in New York to pursue racing in the state’s popular Big-Block Dirt Modifieds.
In just his second full season running in both the Super DIRTcar Series and locally at Brewerton and Fulton Speedways, “Mad Max’s” patience and persistence paid off Saturday night with his first career feature win in a Big-Block at Fulton Speedway in a 35-lap track championship feature.
“We started seventh and I was able to get the lead. I could put the car anywhere, the track was real black, slick, I could drive right across the slick part to get around people,” McLaughlin told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “When you can do that any time, you got a pretty good car under you. Got the lead on lap nine or ten, (the car) just went to the top groove and never came off it.”
The win comes during a season in which McLaughlin is not just becoming a master of his race car, but getting a familiarity of the tracks that his more experienced opponents possess, especially on a slicker surface.
“Myself as a driver, I’ve gained a lot of experience by just being able to go back to the tracks that I’ve already been to. That’s huge,” McLaughlin explained. “I think I’ve progressed more as a driver on a slick track than anything this year. Last year once the track got slick I was pretty much out of it. This year I’ve grown a lot, I learned a lot and we’re contenders every night. Biggest thing I’ve learned is to slow down when you want to go fast.”
While McLaughlin has had no doubt that he could get that first win, he was not as sure it would be in 2017. However, Heinke-Baldwin Racing (HBR) has stepped up their game in the past few weeks, giving McLaughlin and teammate Jimmy Phelps trophy-worthy race cars. Saturday night, McLaughlin put his fast race car to good use and now hopes that it can start a wave of momentum.
“It’s awesome. There were some points this year we thought it wasn’t going to happen,” McLaughlin said of his first win. “But we figured out something lately with our cars and it makes all the hard work worth it. It’s really cool to finally make it happen and hopefully it’s the start of many more. We’ve been close a few times this year, even on the (Super DIRTcar) Series.”
While McLaughlin has enjoyed consistent top-five points seasons in the Fulton and Brewerton Speedway championships, he hasn’t been as stable in the Super DIRTcar Series. But now he thinks that the No. 6H team’s chances for a Super DIRTcar Series win have gone up, especially this week with a doubleheader in the Niagara region starting Tuesday at Ransomville Speedway and now ending Wednesday at Merrittville Speedway (ON).
“If we could pull off a series win, that would be awesome. We’re going to Ransomville Tuesday night and Merrittville Wednesday and will try to do that. I think we can pull it off. We got the team, we got the cars, we got the people; I just got to do my part and drive it to victory lane.”
If Saturday night’s race at Fulton is any indication, “Mad Max” will be pulling into Super DIRTcar Series victory lane sooner rather than later.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Joe Johnson