SALISBURY, N.C. — Max McLaughlin has won everything there is to win at Millbridge Speedway in outlaw karts, with the exception of the track’s marquee event during Charlotte Speedweeks.
McLaughlin will look to rectify that omission from his racing resume during Wednesday night’s QRC Speed51 Open presented by HMS Motorsport at the sixth-mile dirt oval.
The 19-year-old son of “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin and current NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver for Hattori Racing Enterprises is one of the all-time wins leaders at Millbridge and won the Open division track championship in 2015 after a dominant season.
However, McLaughlin has never conquered the Speed51 Open despite multiple attempts at trying.
As a 14-year-old, he finished fourth in the inaugural running of the event in 2014, then followed that up with a disappointing 20th-place result the next year after running into trouble during the feature.
McLaughlin hasn’t been back since, due to outside commitments the past three seasons while running with the Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series up in the Northeast, but he’s finally ready to try again.
“I’m actually pretty relaxed going into this week,” said McLaughlin, “I’ve won the big race at the end of the year before, the Battle at the Bridge, but never this one during Memorial week. We’ve won at the fair, we’ve won the fair week Millbridge race and been good in the Ironman race before … but this race eluded me the two years I ran it in the past.
“I’ve led this race before and flipped here running second before, so hopefully this time is the one where we put it all together.”
McLaughlin will pilot a brand new car out of the Phantom Racing Chassis stable for the marquee event, racing as a teammate to 2017 Speed51 Open winner and fellow dirt modified driver Nick Hoffman.
“I think we’ve got a really good car and I honestly feel like I’m in the best position that I’ve been in at Millbridge in a while,” McLaughlin noted. “We’ve got a super-fast Phantom Racing Chassis kart underneath us, but I know the competition is going to be pretty stiff. Having Nick Hoffman as my teammate … I know he’s not going to slow down any for me, so I’m going to have my work cut out in order to win the thing.
“Every car that Harold (Wiggins, team owner) builds is a good one, so I have faith we’ll be alright.”
Though McLaughlin has always been one of the stars of the Millbridge field, he knows he’ll be up against a host of challengers on Wednesday night, particularly with his teammate going for a second Open win.
“Nick is probably the one I have my eye on the most, as far as competition,” McLaughlin said. “Definitely Logan Seavey, as well … he’ll be fast and has won in May before. There’s a lot of good drivers that will be here. Both Seavey kids will be good, the Kvapils are super-quick here and there’s even some West Coast drivers like (Maria) Cofer and Tanner Holmes who are usually good here as well.
“We’ll just have to see where we match up.”
Though he’s picked up a few big-block modified victories – particularly a Futures win during Super DIRT Week in 2016 – McLaughlin said taking home the trophy Wednesday night would be “pretty high” on his list of career accomplishments.
“It’d definitely be right up there,” said McLaughlin of winning the Speed51 Open. “I’ll always look back on Millbridge as the place where I started my career, so if I could win the biggest race that they have here … it’d be one heck of a party, for sure.”
Practice for the QRC Speed51 Open presented by HMS Motorsport at Millbridge Speedway begins on Monday, May 20. Feature racing takes place on both Tuesday, May 21 and Wednesday, May 22.
For more information, visit www.millbridgespeedway.com.
-Millbridge Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com