Max McLaughlin has enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, and it’s not over yet. The 17-year-old son of “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin is set to make his Dirt Late Model debut this weekend during the World Short Track Championships at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (NC).
McLaughlin has been running the No. 6H Heinke-Baldwin Racing Big Block Modified for the past two seasons and scored a trio of wins in 2017. With just a handful of Modified races remaining on his schedule, the Mooresville, NC driver will use an off-weekend to strap into a Dirt Late Model out of the Ahnna Parkhurst Racing stable.
This opportunity was presented to McLaughlin by Parkhurst’s father, who has always been a big supporter of “Mad Max.” Parkhurst presented McLaughlin the opportunity to compete at Charlotte to help with track time and the Big Block Modified program ahead of the World Finals the following weekend.
When prompted about how he thinks he’ll do at the World Short Track Championships, he responded with modest expectations.
“I really don’t have many laps in a Late Model at all, maybe ten to fifteen laps. I’m not expecting to set the world on fire, but I guess you never know really,” McLaughlin stated. “Kind of the same spot I was in in the Big Block a few years ago and I never really knew what to expect and we went out and set fast time, so I guess you can never count us out. I hope to do the best I can, they definitely have the equipment and they have a great team so I’ll do the best I can for them and hopefully get a good finish for them.”
Although he doesn’t have a lot of Late Model experience, McLaughlin isn’t exactly an out-of-the-box rookie either.
“I tested back in 2014, and then I was going to run the Ice Bowl in 2015,” McLaughlin said. “We actually got in an incident that would end our weekend early so I don’t really have much track time, but that little track time I do have was over two years ago.”
Despite his time behind the wheel, he knows that the transition from the Big Block Modified to a Dirt Late Model will include a learning curve. McLaughlin pointed out many of the differences between the two cars.
“Learning the cars, they’re completely different,” he admitted. “The Modified has a solid front axle and the Late Model has an independent front suspension. It’s going to be nothing like the Big Block drives at all. I’ve got to learn it fast, adapt to it quick. Everybody I’ve talked to in the Late Model has said drive it straight; drive the car straight, carry momentum”
Excited to compete this weekend, McLaughlin is confident that the people behind him will give him an opportunity to be competitive.
“They definitely have the equipment and they have a great team so I’ll do the best I can for them and hopefully get a good finish for them.”
Although McLaughlin is like every other racer who wants to go fast and win, he made it clear that this weekend is more about having fun and gaining knowledge.
“There are no expectations. Go out and have fun,” he said. “At this point, we’re going to do the best we can.”
McLaughlin also said he would be up for the challenge of racing another Late Model if the opportunity was to present itself.
“This is the first opportunity that has come about, but if more opportunities did come my way I would definitely take advantage of it because I do love racing these cars,” he stated. “They’re really cool, they’re awesome to me and I definitely have a lot of interest.”
McLaughlin said he is excited and grateful for the opportunity to take on his challenge at the World Short Track Championships in a Late Model.
“Thanks to the Parkhurst family and their continued support of my racing career. Hopefully we can get a good finish for them.”
For more information on the World Short Track Nationals, October 27 and 28, visit https://www.dirtcarump.com/world-short-track-championship/ .
-By Kendra Adams, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com