A month after taking his first long-awaited Super DIRTcar Series feature win, an autumn to remember became more epic for Max McLaughlin on Saturday evening. In just his third appearance in an asphalt Modified, he took the win in one of the big ones, the North-South Shootout John Blewett III Memorial at Caraway Speedway (NC).
Surviving some contact with 10 to go, along with multiple late-race challenges from some of the best Modified racers in game, ‘Mad Max’ took Gary Putnam’s No. 77 to victory lane in not just his second start for Putnam, but in a Tour-type Modified.
“This is only the second time I’ve driven a Tour Modified. I’d like to say this isn’t supposed to happen, but I’ll take it all day. Gary keeps this car at his house and he is so damn smart. It’s a pleasure to drive this racecar,” McLaughlin said in victory lane.
The second-generation racer had to deal with three-time Race of Champions Modified Series champion Patrick Emerling over the final eight laps, keeping his eyes out front and not on the mirror.
“David Warner, my spotter did a great job. I didn’t know who was back there, I was just hearing, ‘One back, one and a half.’ I didn’t dare to take my eyes off the road in front of me to see who it was. These guys are such great drivers, and it’s a pleasure to race them. Patrick is a great driver, to beat him for the win is pretty cool.”
For Emerling, who seemed to have the edge on longer runs in the later laps, the final restart itself proved to be his undoing, leaving him a gap that he was unable to overcome.
“The restarts, my carburetor was loading up a little bit, something was happening where I didn’t have full power. It took me two laps for the motor to kick on. We had the best car at the end of the race, but Max was able to get a little bit of a lead on us on the restart, I tried to close, if it was 160 or 165 laps we would’ve been good.”
Before Emerling’s final challenge, former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ron Silk was McLaughlin’s opponent. But, some controversy arose on a restart with 10 laps to go, when McLaughlin drifted high with Silk to his outside. Silk’s No. 16 caught the outside wall, causing a stack up and eventual crash that eliminated him and fellow contenders Matt Hirschamn, John Smith, and James Civali.
“I want to apologize to the 16 team,” McLaughlin said. “We were driving hard at the end. I got a lot of respect for him, and just rushed the throttle, got tight off, and squeezed him into the fence,”
It wasn’t the first time the two had gotten together late in the race, which was the main source of frustration expressed by Silk.
“We were racing pretty hard and I don’t know if he got tight or what, but just ran me out of room and got into the fence,” Silk said. “I wish he would’ve given me more room, but I understand we’re all racing hard there at the end. Just the way it goes sometimes. But, what’s more frustrating is that when we came and got our tires with 20 to go or so, he ran me up in three and four, put me back to last, and I had to drive back through.”
Speed51.TV’s tape-delayed broadcast of the North-South Shootout John Blewett III Memorial is available by clicking here.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51