McLaughlin Is World Finals Rookie

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Max McLaughlin, shown in victory lane at Millbridge Speedway, will make his big-block modified debut this weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Jacob Seelman photo)
Max McLaughlin, shown in victory lane at Millbridge Speedway, will make his big-block modified debut this weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Jacob Seelman photo)
Max McLaughlin, shown in victory lane at Millbridge Speedway, will make his big-block modified debut this weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. (Jacob Seelman photo)

CONCORD, N.C. — The biggest dirt track race weekend of the season might not be the place one would expect a rookie racer to make his debut.

But that’s exactly what 15-year-old Max McLaughlin will do when he straps into a Super DIRTcar Series big-block modified fielded by Heinke-Baldwin Racing on Thursday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.

McLaughlin, the son of former NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Mike McLaughlin, will be a teammate to series veterans Matt Sheppard and Jimmy Phelps, who are both in the fight for the series championship entering the final weekend of racing.

McLaughlin was scheduled to make his Super DIRT Series debut at New York’s Weedsport Speedway in late October, but the event was rained out.

“I really wish we wouldn’t have gotten rained out those two nights,” McLaughlin said. “Basically this is my first race in one of these. Moving as fast as I am, I don’t think I am to the point where I am completely ready for this, but it’s an opportunity that I can’t turn down.

“I can’t expect to go in and win,” he added. “I am just trying to take it like any other race. I know the best of the best are here. I just have to try to do my best and not let the pressure get to me.”

While McLaughlin is a rookie in the big-block modifieds, he’s far from a rookie in a race car. He’s raced in numerous divisions this season and recently won the prestigious King of Carolina UMP modified race at Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, N.C.

“It is difficult going from one car to another,” McLaughlin said. “I started the year in a crate late model and then went to modifieds and I’ve raced outlaw karts and done a little wingless midget racing and these things (big-block modifieds) are completely different from anything that I have ever driven.

“I never drove anything that had that much grip with a big tire like that,” he noted. “It really takes a lot of getting used to. It’s like the sprint cars, you can’t get completely out of the throttle or the car unloads. Getting me comfortable in the car has been the biggest thing. It is just so much different.”

McLaughlin wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and make his living racing cars.

“My goal is to make a living in racing,” he said. “I don’t care what I am racing. I’ll drive anything. I don’t care if it is a four-cylinder car on a Saturday night or a Super DIRT Series race. I’d like to do the Super DIRT Series full time next year, but as long as I am driving something, I am happy.”