MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Hattori Racing Enterprises has announced the addition of a full-time entry in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with Max McLaughlin for the upcoming season.

Shige Hattori’s history of team ownership is heavily rooted in the K&N Pro Series, and this year will mark the organization’s return to full-time competition for the first time since 2014.

McLaughlin will make his debut with HRE at New Smyrna Speedway on Feb. 10 in the No. 1 Textron Off Road/Mohawk Northeast Inc. Toyota Camry with crew chief Robert Huffman.

The 2019 season will mark McLaughlin’s first full year on asphalt. The son of six-time NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner Mike McLaughlin spent the last three season competing in the Super DIRTcar Series. He finished third in the driver point standings last season with eight top-five and 18 top-10 finishes.

Not only was “Mad Max” a perennial contender on the tour, he also garnered two-consecutive Most Popular Driver Awards in 2017 and 2018.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me to further my career,” McLaughlin said. “This will be my first concentrated effort in asphalt racing and this will be a big change and challenge. I’m definitely looking forward to the variety of racetracks and our expectation is to go win races and be a contender for the championship.

“This will be a big transition for me, but there are a lot of great people at HRE and I’m confident we’ll be one of the teams to beat throughout the season.”

The 18-year old has one NASCAR start to his credit, which came last season in the Truck Series at Eldora Speedway with Niece Motorsports.

McLaughlin’s effort will include running engines prepared by students from NASCAR Technical Institute’s Spec Engine Program. The top students earn their way into NTI’s engine program with academic and attendance excellence and will play a large role in McLaughlin’s 2019 campaign.

HRE’s return to the K&N East will also feature students from Toyota Technical College in Japan. For the ninth year, HRE will welcome TTC students to their Mooresville, N.C. race shop for a week’s worth of race preparation and instruction at NTI.

“We’re very excited to get back into the K&N Pro Series full time this season,” Hattori said. “Our team has a lot of history and success in the series. We want to expand our team and offer more opportunities for young drivers and this is a way to do that. I’m happy to have Max join our group. This is a big step for him and our team, and we’re confident he’ll do a great job this season.”

Matt Sheppard races under Max McLaughlin (6h) at Volusia Speedway Park. (Jim Denhamer photo)

McLaughlin’s move to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East brings about the end of his full-time tenure with Heinke-Baldwin Racing, with whom the young star has raced for the last three years.

“The contributions made to our program by Max and his father, Mike, are immeasurable,” said HBR owner Al Heinke. “We believe that the timing for Max’s appropriate next step is spot on. His future is bright, and we are glad that Max had his big-block start with us at HBR.”

“We are incredibly proud of Max and the work that he did with us,” added HBR team manager Betsy Angelone. “Watching Max was like watching my son come into his own. I feel like a proud parent with all that he’s accomplished. We are all very excited for him and look forward to watching his next chapter unfold.”

While his main focus will be on the K&N Pro Series East this year, McLaughlin still plans on running select shows in the HBR owned No. 6h as his schedule allows.

“I will still be running the HBR car whenever I can,” noted McLaughlin. “I can’t thank Al Heinke and everybody at HBR enough for the opportunities that they’ve given me. I’m very excited about the future with HRE and to get the season underway.”