ROSSBURG, Ohio – Max McLaughlin may be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut during Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby, but his family name is well-known among the NASCAR garage.
After all, his father – ‘Magic Shoes’ Mike McLaughlin – was a six-time race winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and won the 1988 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship driving for Bill Corazzo, with now-Stewart Haas Racing general manager Greg Zipadelli serving as crew chief.
Needless to say, the younger McLaughlin has the NASCAR pedigree in his genes.
In fact, the 18-year-old and former Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series Rookie of the Year is already being talked about as a potential favorite to win it all on Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway, despite never having turned a lap in a truck prior to Tuesday night practice at the Tony Stewart-owned half-mile.
However, McLaughlin is as cool under pressure as it comes, and he’s not worried about anything but putting together a strong result for his Niece Motorsports team over the course of the two-day event.
“I’m sure there’s people talking … and I know there’s a ton of people excited that we’re here and doing this Truck Series deal, but I’m just focused on one lap at a time and taking care of this truck so we can get into the feature on Wednesday,” McLaughlin told SPEED SPORT. “That’s the big thing we have to worry about. We’re not locked in, so until we’re locked in that’s where our focus is. After we make the show, then we can worry about what might happen in the race and really going for it, but I am excited.
“This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my career and I’m so grateful to Al Niece and everyone on this (No.) 38 team that’s made it possible for me to come out here and run this race at Eldora. It’s a track that’s got so much history in dirt racing and I’m just happy to be out here.”
Eldora marks the first time that Niece Motorsports will field three in-house trucks in one event, with McLaughlin joining full-time team drivers Austin Wayne Self and Justin Fontaine for the 150-lap race.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working on this truck and a lot of time looking at data … it’s kind of a guessing game, coming here in a truck, because everyone has their own ideas and their own wants for what will work and then the track might work with you or go completely against you,” said McLaughlin.
The second-generation driver ranked ninth-fastest in the opening practice and 26th in the final round on Tuesday, but his lower ranking in the night session came largely from the fact that he didn’t go out until the later stages of Happy Hour, when the track had slowed considerably from where it was earlier on.
“We just threw what we brought down in practice at it to see if anything actually worked or if we needed to completely regroup … and I was really happy with where we ended up,” said McLaughlin. “You never quite know when it comes to dirt racing, but we’re feeling good that we’ll at least have a good shot at it.”