FRENCHTOWN, N.J. — Racing full time is a pretty big deal. But the thing about racing for a living is; it’s not easy.
At a young age we all dreamed big about our future. Ask a 10-year-old about his or her career aspirations and chances are you’ll be taken back by the ambitious responses: a football star, president, doctor, billionaire.
Ask adults, however, if their childhood dreams ever came to fruition and you’re likely to get a more wistful response.
That’s not the case for young race car drivers Peter Britten and Max McLaughlin.
Britten and McLaughlin are two young wheelmen in the Super DIRTcar Series who have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to follow their dreams.
These two drivers have made it through the ups and downs in life to get where they are now.
Britten, a native of Brisbane, Australia, moved to America to follow his dream and race full time at the age of 22 in 2010.
What may surprise most is that Britten doesn’t come from a racing family.
“I was 14 when my parents bought my brothers and I a four-cylinder car,” Britten said. “That’s what I learned to drive in. We’d be driving around in the backyard almost every day.”
A year later, Britten started racing in a junior class.
“We knew nothing about cars or racing, so we went out to have some fun,” he said. “Now I’m over here doing it full time, which is crazy to think of.”
Once Britten and his father became more involved, he figured if he was going to race he should know a few things, so he became a qualified mechanic.
“After I did that I worked as an engine builder for two years,” he said. “Then I had the opportunity through Troyer to come over here in 2010 and started working for Rich Scagliotta full time. Then shortly after I started racing full time.”
Britten’s family became a Troyer dealer in Australia, leading them to a strong relationship with owner Billy Colton and modified driver Jimmy Phelps.
“I mentioned to them loosely that it would be nice to go over to America and race,” Britten said. “Every Australian dreams of racing in America. I thought it would be nice to do but probably would never happen.”
The biggest struggle for Britten after moving was the language barrier.
“Everyone over here still thinks I talk like an Australian, but when I go home as soon as I open my mouth people tell me I talk like an American,” he laughed. “I don’t want to forget where I came from. I enjoy living over here, but at the end of the day I’m still an Australian.”
For Britten, racing was a father-and-son experience. Unfortunately, his father died the year he started racing full time in America.
“At times you feel like the world is crashing down, my dad is my inspiration to pick myself up and keep going,” Britten said.
Britten feels fortunate to have gotten the opportunities he’s had and to be able to chase his dream.
“I just have to make the best of the opportunities I’ve been given,” he said. “If for some reason I couldn’t race anymore, I could look back on my racing career and be extremely proud of what I’ve done.”
McLaughlin, who was just 15 years old when he moved away from home to follow his dream, is now in his second season racing big-block modifieds.
“When we first got the call, dad and I looked at each other and were like ‘are you kidding me?’ It was like we hit the lottery,” McLaughlin said. “It was a dream come true.”
Al Heinke, owner of HBR Motorsports, gave McLaughlin the opportunity to race full time with the Super DIRTcar Series in 2016.
At age 15, McLaughlin moved from Mooresville, N.C., to Weedsport, N.Y.
“I picked up, grabbed all my stuff and moved to upstate New York,” he said. “I picked up online schooling. That’s been pretty tough. It’s different not having the teacher in front of you.”
Unlike Britten, McLaughlin comes from a racing family. But it wasn’t until age 10 that McLaughlin climbed behind the wheel of a race car.
“If it weren’t for racing being my dream, it definitely would have been tough moving up here,” McLaughlin said. “When I’m up here, I’m locked into racing and racing only. It’s my life.”
The biggest struggle McLaughlin says he had when he moved north was meeting new people. “I didn’t really know anyone when I moved up here,” he acknowledged. “The whole crew, all these guys are like family now.
“If I had to move up here by myself at 15 I probably couldn’t have done it.”
McLaughlin’s father, former NASCAR racer Mike McLaughlin, made the move with his son. “Having my dad here with me definitely was a big thing that pushed me. It’s not easy for a 15 year old to move away from his mom.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “My goal was to race for a living. Waking up and going to the shop and working on race cars and going racing, I couldn’t ask for any more. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”