CONCORD, N.C. – He may be with a new team this weekend at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, but Max McLaughlin’s goals in a big-block modified haven’t changed one bit.
McLaughlin is still seeking his first Super DIRTcar Series victory during this weekend’s Can-Am World Finals, hoping to secure a crown-jewel trophy in front of his hometown crowd.
The 19-year-old from Mooresville, N.C. – who drove for years in big-block modified competition for Heinke-Baldwin Racing – is in action this weekend for Graham Racing and car owner Ray Graham.
“I’ve been excited all weekend, man,” McLaughlin told SPEED SPORT of his World. “Graham Racing gave me the call, and I’m glad they did, because I wasn’t planning on running World Finals. I drove his car earlier in the year at Can-Am (Motorsports Park), though … drove the (No.) 27 there, and we reunited here to run the World Finals and who knows what else.
“Ray (Graham) is a really, really good guy, and gave me a shot to come here this weekend that I’m really grateful for,” he added. “We had a tough break Friday night, but hopefully can rebound for the finale.”
Unlike his Al Heinke-owned ride from past years, which carried the team’s No. 6H in honor of Heinke and noted chassis brand Troyer Race Cars, McLaughlin’s mount this weekend carries a number that’s far closer to the heart of both the teenager and his famed father – former NASCAR racer Mike McLaughlin.
“So Ray asked what number we wanted to put on the car, and I said, ‘you know, let’s put the Crazy 8 back on. That’s my number and it runs in our family; it was Dad’s first racing number too and it means a lot to me. Truth be told, I couldn’t think of any other number we could have possibly put on the car.”
With a familiar number and many family and friends in attendance, McLaughlin is as grateful as ever to be back in the seat at The Dirt Track at Charlotte and competing at home this weekend.
“I love this place. We’ve had a lot of success here and probably should have won by now, but we’ve just had bad luck,” McLaughlin noted. “Our luck has really not been any better lately, but we had a win and a track record this week in the outlaw kart … so hopefully that’ll turn it around a little bit. It just means a lot, though, you know? I’m really happy to be here.
“Ray is a good friend of ours and it’s always a blast driving for him.”
After an extended stretch of bad luck – including mishaps at both the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 and the Eastern States 200, as well as his flat tire on Friday night at Charlotte – McLaughlin is hoping that Saturday night’s Can-Am World Finals finale is finally his time to shine on the sport’s biggest stage.
“I don’t remember what we were … I think we won four races last year in the modified. And I only ran six races this year, but I mean, we should have won a few already,” he said. “God forbid, we should have won Super DIRT Week (at Oswego Speedway). I feel like we had a good shot there, and a tire fell off with a broken hub or whatever happened there. So that took us out of $50,000. And then last week (during Eastern States weekend), we had a parts malfunction that sent us flipping and took us out of winning $40,000. So there’s 90 grand that I feel like we had a good shot at winning that’s out the window now.
“But we’re here to win. We ain’t here to turn on second, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”