McLaughlin following into father’s footsteps

Sports

Max McLaughin with his dad Mike (Matthew Wiernasz Photo)

LOUDON, NH (WWLP) –  Max McLaughin has been racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this season for Hattori Racing Enterprises.  Back in July, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend.  The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will return to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend for Full Throttle Weekend.  Back in July, both Max and Mike McLaughlin talked to 22News about racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and learning from his father Mike McLaughlin on what it’s like to race at the Magic Mile. 

” He has had a lot of input on my driving style here. He told me what the fast groove was to get around these days. Obviously, it’s a little different with the PJ1 track bite they have laid down. It’s the same race track he raced on. He has had a lot of success here. He’s been a big help to me.” Max Said 
This is Max’s first full season in a full-bodied stock car. He has raced in the Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series for the last few seasons. Max said it has been a big learning curve with the transition. The big learning curve paid off for Max when he scored his first-ever win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East last month at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. 

Al Henkie from Mohawk Northeast has also been one of Max biggest supporters. 

” He’s the reason I am here today. I don’t think I would be racing without him. We might be racing an outlaw car still. He’s been the key guy in my racing career to this day. Without him, I would not be here and I am very thankful to have met Al.” Max Said
 
If the opportunity comes, Max could end up in one of the three top national series in NASCAR. McLaughlin feels he has to win races. He has one win already this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Max feels it’s really tough to find sponsorships these days. 

” If you get tied in with the right people and perform. I think that’s there a chance you can go farther. I do everything I can behind the wheel hopefully make the jump.” Max Said 

Max’s car owner Shigeaki Hattori is very passionate about the sport. Hattori is working until 11:00 at night all the time.  Max will drive by the race shop after getting dinner between 8:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. and he will stop by to see what’s going on at the shop. 

On and off the track.  Max’s father Mike is the backbone. Mike has been at every race Max has been apart of since he was 11 years old. 

” He’s my driver coach. He tells me whether if I am right or wrong. He’s the one that definitely keeps me in line and steers me in the right direction. He’s really knowledgeable everywhere we go. It’s pretty cool to have him right alongside everything.” Max Said 

One of the things Max has learned from his parents is respect what you have. 

” That’s kind of how they raised me. Dad’s always made me win everything I’ve done and before I move to the next level and made me work for it. Even before I went driving for HBR, I wasn’t really that hands on. I knew what was going on and I did work on them not full time. Now I am scaling my own big block (modified). When I go up north I can do everything on the car. I setup my own cars. I build my own shocks. Him (Mike) making me work on the car has made me the driver I am today. My dad making me always work in the shop. It really gives you a different understanding of what you have and makes you respect your equipment a lot more.” Max Said 

Another former modified alum, Mike Greci is the General Manager at Hattori Racing Enterprises. Greci owned a modified at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam. He was also part back-to-back titles with Mike Stefanik when he won on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Busch North Series which is now the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East back in 1997 and 1998. Greci has worked with many different drivers in NASCAR. 

” He’s a big reason we’re here as well. He definitely keeps you in line. He’s very strict with his drivers. That’s a good thing. He’s a great guy. He works hard. He’s put in the hours. He puts in the late nights and he’s very passionate for what he does. We’re lucky to have him on our team.” Max Said 

Max made his debut back in June in the Sunoco Modifieds at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Could we see Max back in a back modified?
” I’ve talked to a few people and have a lot of interest racing in them. They are a blast to drive. Really fell in love with them at Thompson. Definitely possible. Hopefully, we can see if someone wants to give me an opportunity to run one later this year.” Max Said 

Mike McLaughlin has been around racing for many years. He raced in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.  Mike told 22News how proud he is of his son Max and the progress he has made so far. 

” It’s pretty awesome to spend that kind of time with your son as much work and effort goes into this sport. Were pretty close. That’s pretty neat.” Mike Said 

Mike McLaughlin spent some time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series racing for different teams. Mike said when you are living it when it comes to travel that it is just the way of life. 

” If you’re in the game and have the passion for it. You don’t think much of it. When you get older like myself, you look back and you realize and there are other things in life also is important. Family being one of them but I’ll tell ya it’s pretty neat.” Mike said 

Mike believes Max handles himself very well at the race track.  Max is only 19 years old. 

” He loves the sport. He loves the media side. He’s good with it. A lot better than I was. I had good work ethic. I think that’s what brought me along in this sport. His is pretty good. He has more raw talent than I had. Things come easier for him than me.I had the passion and the hard work believe me in the beginning if I wasn’t able to fix myself. I probably wouldn’t have gone very far. I tore up a lot of stuff.” Mike Said 

Mike does not miss driving. He felt he had good closure with his decision at the time. He has not looked back. A lot of people have asked that and probably say when he doesn’t miss driving in a race car. 

” I am back at the race track. I enjoy watching Max. It’s awful nervewracking. I was never nervous about a whole lot.” Mike Said 
Next month will be 20 years since Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam has closed.  Mike had a lot of success and a lot of fun at The Park. 

” Back when were running Stafford, Thompson, Riverside. That was a pretty neat era. A lot of good drivers. A lot of good people. We had a lot of fun racing. Everybody raced.  They hung afterward. Cookout hung out and had fun and today it’s so much of the business. Race is over everybody is gone.” Mike Said 

Riverside Park Speedway was where fans went on Saturday nights to watch the modifieds to see drivers like Mike McLaughlin, along with Richie Evans, Reggie Ruggiero, Jerry Cook, Stan Gregor, and many other drivers over the years. 

” That was a lot of talented drivers then. There really was. The whole New England (region) is modified country and the best in the business.” Mike Said 

Mike believes Max has the passion to continue on and that he will find a nitch somewhere. 

” My career was about opportunity. Got a ride, I took it. One thing led to another and I had a good career and I think he’s probably on the same journey because we don’t really have the support to say this is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna race this year and that next year so we don’t have that. I think he’s talented enough. He’ll find something that makes him happy and win races and he’ll have fun.” Mike Said 

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will be apart of the Full Throttle weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this upcoming Saturday with the Apple Barrel 125. 

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