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First Win Lights Fire For Max McLaughlin to Work Even Harder

Max McLaughlin by Emily Schwanke

“Mad Max” scored his first win with the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models at the Talladega Short Track in his fifth career start (Emily Schwanke Photo)


Max McLaughlin entered his rookie season with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models eager to build a Late Model career but knew the learning curve would be steep. 

Now, with a win five races in, he has the determination to climb every mountain. 

“I feel like after winning my first World of Outlaws race, it makes me want to work even harder than I have been,” McLaughlin said. “So, it’s lit a fire in me and just keep doing all the things we’ve been doing to get to winning pace.” 

While not counted as an official Feature win, due to being a Preliminary Feature, McLaughlin still left with a check, a Victory Lane photo and a spike in confidence.

“(Confidence) has been the biggest ‘what-if’ for me this season,” McLaughlin said. “At the start of the season, I didn’t have any confidence, and any race car driver knows that it’s probably the worst thing you could have because racing is a head game. 

“If you ain’t driving the car to the full potential, then you won’t get the full experience. Now, I feel like the last couple of weeks, especially the second night at Farmer City, something clicked. I didn’t make the show the first night, changed a lot and it worked. I felt different getting in the car and studied a lot of tape. Knowing that we had speed and could be able to manipulate the air better, that gave me a ton of confidence.” 

The 23-year-old, from Mooresville, NC, entered his rookie season with several years of experience, and multiple wins, on the Super DIRTcar Series tour. That didn’t translate into any immediate success, though as he endured some hardships in the first few months with Team 22 Inc. – missing three races (two at Volusia and one at Farmer City). 

However, after scoring his first top-20 of the year at Farmer City, his fortune continued to climb at the Talladega Short Track during the Alabama Gang 100. He started the preliminary night second-fastest time in Sea Foam Qualifying and then used his outside front row starting spot to his advantage. Using an old Modified tactic, he swung around the high side to take the lead from Newport, TN driver Jimmy Owens. 

Using both the inside and outside lanes of the red dirt racetrack, McLaughlin held off Owens and Martinsville, IN driver Ricky Thornton Jr. to claim the win. 

“It was crazy,” McLaughlin said. “I knew I laid down a good qualifying lap and that was being on the cushion and hammer down. It was super slick by the time we went out, so I don’t have much experience racing in the slick with these (cars) and I didn’t know where to run. I kind of just went back to my Modified roots and needed to carry as much momentum as I could to at least try for the lead.” 

Trent Gower Photo

The win was also a long time coming for Team 22 Inc. owner G.R. Smith, who celebrated his first victory with the Series too. 

“I think that while Max is relatively new to the dirt Late Model scene, I think he’s extremely talented and versatile,” Smith said. “The dirt Late Model community has only seen a scratch on the surface as to what he can accomplish. The kid has won in every form of racing from NASCAR Modifieds to Big Blocks, and USAC Midgets. You give him time; he can win, and he’ll prove that. He told me that out of all the forms of cars he’s raced, the Late Model has been his toughest. And he’s already proved he can be a winner. 

“Yes, there are going to be growing pains, there’s gonna be learning experiences, struggles on some nights on new dirt and places he hasn’t seen. But, to show his versatility and be successful and has proven why the hype about him is real and why he’s in my car, I haven’t thought twice since having him in the car. That makes me excited to see where we go.” 

Smith wants McLaughlin to succeed in his No. 22* Longhorn Chassis and has since upped the resources behind the team so that they continue to build their team to the level of winning national championships in the years ahead of them. 

“We know what we have and what we’re building (at Team 22),” Smith said. “We have a very very good team. We have a team that most people would not know the depth of it with resources. We have a stable of Longhorn cars, engines, deep on the equipment, upgraded the hauler, and we have a nice shop. We’re not a flash in the pan, and we’re building this to where Max and Team 22 Inc. are around the World of Outlaws scene for years to come. 

“My goal was to build a national touring team to compete for championships and we’ve put the pieces together to go out and accomplish those goals, now we just need to get the seat time and we know where we are. We’re a new team, and we took our losses in Florida and are digging out of the hole. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re not looking at year one or year two. Max and I are building this operation to where we can be a championship-level team.” 

See McLaughlin and the Team 22 Inc. machine take on the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models at Mississippi Thunder Speedway for the Dairyland Showdown on Thursday-Saturday, May 2-4. For more information and tickets, CLICK HERE. 

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model race live on DIRTVision. 

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