Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – ROMULUS, NY – Max McLaughlin has been raised in the world of auto racing from birth.
His father, “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin, is a former competitor in Dirt Modifieds, NASCAR Modifieds, the old Busch North division (Now K&N East), and what is known today as the XFINITY Series. He is also a winner in all those divisions.
Max has competed in DIRTcar Big Block Modified competition for the last few years, honing his skills for an opportunity to move up the ranks of racing just as his father did. However racing has changed a lot since Mike strapped into a car and Max’s lifestyle has been far different than his father’s was.
The balance between driving and school is a delicate one that the McLaughlin family takes very seriously.
“Its not easy.” the younger McLaughlin said. “I try to do my schoolwork in the off-season and get it done as quick as I can. It’s my senior year in high school, so dad and I decided we’d get it done and over with. Last season was terrible doing both at the same time. The were lots of long hours going to school, coming home, racing and getting my homework done at 1 or 2am.. Then I’d have to be ready for school the next day.”
The elder McLaughlin has taken a serious role in his son’s education. Max hasn’t always felt the same way, but his father has helped him to understand the importance of a “plan B” according to the soon-to-be 18-year-old.
“My dad pushes me hard to get the school work done,” he said. “If I had the option, I’d rather work on the car than get the schoolwork done sometimes. That’s the reason my schoolwork will be done in the next two weeks instead of over the summer.”
The harsh reality of modern sports is not lost on McLaughlin, though he still shows a passion for what he does.
“At the end of the day, I’m a racer, but this puts it more into being a job,” he said. “Politics don’t play as much of a role in dirt racing and you work on the car more. It’s more grassroots. I love being a racer though.”
Part of moving through the ranks of the modern motorsports world is understanding how to deal with sponsors and the media. Both Max and his father realized early on that this would be an important aspect of the sport to focus on if Max were to succeed. Rolfe Schnur, a motorsports marketing coach, has been working with Max weekly on his public speaking and how to market himself to sponsors.
“I used to be nervous, but he’s helped me improved a lot,” McLaughlin stated. “I didn’t like standing up in a room full of people, but he’s gotten me a lot more comfortable.”
Max admitted that things were a bit different in his father’s day, when drivers weren’t the constant marketing figures and spokespeople they are now.
“My dad was horrible at it,” quipped the youngster jokingly. “But now, we both know it’s important for sponsors and to be able to talk with the media.”
With his new contract under Niece Motorsports to compete in four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events this upcoming season, the youngster will certainly look to a familiar face to lean on for knowledge of the vastly different landscape in the form of fellow Big Block Modified competitor Stewart Friesen.
“Stew and I get along well, and this year we’ll run each other in the Big Blocks and the Trucks,” he said. “I think we’ve built a friendship running the dirt stuff and he’s someone I’ll be able to lean on for experience.”
Max McLaughlin’s future in the sport is a bright one. That seems to tick all the boxes for potential success. His first foray into NASCAR’s Truck Series will be an eye opener, for sure. Not just for him, but for many who might know of his last name.
It will also be for many who will hear it for the first time, as the second-generation racer tires to add his name among the notable drivers to take the trek from the Northeast to the big time down south.