Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – MOORSVILLE, NC – In what can be described as a natural step in his racing career, dirt racing is losing another talent to the world of NASCAR. Max McLaughlin is taking his abilities to the K&N Pro Series East after securing a deal with 2018 NASCAR Truck Series championship owner Shigeaki Hattori to run for his Hattori Racing Enterprises (HRE) team full-time in 2019.
The ride is something that Max has had his eye on for some time, and will see him taking on some of the best that the Pro Series has to offer as he works to continue his climb up the racing ladder.
“We are ready to take the next step in my career,” McLaughlin said. “We now have a great opportunity to do it with a championship team like the one at Hattori Racing. I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.”
Making the move to full-time NASCAR racing has been on Max’s radar for a while, and one he and his team had been searching for. They just needed to find the right program, and it looks like they may have found it.
“We were looking for the best possible opportunity for me to go out and run up front,” he said. “I know HRE has what it takes to win races and run up front. Now, I just have to do my part.”
This deal is currently for the full NASCAR K&N East season, but could we see Max in one of the team’s trucks in the future?
“My deal with these guys is for the full K&N schedule,” he said. “I hope we can get in a truck at some point, but have no plans for that as of now.”
As has been the case with other drivers such as Stewart Friesen and Tyler Dippel, Max will now be cutting back on his dirt racing schedule to concentrate fully on the asphalt. Max is coming off his best year ever driving for the HBR Racing Team where he won on several occasions at his weekly tracks and finished a solid third in points on the Super DIRTcar Series.
Even though he won’t be running regularly for Al Heinke’s team, his fans will still be able to see him slinging dirt.
“I will still be racing dirt whenever I can, and whenever I can in the HBR 6H,” he said. “Al has really been a big support to my racing. Without him, I’m not sure if I would be racing at all. He took a chance on me when I was 15 and gave me a shot when I had nothing planned. And I’m very thankful for that.”
Now comes the fun part…learning. Most of the tracks that Max will tackle in the K&N Series are places he hasn’t even seen, let alone raced on. However, he’s excited for the chance to progress and learn new speedways in the process.
“It’ll all be new to be,” he said. “It’ll be a big learning curve for sure but I’m up for the challenge. I raced at South Boston once last year and I’ve watched at New Smyrna before. That’s it. But running the dirt car for the last three years I think will help me adapt and be comfortable driving a loose race car when I experience it on asphalt.”
McLaughlin will be behind the wheel of a Toyota for the team as that is who HRE’s been with for the last few seasons on the Truck Series.
“I’m not sure exactly what their role will be totally, but but we’ll have support from Toyota,” he said. “I really have to thank Shigeaki, Mike Greci, Scott Zipadelli, and everyone at HRE for this opportunity. I’m very excited for this year.”
The first K&N Pro Series East race for Max and the HRE team will be Sunday, February 10th at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida.