Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BARBERSVILLE, FL – It’s safe to say the one-two punch of Jimmy Phelps and Max McLaughlin is working to perfection for Heinke-Baldwin Racing so far in 2022.
If you want proof, just look at the finishes so far through four events at the 51st annual DIRTcar Nationals. An HBR car has been in the top three every single night.
Phelps nearly won on night two of the meet, missing by inches at the line to Peter Britten after leading a majority of the feature.
McLaughlin sealed the deal on Friday night, capturing the $4,000 win to go along with a second, a third, and an eighth.
Not to be outdone, Phelps followed Max across the line on Friday evening.
The strength of the HBR stable right now is pretty obvious, not only by the results on track, but how the team is gelling off of it.
“The fact that we’ve been so strong so far in Florida says a lot about this team,” Phelps said. “It says we came down here prepared. I personally don’t usually run strong down here and HBR’s given me a great race car.”
With a worst finish all week of sixth (two seconds, a fourth and a sixth), Phelps is excited to finish the DIRTcar Nationals strong. Howeve, he’s also excited for what’s to come when the team competes in events all season long.
“I can’t thank Al and Judy Heinke, everyone at Mohawk, J&B Installations and everyone that’s made this happen in such a short amount of time,” he said. “I’ve been comfortable all week. We’ve got a couple of fast race cars right now.”
While he hasn’t visited victory lane, Phelps has been close which has the promoter of Weedsport Speedway smiling.
“Of course I’d love to be in victory lane, but I’m pumped for those guys (Max’s team),” he said. “Everybody’s been working together all week really well and I’m learning a ton from this whole situation, especially about getting around this place, and it’s helped me out quite a bit.”
McLaughlin, as well, is extremely grateful to be back with the Al Heinke owned team this season, and the results show just how quick he’s gotten up to speed.
“I’ve got the best team in the world,” McLaughlin said. “My guys have worked their asses off this week. We changed a motor and brought out a backup car. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
This is McLaughlin’s second stint in HBR equipment. Heinke brought the youngster on board late in 2015. However, he left the team to pursue a career in NASCAR and recently for the CME, Inc. on the Super DIRTcar Series and Norm Hansell’s team on the Short Track Super Series.
Now he’s older and has learned a lot since his first time with the team, and the results are showing.
“I can’t thank Al Heinke enough,” he said. “He let me come back and race his car and it’s just awesome. I can’t thank all of our great sponsors, this team and everyone who’s a part of this deal enough. This thing’s a rocket.”
The driver from Mooresville, NC loves the fact that he’s back for another stint with the HBR team, but loves being teamed up with Phelps once again.
“Jimmy’s one of the best in the business,” he said. “He’s been a frontrunner for years. We work well together and this is going to be a good year for both of us.
Heading into the DIRTcar Nationals finale on Saturday night, the top three drivers, McLaughlin, Phelps and Mat Williamson, are separated by just five markers. It’s going to be a battle to the finish to see who takes home the Big Gator at the end of the evening.