Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – MOORESVILLE, NC – While the upcoming racing campaign will be vastly different than he’s use to, 2023 was one of familiarity for Max McLaughlin.
Two years into his second stint with the HBR Racing Team, McLaughlin enjoyed some success on the Super DIRTcar Series this past season, recording four top 5’s and eight top 10’s in points-paying races, bringing his #8H home sixth in Series points.
However, if you ask Max, who’s a very competitive individual, he wasn’t happy with how things panned out in the results column.
“I’d say 2023 was probably one of the worst years we’ve had in a while,” McLaughlin said. “We ended the season strong so I guess that’s something to be happy about.”
Even while Max wasn’t pleased with the results, he knows it wasn’t for a lack of effort by his HBR team who worked hard all season long to bring the best FX Caprara Harley-Davidson #8H Bicknells to the track.
“Last season was a good team effort,” he said. “That’s all I could really ask for. We had a close one at DIRT Week, finishing second, and ended the year strong at Charlotte for the World Finals.”
Max’s best finish on the tour was that runner-up finish during the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 at Oswego Speedway in October to eventual winner Mat Williamson.
While he was happy with the result, McLaughlin felt like he had a car and strategy that could have won that race.
“Mat was just really good at Oswego,” he said. “I thought we were the class of the field, but when we went in for the pit stop, we added a little stagger. I don’t know if it blew up or what but we just got free on exit. All-in-all, it was a decent race for us. Mat was just better at the end.”
While he didn’t visit victory lane in a points event on tour this season, McLaughlin was able to open the DIRTcar Modified season in style at Volusia Speedway Park in February with his third career DIRTcar Nationals checkered flag.
“Volusia is just a fun place,” he said. “It’s a place where the driver prevails, I believe. You can hustle the car around there and we were able to do that. It’s just a pleasure to drive for Al (Heinke) and I wanted to win for him so much.”
Now, McLaughlin will embark on a new venture for 2024. He will compete full-time on the World of Outlaws Late Model Series for Team 22 Motorsports, piloting a Cornett-powered Longhorn with primary backing coming from Heinke’s company, Mohawk Northeast.
“I was nervous to tell Al that I had an opportunity to go do something else,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen but he decided to jump on board and help out the Late Model program. He’s been one of the biggest supporters of my career and I couldn’t be happier that he’s going with me in ‘24.”
That doesn’t mean fans won’t get their fix of the driver affectionately-known as “Mad Max” in a Dirt Modified. When is schedule allows, he’ll have an HBR machine ready to go.
“I’m grateful that Al’s still going to let me come run some Modified races,” he said. “I’m excited but it’s bittersweet. I have a lot of friends in the Northeast and it became a home to me so I’m glad I’ll still get to head north and run some races.”
He’ll also get to work with his HBR teammate, Jimmy Phelps.
“I love my HBR crew and am happy I’ve got such a good team,” he said. “I’m hoping I can still come back this coming year and help Jimmy. I want to do whatever I can to make sure he’s in contention for a championship in 2024.”
McLaughlin ended the 2023 season with three DIRTcar victories, including two at the D-Shaped Dirt Demon, the Brewerton Speedway, to go along with his DIRTcar Nationals triumph. He also captured a win on July 1st at the Fonda Speedway.