Fast Learner: Max McLaughlin Turns Heads In Whelen Modified Tour Debut At Stafford NAPA 150

Mike McLaughin (left), Gary Putnam (center) and Max McLaughlin talk in the pits at Stafford before Saturday’s Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Auto Parts 150 (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – The podium following the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Auto Parts 150 Saturday at Stafford Motor Speedway represented the best of the best the division has to offer with three former champions of the series up front. 

Winner Ron Silk, second place Doug Coby and third place Justin Bonsignore have a combined eight series titles and 73 series victories. 

It was the name that chased that podium to the checkered flag in fourth place Saturday that arrived at Stafford Motor Speedway earlier in the day having never turned a lap in competition at the historic half-mile or behind the wheel of a Tour Type Modified car. 

Max McLaughlin made his Whelen Modified Tour debut one to remember Saturday with a fourth place finish in the NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Stafford.

The 20-year old son of former series champion Mike McLaughlin was driving for longtime series owner/driver Gary Putnam. 

“I never drove a Tour Modified before so practice was sketchy to say the least,” said Max McLaughlin, a regular on the ARCA Menards East Series. “These guys are so badass to race against. [Justin] Bonsignore, [Doug] Coby and Ron Silk are three of the baddest dudes in asphalt racing alone. It’s an honor to come here and run fourth. Gary Putnam gave me a great race car. I can’t thank him enough for giving me the opportunity.

“We had a great car. It was a huge learning experience for me. It’s the first time I’ve done live pit stops on asphalt. The whole day was a huge learning experience and I just had a blast doing it.” 

Putnam said McLaughlin “absolutely” exceeded his expectations for the day. 

“It was a really good car when I drove it at [New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 12],” Putnam said. “The two places are actually similar setup-wise. So I figured it would be a good opportunity for him to at least learn the race track and not have to worry about working on the car to make it faster. But he did a great job. It’s the first time he’s ever been in a Tour Modified, let alone doing it at Stafford, which is probably one of the harder to places to get around. To come here and run top-five, that’s just phenomenal.”

Max McLaughlin said he came to Stafford without any expectations for performance. 

“I try not to have any expectations,” Max McLaughling said. “My dad has always said to just make the most of every opportunity. If you’re worried or fearful you’re not going to perform to your limits. I just came here to drive my tail off and I just looked at it like the next car ahead of me is the next car I have to pass. … After the race was over to see the three drivers that finished ahead of me it was pretty cool.” 

Max McLaughlin started eighth and hung around the top-10 for most of the event. He went from 10th to fourth over the final 32 laps, passing Chase Dowling for fourth place on lap 149. 

“It was just super cool to come to a place where my dad grew up racing and race in front of fans that were fans of him,” Max McLaughlin said. 

Max McLaughlin Saturday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)


  1. The Kid did a great job!!!!!!! i was at Thompson when he drove the SK and was impressed But i think this is MORE impressive, running Stafford as your 1ST time in a TOUR MOD and finishing 4th is quite amazing,he looked like his Dad back in the 80’s, i hope he runs MORE WMT races in 2021!!!

  2. Dirt ,asphalt,fenders ,open wheel , makes no difference ,this kid is a racer , hope he gets a chance at the next level

  3. Wmass, Elect, Couldn’t agree more… No Fear . Enough said. Mad Max got it done!!! Hopefully this will lead to more opportunities on the Tour .. This Young Man is a rising Star in NASCAR !!

  4. First time ever at Stafford, First time in a Tour Mod in competition, and Mad Max winds up fourth, beaten only by 3 Champions. Somebody offer this guy a ride!

  5. I can’t add anything more to the first four posts. This kid is definitely the real deal!

  6. Watched Max go, Ive been there for 16yrs now, The apple sure didnt fall far from the tree, Mike seemed to always hang back yrs ago, save his stuff then go, hope we can see Max in a decent truck or xfinity ride soon,

  7. With his natural talent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Max land a top tier cup ride. I’d love to see him run a full NWMT season in that 77 car, I’d be willing to bet he’d win the championship.

  8. Real Deal talent to move out of local racing and on to the national scene. Take some public speaking classes, smile and the world of big time racing will open the door for you.

  9. Little tid bit bout Max I found searching, He was born Feb. 29th, Kids 20 but has only had 5 birthdays. Good luck Max.

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