Next Gen: Max McLaughlin To Make Whelen Modified Tour Debut At Stafford Speedway

Max McLaughlin following his second place run in the SK Modified feature Wednesday at Thompson Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour hits the track at Stafford Motor Speedway on Sept. 26 there will be at least one driver making his series debut with the series. 

But it’s a driver making his first series start with a name very familiar to longtime Modified racing fans. 

Max McLaughlin confirmed to RaceDayCT Thursday that he will make his Whelen Modified Tour debut driving for team owner Gary Putnam in the NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Sept. 26 at Stafford. 

McLaughlin is the son of former series champion and longtime Modified racing star Mike McLaughlin. 

“I’m super excited,” Max McLaughlin said. “Gary talked to me last year at New Hampshire [Motor Speedway] when I was running the K&N [Pro Series East] car there. We talked a little bit in the pits just joking around. He said ‘Hey, if you ever want to drive one of these things give me a call.’ I told him I wanted to drive one. He told me to give him a call at the start of the year. I did that. We had planned to run a lot more, but with the COVID it’s kind of halted everything. We were supposed to start at the season opener at South Boston and now we’re starting off at Stafford.” 

Max McLaughlin is a regular on the NASCAR ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards East Series driving for Hattori Racing. His only experience in an asphalt Modified in competition was one to remember.

The 20-year old Max McLaughlin ran an SK Modified on June 19, 2019 at Thompson Speedway for Keith Rocco Racing. Before that day he had never turned a lap at Thompson Speedway or sat in an asphalt Modified. He ended up finishing second in the SK Modified feature that night at Thompson after a late race battle for the lead with NASCAR Cup Series regular Ryan Preece. 

He participated in a test session with a Tour Type Modified in March with Preece and former NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. 

“First time I ever really sat in a [Modified] was at Thompson with Keith’s car,” Max McLaughlin said. “I actually did get to go to test at Martinsville [Speedway] in March with Kevin Harvick and Ryan Preece. Preece was cool enough to invite me there and I got to turn quite a few laps. That was my first time in a [Tour Type] Modified. It was a lot different. They’ve got a lot more power.”

Max McLaughlin finished fifth in the series standings on the K&N Pro Series East as a rookie in 2019 with a victory and eight top-10’s in 12 events. He has made seven starts this year between the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards East Series for Hattori Racing. He’s also a regular running dirt Modifieds. He has never turned a lap on the half-mile Stafford Speedway.  

“It’s going to be a new car and a new track for me as well,” Max McLaughlin said. “A lot of different variables, but I’m always up for a challenge. The place looks awesome. Super racy. I’ve watched a lot of videos. I’m really looking forward to going and hanging out with the [Whelen Modified] Tour guys.” 

Mike McLaughlin was the 1988 Whelen Modified Tour champion. He made 23 Whelen Modified Tour starts at Stafford from 1985-93 with one victory, nine top-five’s and 17 top-10’s. He also won in his lone ARCA Menards East Series (then Busch North Series) start at Stafford in 1993. 

Max McLaughlin said he understands going to Stafford means going to a place where his father’s fan base still lives on. That was something he experienced in 2019 at Thompson. 

“To see all the Mike McLaughlin and Max McLaughlin t-shirts that were there at Thompson last year, it was pretty humbling,” Max McLaughlin said. “It’s pretty cool to see the fan base that he still has in the area.” 


  1. Suitcase Jake says

    Looked great at Thompson that night, Chip off the old block as far I have seen, Even good on the road courses too…. My favorite Car his father drove was the Sherri Cup Car, Black and Gold if my memory serves me . I was at Stafford When He Won with that car that was one of the best paint schemes that i have seen…!! Good Luck Mad Max !!!

  2. “Paint scheme” or wrap?
    Speaking of past glory in modifieds where’d I see Reggie Ruggiero? He’s doing the interior sheet metal for some big name Cut team. He looked great. All trim and fit and professional. Dapper as always, engaging with a big smile at the ready. Good to see.

  3. Suitcase Jake that was the Coors gold sponsored car , not the usual hot orange Billy Corazzo owned car colors

  4. If Max has half the talent his dad had, the tour regulars are gonna have a headache to deal with. To be battling Ryan for the win in his first time in an SK shows that he’s definitely able to adapt quickly to both car and track. Hope he has a good showing.

  5. “Paint scheme” or wrap?”

    Who cares? Do you expect bills you receive in mail to be hand typed?

  6. Suitcase Jake says

    Elect , Yes that Coors Gold Car was one of the best looking Modifieds that I have seen.. Doug , Back in that time frame we didn’t have the wraps like today . Hang the panels with a chain and hook thru one of the rivet holes from rafters, Paint them right there usually no masks on either. Then the panels were hand painted by the local pin-striper . Most towns had a good pin-striper . they did Construction Trucks, Town vehicles , police , fire trucks , most everything was done by hand. Vinyl had not made its way on the scene. Almost every car in the pits was hand lettered. Dave Blanchards brother used to do a-lot in the Southeastern Mass area including Old Blue and tons of Seekonk Cars also..

  7. Reg is with Stewart Haas , Clyde McCloud who was Mike McLaughlin,s crew chief was or still is with Stewart, and of course Zippadeli who is Billy Corazzo,s nephew ,so a few guys from that team ended up down south and did pretty well

  8. Viva race fan says

    Stormin Norman Collett Did so many pin striped cars at bowl and Ct tracks . He was 1 of a kind . Sadly missed .

  9. Rich Gourley says
  10. I don’t think I’m so different then a lot of the old timers that raced long ago that look on in wonderment at not only how the components of the car have changed but how the finish has changed as well.
    It’s how many of us learned to shoot a car. Countless times. Inside and out. Then hire a creatively surely artist name Alan Signs, give him an idea or two then see him do pretty much whatever he wanted and wait to see how it came out. Wreck the car, hire him again or if you don’t have time paint a sketchy number over black primer. Those signage bills really added up.
    I don’t know about all divisions but it seems now the standard for modifieds is to send the chassis out for powder coat. I love powder coating but don’t see the reason at all to do it for a chassis where resistance to elements is not and issue. Maybe it’s cheaper then a professional paint job. Repairs on the chassis are harder grinding off thicker powder coat. It’s all so perplexing to me.
    Now wraps I love. I guess it’s expensive getting all the art work designed and set up by the graphics company but once that’s done finish work after repairs seems so much easier. You can see the car design virtually before it even goes to press. Painting is a multi step process. Expensive and requires a combination of discipline, experience and artistry to do right. It’s dirty, time consuming and involves carcinogenic chemicals. A wrap virtually anyone can do in the shop with a little patience and attention to detail. The graphics company has the data on file and can probably spit it out pretty fast or maybe you have the wrap and transfers already in stock at the shop. Best of all it’s clean and fast. Don’t need the wrap, those transfers for numbers, sponsors and graphics are just as easy, clean and fast to get the car out on the track looking first rate. No surely artist to schedule needed.
    Old timers remember the cars showing up after wrecks half done with black panels and sloppy numbers. I marvel at the fact you almost never see that now as cars come back not just mechanically repaired but with a pristine finish like the wreck the week before never happened.

    “Who cares? Do you expect bills you receive in mail to be hand typed?”

    I think the proper comparison would be to hand written bills not hand typed but sure Barry I do care. I care about all that goes into the cars, the engines, chassiis, rear ends…….I’m a racing geek. Is that wrong?
    I don’t recall the black and gold Sherri Cup 12. I do recall the flashy, multi color, predominately redish/pink, complex paint scheme no 12 Elect referred to. . The definition is terrible but a picture is worth a thousand words and this is what Elect and I remember.

    In any event the cars for the time were works of art more then anything else and yes it does make a difference. Wraps and transferschanged everything in car presentation near as I can figure much like crate engines simplified power in many divisions. All of which might lead one to reflect on how exponentially difficult it was to get the affect at the time compared to now.

  11. Suitcase Jake says

    Rich : Thanks for that Picture… Worth a thousand words. Doug: thanks for video link , I guess it was fast no matter what paint job it had on it … Lol … We used to use DP -40 primer on bare chassis. Then PPG two stage, for final coat Clear coat … We knew those cars inside and out , brake lines to roof, we built it all..
    I can’t Imagine buying a turn key car just bringing a check… Never find out either ,, Because the money was always razor thin, But we used to Win on knowledge and our cars never broke from lack of maintenance or things coming loose or falling off. Even if I had the money, I would buy a bare chassis and me and the crew would put it all together, That way if anything was wrong it was our fault , no one else’s … Races are Won in the shop.. Show up at the races and break out the lawn chairs all the work is done and we are ready to race…

  12. Little bit of trivia, Mike was the very first to ever use a tear off on a Nascar windshield, was on his number 32 Busch car way back. Love seeing Max driving.,

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