By MIKE MALLETT
Max McLaughlin got his best finish so far of the DIRTcar Nationals on Friday night as he drove his Heinke-Baldwin Racing No. 6h to a third place finish behind Matt Sheppard and Danny Johnson. The Mooresville, N.C., driver hung on late as his car was fading in the final stages of the 30-lap feature. He just planted his Teo on the bottom and got it done.
“It feels good,” cited McLaughlin. “We picked the wrong tire tonight and that hurt us. If it wasn’t for that first caution we probably would have gotten the lead early and then been good when it rubbered. The soft tire was definitely what hurt us tonight, but we’ll know for next time and get ready for tomorrow.”
McLaughlin was coming off a 27th place finish in the finale on Thursday night. He got together with Johnson coming off of turn four causing his car to spin on the front straightaway. He got the inside wall and his race was over.
Friday night, McLaughlin started fourth and on the initial start he went three wide off the exit of turn two to take the second spot on the backstretch. Sadly, that start was called back after JR Heffner slowed in turns one and two. McLaughlin didn’t get as good of a start on the second attempt.
“The car felt really good,” stated McLaughlin. “I knew if it didn’t rubber up we were going to have a really good piece. Sadly it did. I can’t say that I’m mad about it but I wish it didn’t happen for sure, but what are you going to do? I finished third and it’s still a good rebound.”
McLaughlin had one of the toughest task late in the race as he was fending off the current DIRTcar Nationals point leader in Tim McCreadie. McCreadie was all over his bumper and even attempted to make a move to the outside. McLaughlin held him off.
“I knew that he was back there,” he commented about McCreadie. “I was looking at the scoreboard and I saw it was 39. I kept seeing a car to my outside. He probably had a 400 (Hoosier compound) on and he probably was a little better than I was, but I just tried to protect the bottom and make sure I didn’t make any mistakes he could take advantage and capitalize on. I was able to keep it down there and ended up third.”
McLaughlin hopes to pick up the win in the Saturday night main-event as he wants to head back north with a Gator trophy in the trailer.