A DIVERSE MENU OF HORSEPOWER INSPIRES LAUGHLIN
As the sun peaked over the horizon, the daylight revealed a South Georgia Motorsports Park facility that put through the wringer for the last five days, but still had plenty of gas left in its tank.
Multi-faceted drag racer Alex Laughlin can relate.
Laughlin hopes his challenges encountered on the first day of the marathon Lights Out 10 drag radial event remain in the past. The licensed NHRA Pro Stock, Pro Modified, Top Alcohol Dragster and this weekend Radial vs. The World driver made his way down to the four cars in the $50,000-to-win marquee event.
Laughlin might have made the process look effortless along the way from qualifying No. 4, and beating Tim Kincaid, Mike Decker II, and Mark Woodruff to make it to the quarter-finals.
The shredded blower belt still sitting over in the corner of his pit area from Wednesday serves as a reminder of how the race didn't exactly get off on solid footing.
"Whenever we were at the end of the track, I noticed the belt was off and noticed that had something to do with the mile per hour being down," Laughlin explained. "Ultimately it did, but the problem is I am still manually shifting this car, and I ran all over the rev-limiter.
"This is the third door car I've driven this year. I drove a Pro Stock car last weekend. It never carries the front end at all, but on Wednesday's pass, it did. I was being a little timid with it, and missed the shift."
Laughlin believes the first run should have opened the event with a 3.64.
Missing the shift and shredding the belt was the sanest part of the Wednesday run. Laughlin arrived 25 minutes following the final call for the opening Radial vs. The World qualifying session.
"I missed my first flight into here, got on another one and got here, grabbed my rental car and got out here as fast as I could," Laughlin explained. "I literally put my suit on the way to the staging lanes."
Laughlin wasn't expecting to set the track on fire out of the gate; he just wanted a strong baseline to walk up to low elapsed time.
"Let’s just duplicate that run every single time, and we can end up winning the race," Laughlin told crew chief Frankie "Mad Man" Taylor. "Every time that we’ve rolled this thing out, we have started off with a lazy tuneup, and just tried to kind of sneak up on it and get better and better, which there’s no problem with that but this time we went straight for it, and we nailed it. If we can just hang onto it right there, there’s no learning to be done; we just need to keep doing the same thing."
The impressive part of Laughlin's foray to the front in the early is that he didn't even crank the car from last September when he raced to a runner-up finish at No Mercy 9 until Wednesday's first run of the year.
"I put another engine in it because we hurt the one that we ran at No Mercy, so I swapped motors; otherwise it’s just been sitting, collecting dust," Laughlin said.
When you live life at breakneck speed as Laughlin does, there's very little time for maintenance.
"Last week I was in a Pro Stock car, I’m here this weekend in RVW, next weekend back into a Pro Stock car and the next week it will be NHRA Pro Mod," Laughlin explained. "We’ll be testing in it in Bradenton the weekend before the Gatornationals. So I’ll go Pro Mod the weekend before, Pro Mod and Pro Stock at the Gatornationals, I’ve got my hands full for sure."
Laughlin returns to South Georgia Motorsports Park for the Sweet 16, $101,000-to-win Radial vs. The World event next month. For Laughlin, the challenge of competing with three diverse yet competitive combinations provides a unique challenge.
"As long as I can keep scraping up the money to be able to do it, you know I like being diversified," Laughlin said. "Nobody else really does it, you know, so I think it’s cool."