LAUGHLIN'S OFF-WEEKEND RACING DIVERSION PROVIDED NEW EXPERIENCE
If Alex Laughlin was looking for a challenge, he found it last week. Not that driving an NHRA Pro Stocker to the top of Friday's NHRA Arizona Nationals wasn't a challenge; but when you pilot what is essentially a Pro Modified car on 10.5-inch tires, this takes the complexity to another level.
Over the off-season, Laughlin purchased a C-6 Corvette with the intent of competing in major drag radial events such as those promoted by Donald "Duck" Long, and competing in the volatile Radial vs. The World [RvW] division.
Last weekend in Valdosta, Ga., Laughlin's diametrically opposite worlds collided and the experience was one he enjoyed.
"Honestly everybody, for the most part, has been pretty cool and receptive," Laughlin said. "Driving the car is totally different, everything about it is just totally different. Do I want to come back? Yes. Are there things that NHRA can learn from this race? Yes. Are there things that these guys can learn from an NHRA race? Yes.
"Honestly, like if you combine the two, you would have a really, really cool event. It’s a cool event nonetheless, but it’s uncontrolled chaos. It’s just, it’s unbelievable. But overall I’m glad to be here. So, I wanted to do this, and I’m able to do it, so I’m thankful for that."
The Lights Out 9 event featured a 32-car field, and 59 cars fighting for a spot. Laughlin ended up No. 9 on the starting grid on the strength of a 3.867 elapsed time at 202.85.
Laughlin, who also competes in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, admits the experience has broadened his horizons.
"Driving the car is just so different because this thing doesn’t pull the front wheels, no weight transfers in any direction other than just straight backward," Laughlin explained. "The car leaves the starting line real soft and then comes on super strong, for the second half of the track. Burnouts are different; everything’s different. There’s a whole different routine for everything. You know, including the fact that we have a screw blower supercharger on a freaking Hemi out here, and this tiny little tire trying to manage the horsepower is a whole task in itself."
Laughlin employed veteran doorslammer icon Frankie "The Madman" Taylor to call his shots, and while Einstein might have defined insanity as the act of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, with all due respect the smart one never drove an RvW car.
Laughlin understands Pro Stockers, and RvW cars have maybe a few similarities. The have four wheels, and they go fast.
"The Pro Stock car is really fun to drive up to like half-track," Laughlin explained. "Once you hit high gear, you know, you’re just kind of hanging out looking around. Where this thing, you’re kind of bored for the first 60 foot or so, and then you better freaking hang on for dear life because it’s coming and it may go into a wheelstand out at the freaking finish line."
Laughlin's resume also includes running low five-second passes behind the wheel of an injected-nitro dragster. With defending Pro Stock champion Bo Butner getting his license behind the wheel of a Pro Mod, could this be Laughlin's next conquest?
"Running the Pro Stock car and the Alcohol Dragster last year was cool, and I like driving the Pro Stock car, but I like the speed of the A/Fuel car, so you put the two together, and you basically have a Pro Mod," Laughlin said. "And so I would absolutely have an interest in doing that. But the bottom line is I like racing everything. If there is a freaking moped race and I had a moped, I guarantee you I’d be racing it."
And when the time comes, Laughlin will adapt but he will learn quickly how an A/Fuel, Pro Stocker are nothing like a Pro Mod, and neither is a Moped.