For third-generation racer Andrew McLaughlin, finding success on the paved ovals of eastern and mid-coast Maine comes naturally. His father, David, and grandfather, Gary, both spent time in the sport.
It’s a family tradition that dates back to the 1960s, when the sport was enjoying a great deal of growth.
McLaughlin, 33, of Harrington, is a Lobster fisherman by day and competes in the Late Model Sportsman division at Wiscasset Speedway. He’s currently leading the championship point standings with one win and four top-fives in four starts.
“We started off pretty solid this year with a fifth on opening day,” McLaughlin said. “The week after that we won, and our third race was the Coastal 200, where we finished fourth. Last week, we earned another fifth-place finish. Starting out back is challenging, but makes those top-fives more satisfying.”
McLaughlin started his career in 2008 at Speedway 95 in Hermon. He enjoyed a great deal of success in the Street Stock division before moving up to Late Models. He earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors and won the first two annual Ikey Dorr Memorial races — events with a special meaning.
“Ikey was a close family friend, so those wins meant a lot,” McLaughlin said. “I had a good run at Speedway 95 and always enjoyed racing there. It’s a lot closer to home than where we run now, but I’m happy to call Wiscasset home these days.”
Since landing at Wiscasset, McLaughlin has recorded 20 top-five finishes, 13 top-three podiums and five feature wins, including the Coastal 200 in 2017. He’s been rock-solid in those long-distance runs, with four top-five finishes in the 200 during the past five years.
With the high level of competition he faces in the popular Late Model class, it takes all the right pieces to come together perfectly to win races.
“You have to have the total package to win in our division,” he explained. “You’ve got all that talent, guys like Chris Thorne, the St. Clairs, the list is long. You have to manage your tires. We’re allowed to buy one per week but can save them for a certain race. We’ll use that strategy when we start dead last.
“It all starts with preparation in the shop during the week. My father is an ASE Certified mechanic, so he and I go over things carefully to make sure we’ll have the speed when we get to the race track.”
McLaughlin is a prime example of racers who are willing to travel long distances to compete at a track where they feel welcome. It is a 250-mile round trip from rural Harrington (40 miles east of Ellsworth on Route 1) to Wiscasset and back. Yet McLaughlin says there are a number of reasons it’s worth the haul.
“They have a great thing going on down there,” McLaughlin said. “The nice way we’re treated, the way Richard and Vanessa Jordan run their facility, just the whole atmosphere is very positive. They don’t put up with any nonsense, fan interaction is second-to-none, and we all have a great time.”
David McLaughlin started his racing career in 1988, competing at a variety of tracks. While he never earned a points title, he notched several feature victories and earned respect among his fellow racers.
“My father built his own Super Street when he first got started,” McLaughlin added. “He had a couple of bad crashes along the way and blew a couple of engines, but was one of those guys that could always be counted on to win four or five races a year at Speedway 95.”
Ben Erskine is a hard-charging regular in Wiscasset’s Late Model Sportsman division and races alongside McLaughlin. The logging truck driver from Solon says he has a lot of respect for his rival.
“Andrew is a great guy to race with and a friend at the track,” Erskine said. “He’s very competitive, but also a gentleman behind the wheel. We both race cars built by Jeff Burgess, so we pick each other’s brain at times about setups since we park one stall away in the pits.
“Out of all the people I’ve raced with and around, he’s definitely one of my favorites. Andrew and his father are great people.”
While his team may have less personnel than most and fewer marketing partners on board, McLaughlin has a loyal group of supporters behind the scenes keeping his efforts moving forward.
“I definitely couldn’t do this without my father. I have to thank him for all the work he puts into my team. I value our time together more than he knows. His mother comes to the track and supports me, which is pretty nice. I also have to thank Jeff (Burgess), who helps us out a great deal.”
McLaughlin is thankful for the valued partners who make his long-distance racing program possible.
“We have my father’s business on board, McLaughlin’s Garage & Auto Supply in Harrington. Again, I have to promote his company for all he does for us. I also have Cole Creek Plumbing & Heating, The Wreath Shoppe and Wright’s Bait. They all contribute to our team and are greatly appreciated.”
Wiscasset’s program of rotating groups on race weekends gives McLaughlin and his rivals two weeks between shows. That allows for more prep time in the shop, and more family time on the off-weekends.
“It works out well for me since I get so busy with my job in the summer. It gives my father and I time to go over the car together and make sure it’s tight and right. I like this system a lot. I get that quality time with my son plus I still get to race.
“I just love this sport, enjoying it with my family and competing at Wiscasset Speedway.”
Andrew McLaughlin powers through Turn 3 at Wiscasset Speedway earlier this season. The third-generation driver from Harrington is leading the Late Model Sportsman point standings and won the prestigious Coastal 200 in 2017. (Peter Taylor/Wiscasset Speedway)