Just last month Alex Laughlin left South Georgia Motorsports Park $50,000 richer after winning Radial vs. The World at Lights Out 10 with his screw-blown Speed Society C7 Corvette.
Last weekend he was in Gainesville, FL, double-entered in the 50th annual NHRA Gatornationals with a roots-blown 2018 Camaro in Pro Modified and a naturally aspirated ’14 Camaro in Pro Stock, reaching the final round in the latter class, though a dropped valve during his burnout for the final ended his chances.
This weekend, he’s back at SGMP with the Vette going after a $101-grand payday in promoter Donald “Duck” Long’s Sweet 16 event.
“It’s unbelievable, because all three cars look sort of similar, but they’re all so different from each other,” Laughlin said after placing fifth with a 3.65 at 210.60 mph on the opening day of Sweet 16 qualifying.
“I ran a nitro-injected dragster along with Pro Stock in 2017 and a lot of people made a big deal about it because those cars are obviously so different and everyone talked about how hard that must be, but really, I think it was better because they are so different that it made it easier,” he continued.
“Now I’ve got three different door cars, sit in the same spot, the steering wheel is in the same place; it’s all the same stuff, just everything around me is different. One of them I leave with my left foot (RvW), one of them I leave with a transbrake that shifts on its own (PM), and the other I leave with a clutch and I shift it (PS).”
To better manage the transitions, Laughlin explained he has to sit in each car before each run “just to kind of go through the motions beforehand.” It’s getting easier, too, he added.
“Last year, running just the radial car and Pro Stock from one weekend to the next I was kind of going through a phase where every time I got in a new car, for the first round it was like a throw-away run. And now I’m running three cars, but what’s really wild–and by no way do I mean to brag–but I really haven’t had any throw-away runs. I’ve really been good in all three cars,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’s just something I’m just getting used to or what. I keep thinking, ‘Well, this one is probably going to be a throw-away run,’ and then it all starts to align. It’s fun.
“I know that a lot of people had their reserves when I came over here because they’d say. ‘Oh, he’s just this NHRA guy,’ but turns out I’m just like everybody else out here. I’m just here to have fun, run well, and be competitive. We’re all here for the same reasons.”
In fact, Laughlin admits he likes his new-found, radial-racing lifestyle so much he may be ready to turn his back on Pro Stock for good.
“It sounds crazy, but you’re running three different cars and it’s the Pro Stock stuff that just eats the funds. I could almost run the radial car for a year on what it takes to run just one NHRA Pro Stock race,” Laughlin said. “So I think this’ll probably be my last year in Pro Stock. I know I said that last year and here I am, but I think I really want to focus on Pro Mod and this radial-tire stuff.
“My rookie year in Pro Stock was in 2015, but I just didn’t have all the money I needed to run a full season and that’s where I’m at every year. The only full season I ever ran was in 2016 and even this year I’m still struggling.”
To that end, Laughlin welcomes the potential big paydays that Radial vs. The World racing provides. Plus, he likes the media attention and fan interaction it attracts.
“Man, winning at Lights Out was the biggest thing that I ever accomplished, honestly. You know, I would rather win one of these Duck races than the U.S. Nationals. Seriously. After that race it was everywhere; I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t scroll through Facebook for 30 or 40 seconds without seeing something about it,” he said.
“It was great for me. It was great for my sponsors and everything. It was huge. People love it. I’ve been racing for a long time and nobody had been a bigger fan of what I do until I started radial racing. It’s what everybody likes–and it’s a lot, lot cheaper to do.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019