Just when it appeared a victory was lost Alex Laughlin drove past Erica Enders for a prestigious U.S. Nationals win.
Laughlin clocked a 6.648-second lap at 207.43 mph to get past his teammate Enders late after she slowed to 6.773 seconds at 206.80 mph.
The victory seemed certain for Enders after she had a .007 reaction time compared to Laughlin’s 0.120 reaction time.
But, Laughlin, who drives a Hot Wheels/Havoline-sponsored Camaro with the same Elite Motorsports power as Enders, never gave up.
“I knew I had to be obviously the best ever be my whole life on the tree racing Erica,” Laughlin said. “Whenever I staged, I rolled in first and the bulb flickered, and I immediately had flashbacks to Denver when that happened. It locked on, so I thought I was good. As soon as she got staged and we both put it on the two-step, my bulb flickered again. I don’t have a whole lot of experience in the finals, I’ve been to a few of them this year and the pressure is honestly a big deal and I just about choked up there to be honest. She had some problems and I also didn’t drive great going down the track. All in all, a little bit of luck, a little bit of opportunity and the end of the day we had the better race car and got it done.”
This was Laughlin’s third career win and he broke a 48-race winless streak. Laughlin’s two wins came at Bristol, Tenn., in June of 207 and St. Louis in the fall of 2016. Laughlin is the 25th different Pro Stock driver to win Indy.
“(Lumpy, (Brian Self) as my crew chief is huge for me because I am my own worst enemy, no doubt,” Laughlin said. “I beat myself up pretty bad when I don’t perform well and that guy (Self) is so confident in himself and me and our whole team and he definitely lifts the morale, so I owe a whole lot of this to him for sure.”
Laughlin qualified No. 5 at 6.576 seconds at 207.94 mph. His victory march Monday consisted of wins over Steve Graham, Val Smeland, Deric Kramer and Enders.
With his victory, Laughlin he moved to second in the points standings 20 points behind after the points were reset for the six-race Countdown to the Championship, which begins Sept. 12-15 at the Dodge Nationals in Reading, Pa.
“It is unbelievable,” Laughlin said. “I have never even made the Countdown before. I have never really had the funding to run the full season. We have made huge strides, and this definitely is a breakout season. I couldn’t do this without my sponsors.”
Laughlin did have a lot of time to think about his past and future when he rode a bird scooter on a nearly two-hour journey from downtown Indianapolis to Lucas Oil Raceway Friday.
“I like being different for sure, I’m not the same as everybody else, there’s no doubt about like trying to the bird scooter (to the track),” Laughlin said. “(On the ride) I was doing a lot of (thinking) for sure about winning Indy and the way our car runs. It has been a breakout season and I had a whole lot of things to think about, mainly watching the cracks in the sidewalk, so I didn’t face plant because I have done that twice. After I got about 12 miles out, I didn’t know these things have a deal with them where they shutdown, so I had no choice but to finish the ride out old-fashion style and push it.”
Laughlin’s most recent success should help his presence in the social media world somewhere he has made a name for himself. According to Laughlin, he has close to 100,000 followers on his social media pages.
“I don’t have a whole lot of help finding these sponsors and everything,” Laughlin said. “I don’t have agents or people searching for stuff. I’ve scraped all this up by myself. We have turned a little bit into a lot more and we’re still digging for sure. Being able to have success validates us and gives us credibility. I know that my sponsors don’t care so much about winning as how I look for their brand, but there is also no doubt it (winning) doesn’t hurt at all.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019