Max McLaughlin began his 2020 campaign with a tenth-place finish in the ARCA Menards Series East opener at New Smyrna Speedway on Monday night. The top-10 finish is a track-best result for “Mad Max” at the 0.48-mile oval after he ran inside the top-five for the majority of the event.
The 175-lap contest began with McLaughlin on the outside of the front row after posting the second-quickest lap Monday afternoon’s qualifying session. The time trial effort backed up a strong practice session for McLaughlin and the Toyota Racing Development team, in which they were sixth on the speed chart.
McLaughlin quickly settled into the runner-up position from the outset and ran there for the first 45 circuits. Crew chief Dan Stillman brought “Mad Max” to pit road for left side tires and a chassis adjustment under a lap 65 caution period and restarted second on lap 71. McLaughlin steadily held position in the top five until the second caution on lap 88 when he came back to pit road for right side tires and restarted ninth on lap 93.
During the final 81 laps of the event, McLaughlin methodically picked his way back towards the top five and stayed on track during a yellow flag on lap 143 to regain the fifth position. On the ensuing restart on lap 152, McLaughlin charged to the inside of two competitors into turn three, vying for a podium position. The two cars on the outside made contact on the exit of Turn 4 and clipped McLaughlin’s right rear quarter panel causing damage to the tail of his Camry. McLaughlin was forced to relinquish the third position and come to pit road for repairs to his Toyota Camry. He restarted 12th on lap 159 with 17 laps to go and managed to climb to 10th and took the checkered flag there for his best-career finish at New Smyrna Speedway.
Max McLaughlin Quote:
We had a real fast Toyota Racing Development Toyota Camry. (Crew chief) Dan (Stillman) and the guys did a great job on the car. We ran in the top five all night and definitely should have finished there. We made that three-wide move into (Turn) Three and just got tangled up coming off four, got some damage and we had to come back to.pit road,and there just weren’t enough laps to get all that track position back. It’s not the result we wanted, but it’s good to start the year with the speed we had tonight.”