McLAughlin Reflects On A Successful Season Behind The Wheel Of The MBNA Pontiac
With one race remaining on the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series schedule, Mike McLaughlin heads to the Homestead-Miami Speedway looking to move as high as fifth in the point's race. McLaughlin stands in seventh position, 90 points behind fifth place Elton Sawyer and 19 points behind sixth place Tony Raines.
The season has been non-stop for McLaughlin after joining the Joe Gibbs owned race team just ten days prior to the start of the season. McLaughlin has responded positively to the change with one win, five top-five finishes and 12 top-ten finishes.
Q. With less than two weeks before the start of the 2001 season you made
the decision to change teams and drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, how tough
was that decision for you?
It was a very difficult decision for me and for my family. I had been with a sponsor for a long time and they were hard to leave, but I saw an opportunity that I needed to pursue. Thankfully everything has worked out ok for everyone involved in the decision.
Q. Has Joe Gibbs Racing been everything that you were hoping it would
It's been that and more. Everyone associated with Joe Gibbs Racing does a great job. I knew going in that we were going to be a little bit behind, but everyone has worked real hard and we have made solid progress all season long.
Q. Talk about some of the highlights of your season?
Naturally the Talladega win was very special, I had always wanted to win on a restrictor plate track. We had some real strong races this year and hopefully we can have one more in Miami this weekend.
Q. If you could go back and do one thing over this year, what would it
There were several races where we had real good race cars and circumstances kept us from finishing up front. The Dover race last month was a real tough one to swallow, we had the car capable of winning and a rookie's mistake led us to a destroyed racecar.
Q. What has been the
biggest improvement for the MBNA Racing Team since the start of the
We have come a long way with these new tires. In the beginning of the year we were way off in working with the tires, but with a lot of hard work we seem to have a handle on working with the tires now. We have also really improved the cars with the aero and chassis packages. I think it will really show next year.
Q. What did the Talladega win do for you as a driver?
It really gave me and the whole team a boost of confidence and made us realize we could win races. It was my first win in a few years so from a personal standpoint it was very rewarding. When you add the fact that it was a restrictor plate race, it made the win that much more special.
Q. This year you have had a rookie crew chief, Tim Shutt, calling the
shots. How has it been working with Tim?
Tim has done an excellent job this year. He is very knowledgeable and he really progressed as the year moved along. With Tim as crew chief, we have a lot to look forward to for the future.
Q. This race team has developed a reputation as the fastest pit crew in
the Busch Series. What have they meant to you this year?
Without a doubt they have been our strong point this year. They do an awesome job on every single stop. It's a nice feeling to know that when I pull in for service I am going to pick up a few spots in the running order every time.
Q. Have you started to think about goals for the 2002 season?
We want to win more races and be more consistent in our finishes. I think if we do that we will be in contention for the championship. We have a lot of good cars here and I think we will make them even better in the off season. We have a lot of exciting improvements planned for next year.
Q. Any non-racing plans for the off season?
We are going to go snowmobiling in Old Forge, NY this winter with a group of friends. We are going to go to the NC mountains for Christmas and then head back home to Waterloo, NY on Christmas day. I also want to get back into a regular workout routine.
Q. Thanks and good luck on Saturday.