McLaughlin brings "Magic Shoes" back full-time in NASCAR Busch Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 15, 2004) -- After finishing fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings in 2002, Mike McLaughlin was looking forward to 2003, and rightfully so....
McLaughlin brings "Magic Shoes" back full-time in NASCAR Busch Series
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 15, 2004) -- After finishing fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings in 2002, Mike McLaughlin was looking forward to 2003, and rightfully so. The accomplished veteran had just secured the seventh top-10 championship finish in his ninth full-time season, and would be one of the favorites for the '03 title.
But when team ownership and sponsorship didn't materialize as expected prior to the start of that season, McLaughlin -- a six-time winner in the series with nearly 300 starts to his credit at the time -- was left without a ride. He would start seven times for two different teams in '03, but remained idle until getting "the call" three weeks ago.
Team Rensi Motorsports co-owners Ed and Sam Rensi needed a driver for their No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford after allowing Bobby Hamilton Jr. to pursue his 2005 full-time ride in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Jeff Green, the 2000 NASCAR Busch Series champion, agreed to take over, but contractual obligations negated that offer.
Enter McLaughlin, who, after accepting the ride on Wednesday of race week, finished 12th at Bristol in his first NASCAR Busch Series race since July 2003 at New Hampshire. He added an 11th-place finish at California before a spin relegated him to a 24th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway last Friday night. He had been running as high as sixth midway through that event.
Just before the Richmond race, McLaughlin received word from Team Rensi that he would drive the No. 25 for the remainder of the year, a decision that had the man nicknamed "Magic Shoes" understandably excited.
"[This] is definitely an opportunity worth coming back for," he said. "You want to be up front, and that's where this race team is used to being.
"It's a tough game today," McLaughlin said. "It's so competitive. I put added pressure on myself; I'm my own worst critic. I feel that I can put this car in Victory Lane, otherwise I wouldn't be here. There aren't many opportunities out there that I feel you can do that with."
Not only is McLaughlin back in the game, but he's back with many of the people he would have worked with in 2003, including crew chief Harold Holly, who will stay with the team through the remainder of the season.
"This kind of brings things back around," McLaughlin said of landing with the No. 25 team. "I'm actually with a lot of the people that were going to be part of the 2003 season. Harold was going to be the crew chief and he's back here. It would be sweet to close out some good runs with this team."