USAR: Lakeland: Laughlin Performance preview

LAUGHLIN PERFORMANCE RETURNS TO CHALLENGE FOR CHAMPIONSHIP AND REPEAT ROOKIE HONORS Gray Court, S.C. -- USAR Pro Cup team Laughlin Performance builds on its momentum from last year as it sets its sights on a championship with Derek Kale, 2006...

LAUGHLIN PERFORMANCE RETURNS TO CHALLENGE FOR CHAMPIONSHIP AND REPEAT ROOKIE HONORS

Gray Court, S.C. -- USAR Pro Cup team Laughlin Performance builds on its momentum from last year as it sets its sights on a championship with Derek Kale, 2006 Rookie of the Year winner. That's not all Laughlin is aiming for. With the addition of two rookie drivers, Ryan Duff and Cody Pruitt, the team looks for a repeat performance securing another rookie of the year title.

Eyes on the Championship

Derek Kale returns to Laughlin's stable in his No. 22 Heritage Equipment Inc, ALFAB Trailers Chevrolet. He will be competing again in the Northern Division with a hefty new goal. "The big picture in front of us is the championship," said Kale. "With the performance at the end of last year it is a possibility, however, I will feel better once I get my first win out of the way."

"The rookie championship was huge for us," commented Mike Laughlin Jr., owner of Laughlin Performance. "We hope to keep Derek in the top five every week. The championship is our goal."

In the off season Kale moved full time to Laughlin's Gray Court, S.C. headquarters. "Derek has become part of Laughlin, he is our house driver," commented Laughlin. "In one year he has grown from rookie to a serious team player and because of that, we've made him team manager and crew chief for Ryan's car this year."

Rookies All Around

Laughlin Performance brings in two rookies to the Pro Cup Series making it a three car team in 2007. Cody Pruitt, 21 years-old from Bakersfield, Calif. will be driving the No. 77 Lenox Homes, Sierra Construction Chevrolet, along with Ryan Duff of Hazard, Ky. who will be in the No. 7 Laughlin Performance Chevrolet. Both will be running in the Southern Division.

"We have been in the chassis business for over 35 years but last year was the first season for us to run a full time program for a driver other than myself," said Laughlin. "It says something when you can come right out of the box, go fast, and win the rookie title."

"We are at the track every weekend and see young talent looking to enter Pro Cup and realize that it's a win win situation," stated Laughlin. "We can perfect our product on the race course and help drivers get closer to their dreams. We take it personal when our equipment isn't performing and having drivers in-house assures we are meeting the needs of all our customers."

Pruitt competed in the NASCAR Southwest Series in 2006 and in NASCAR Late Models in 2005. In 2005, at his home track of Mesa Marin Raceway, he won three races, took home the Rookie of the Year award and finished 13 points out of the championship at season's end.

"I have tested twice and I am learning a great deal about how to give feed back to the guys on what the car needs," said Pruitt. "The Pro Cup car is different from what I am used to driving. Laughlin is providing me with great equipment and I hope I can repeat their rookie championship title."

Duff has been racing since the age of five but racing cars is a fairly new experience. Motocross has been his focus and for seven years he competed professionally in the Super Cross Lites and Outdoor National divisions. His four wheel resume has a handful of starts and wins in Knoxville's Baby Grand Series.

"A fellow motocross friend who was getting into this side of racing kept at me to give it a try and soon I got the bug to drive," said Duff. "I have probably run in more races than most of the guys I am driving against but they are all on two wheels so it doesn't really count here," said Duff.

"I have been impressed with Duff's car control," said Laughlin. For him to have no experience in such a heavy car, he has figured it out very quickly." Laughlin added, "Pruitt has a smooth and consistent driving style that is a rare find in a rookie."

-credit: lp

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Series Stock car
Drivers Ryan Duff