CJ McLaughlin: ‘It was a huge learning curve’

By Sarah Handy, Staff Writer for Kickin the Tires – Original Article Here

NASCAR driver CJ McLaughlin is set to return to the Xfinity series in February beginning at Daytona International Speedway.

McLaughlin announced in late November that he would return to the Ryan Sieg owned organization for the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for 20 races with the hopes to add more through out the season.

At the time, CJ McLaughlin said, “I am excited and thankful for RSS Racing allowing me to come on board and SciAps for their amazing continued support and sponsorship.”

McLaughlin went on to say what made him want to return to the team in 2020.

“My sponsors really felt at home there. They’re a great group of people that love racing, as well as they really mentored me very well there. I was treated right and they treat people right. I didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else,” said McLaughlin.

As of now, there is only a preliminary schedule currently on the table for McLaughlin’s 2020 season.

However, the Massachusetts native told Kickin’ the Tires he will be at Daytona in February.  

“Definitely going to be at Daytona. I was cleared for all races (in 2020),” said McLaughlin.

SciAps will once again adorn McLaughlin’s race car in 2020 as they continue their strong on track relationship, in addition to their off-track relationship as well.

McLaughlin serves as SciAps Inc’s Business Development Specialist in the NDT (non-destructive testing) and PMI (positive material identification) markets.

27-year old McLaughlin made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at his home track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway back in July, finishing 28th in his debut.

“I’ve been to so many races at Loudon, but I never raced there in the Modifies or anything. It was super special, I had a bunch of family there,” said McLaughlin. “I had family in the campgrounds, so after the race it was memorable. All my friends are there that usually don’t come to the races but with me making my Xfinity debut they had too. It was a lot of fun.”

He went on to make six more starts in the series in 2019 with a career best finish of 23rd coming at Bristol Motor Speedway this past August.

2019 was a learning curve for the driver who saw tracks for the very first time with no prior notes or experience to work with.

“I was very fortunate for my opportunities. It was a huge learning curve. My frustration comes from never being at these tracks before,” said McLaughlin.

“I try to base my progress or my weekend on my improvements. I look at my lap times from practice then I look at my lap times from the race. Then I can see how my lap times are improving. My finishes haven’t really shown that, so it’s a frustrating moment. My sponsors are behind me 100% and they understand that this past year was a learning year. We’re going to try to step it up a notch in 2020 with running as many races as we’re doing and races at tracks that we’ve been to before.”

In addition to his time spent in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, McLaughlin made his debut in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start in 2019 at Iowa Speedway for Reaume Brothers Racing. McLaughlin went on to finish 23rd in that event.

Between 2018 and 2019, McLaughlin made four starts in the ARCA Menards Series with a career best finish of 10th at Michigan in June of 2019.

ARCA is something that McLaughlin believes was a stepping stone for his career as the ROI (Return on Investment) isn’t something that is ideally provided to sponsors.

However, if a sponsor came along that wanted to specifically sponsor him in an ARCA car, he told Kickin’ the Tires he wouldn’t turn down the opportunity.

“If other sponsors particularly wanted to do ARCA, I wouldn’t turn it down,” said McLaughlin.

With that said though, as of now McLaughlin is focused on the Xfinity Series with some future dreams in mind as well.

McLaughlin’s ultimate dream is to do triple duty weekend consisting of Trucks, Xfinity and Cup.

“My dream would be to be in a car Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday one day. I’d love to do what Kyle Busch does and race all three series on the weekend,” said McLaughlin.

CJ McLaughlin’s goal for 2020 is to run top-20 and improve upon that best career finish that occurred at Bristol last summer.

 “It’s going to be finishing in the top-20 and hopefully go for a top-15 this year. Those are some achievable goals I have and want to accomplish.”

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