Commonly in NASCAR, a driver will find their way through the ranks over the course of a couple years, gaining experience in the ARCA Menards Series for a year or two, then move up to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for an additional year or so, before finally graduating to the NASCAR Xfinity Series. For many, this is the ideal scenario, but a lot of times, drivers that don’t have multi-million dollar budgets, or top notch equipment at their fingertips, aren’t always able to move up the ranks as preferred. This has been the case for current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver C.J. McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, the 28-year old from Framingham, MA came rushing onto the NASCAR scene late in 2018, when he made his ARCA Menards Series debut for Andy Hillenburg and Fast Track Racing at IRP, finishing in 20th.
Following his single start in 2018, McLaughlin was set to return to the ARCA Menards Series for a partial schedule with Our Motorsports, driving the teams second entry, the No. 09. McLaughlin would make three starts for Our Motorsports in 2019, posting a best finish of tenth at Michigan International Speedway.
After making those three ARCA starts, McLaughlin quickly moved up to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Josh Reaume and Reaume Brothers Racing at Iowa, finishing in the 23rd position. From there, McLaughlin would take the next step in his NASCAR career, moving to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, running seven races in 2019, six for RSS Racing and an additional start for B.J. McLeod Motorsports at Bristol. Through seven starts, McLaughlin posted a career-best finish of 24th, while posting an average finish of 27.9 for the 2019 Xfinity Series season.
When asked about the composition of his 2019 schedule, McLaughlin said: “I ran a schedule that was conducive to getting approved for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, combined with the fact that I had a limited budget to work with, I made do with what I had.”
“I would do it the same way if I had to do it again because the Xfinity Series cars drive a lot different than the ARCA cars, with the ARCA cars having more downforce.” McLaughlin exclaimed. “If my budget was unlimited I would be racing ARCA on Thursday, Trucks on Friday and XFINITY on Saturday”
Although 2019 didn’t produce the results that McLaughlin wanted, he was able to use the season to gain experience, learning a lot about the Xfinity cars that can help him in 2020. McLaughlin mentioned that his biggest challenge in 2019 was understanding how to drive the Xfinity series cars, having to learn things like how deep he could drive the car into the corner and how the side force affected the cars in the corner.
Looking ahead to this season, McLaughlin is scheduled to return to RSS Racing’s No. 93 for approximately twenty races in 2020, returning to the seat for the second time in five races this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. McLaughlin confirmed to TobyChristie.com that his schedule for 2020 is mostly comprised of the tracks that he visited in 2019, along with races at Texas, Charlotte, Bristol and Talladega this Spring.
McLaughlin is aware of the great speed in the RSS Racing cars, and knows that they are capable of great runs. “One thing that does hold us back in our situation, is not having leased engines.” McLaughlin mentioned. “We run our engines three times, as opposed to the guys who are running up at the front, so that is a large factor in us not contending for wins, but the chassis and equipment we have are great and I definitely feel that we are capable of running in the Top-15.”
McLaughlin will have part-time driver and 2000 Xfinity Series Champion Jeff Green on top of the pit box for the majority of his races this season, which will prove to be a confidence booster, as McLaughlin will be able to utilize Green’s knowledge of the current cars, in an attempt to earn the best possible finish for himself and the team, aiming to eclipse his goal of a top-15 finish at a mile and a half racetrack.
At the moment, McLaughlin’s plans are limited to his NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule for 2020, but did mention that he wouldn’t be apposed to running a few NGROTS races throughout the season, if the funding to do so presented himself. When asked about the rumblings that a NASCAR Cup Series debut was on the horizon, McLaughlin mentioned that he is focused on gaining experience and improving his finishes before taking quite possibly the largest step in his career.
You can catch C.J. McLaughlin on track this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the EchoPark 250, and for the majority of the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule, driving the No. 93 SciAps Chevrolet Camaro for RSS Racing. You can also keep up with C.J. McLauglin’s racing endeavors by following him on his Facebook, Instagram & Twitter accounts.