Other than a semifinal finish in Phoenix, Alex Laughlin hasn’t had much to cheer about this season in Pro Stock but he was able to put the slow start behind him in Gainesville by beating Aaron Stanfield in a final-round match-up between Elite Performance teammates. In one of the crazier final rounds in recent memory, both racers shook the tires hard at the start, but Laughlin was able to recover first and drove his Havoline Camaro to a 7.06 to win for the fourth time in his career in eight final-round appearances. For Laughlin, the victory helped ease the pain of last year’s Amalie Gatornationals final where he broke on the starting line and had to watch Bo Butner make a solo run for the title.
“After the first qualifier, I thought we were going to win the race this weekend,” Laughlin said. “This track has always been really good to me. I was amped (in the finals) and I just went nuts when I saw the win light come on. What a weekend. More than anything, I just needed that this year with how awful a year it’s been. We had a completely brand new crew this weekend and we were just trying to find a routine. Everything just paid off.”
The entire Pro Stock field was separated by just six-hundredths of a second which meant that anyone in the field was capable of winning and a performance advantage was hard to come by. Laughlin’s car was as good as any in the class and he did his part with a string of competitive reaction times. From the No. 4 starting spot, Laughlin posted wins against Kenny Delco, rookie Kyle Koretsky, and low qualifier Deric Kramer. Laughlin drove past Koretsky’s Nitro Fish Camaro, 6.619 to 6.640 and then used a sizable holeshot to stop Kramer, winning by a 6.641 to 6.613 count.
Three weeks after winning his first event in the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown, Stanfield made it to his first Pro Stock final when he drove the Janac Bros. Camaro to wins against Butner, Cristian Cuadra, and Jason Line. Stanfield blistered the Tree with a .008 light and then ran a 6.634 to oust Line, who fell off his earlier low 6.6-second pace with a 6.659. Stanfield’s busy day also included a trip to a second-straight final round in the Factory Stock class. He is scheduled to face teammate David Janac in the final, but that race was postponed due to rain and will be completed next weekend in St. Louis.
The points picture in Pro Stock is not much clearer now than when teams arrived in Gainesville on Friday. Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Jason Line all came in separated by just 11-points but none of them were able to size an opportunity to distance themselves from their rivals. Coughlin lost in round one while Enders, the No. 2 qualifier, made the quickest run of the round with a 6.608. Enders, in turn lost in the quarterfinals to Line, who took over the lead with four races remaining.