For a brief time, Alex Laughlin considered pulling double duty at this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals, but he ultimately decided to leave his Pro Mod car home in Texas in order to devote all his attention to Pro Stock. Laughlin, the defending U.S. Nationals Pro Stock champion, enters this weekend seventh in the standings following a semifinal finish in Phoenix and a quarterfinal loss at the most recent Pro Stock event last month in Indianapolis.
“To be honest, its mostly a budget thing,” Laughlin admitted. “I’ve got the Pro Mod car, but sponsor money is a little tight right now so I’m not sure if I’ll run it at all this year. It’s all sort of up in the air right now. Things can change quickly but for now, I think it’s best to just worry about Pro Stock.”
When the time comes, Laughlin does have a very competitive Pro Stock car at his disposal. He recently purchased the Jerry Bickel-built Camaro that was formerly the Dr. Moon Rage entry driven by former Pro Mod series champ Josh Hernandez and tuned by Howard Moon. That was the first NHRA car to run in the five-second zone. Laughlin got the car in a deal with his current Elite teammate, Marty Robertson.
Asked to grade his performance in 2020, Laughlin doesn’t mince words.
“Poor, so far,” he says. “We’ve been behind the eight-ball since the beginning of the season. I don’t really understand it. When we went testing before the season, we brought a [boatload] of cars and ours was the quickest of all of them, hands down. Then we got to Pomona and we struggled. We when to Phoenix and I did okay. I got to the semi’s but should have made the final. If you remember, I broke a driveshaft which almost never happens in a Pro Stock car. Then, Bo [Butner] got crossed up so all I had to do was make any kind of a run and I’d have been in the final.”
Recently, Laughlin’s Elite Motorsports program underwent a significant change with the departure of crew chief Brian Self. Laughlin’s Havoline Camaro is now being tuned by veteran crew chief Mark Ingersoll.
It’s been a bit of a transition just because Mark has his own way of doing things,” Laughlin said. “I think Mark is the best in the business and I’m happy to have him. We’ve just got to make some more runs to make sure we’re both on the same page. I think we were a little behind at the first Indy race. Mark has a reputation for being one of the best guys out here but he’s not super-aggressive. He makes sure the car goes down the track every time and that’s something I really like about him.”
For all his struggles, the 2020 season hasn’t been a total loss for Laughlin. In early March, he had an opportunity to drive the Caruso family’s supercharged Pro Mod Camaro at the World Doorslammer Open in Orlando and captured the $50,000 top prize. It was Laughlin’s first win in Pro Mod.
“I’ve always said that if I can win one or two races a year I’ll be happy and I was lucky enough to get one out of the way early,” said Laughlin “That was a great win but that was almost six months ago. Of course, I want to win another one now. I’d definitely take another Pro Stock win at Indy; whether it’s this race or another U.S. Nationals win.”
Laughlin's first qualifying run on Saturday netted a 6.603 that was sixth-quickest for the session. He is just four-thousandths of a second behind teammate Erica Enders.