Most drag racing fans recognize Alex Laughlin as the driver for “Big Jim” Dunn’s nitro Funny Car, but when he’s not powering that 11,000-hp beast on the dragstrip, he’s in constant search of more excitement.
Drag racing fans may already know that Laughlin also has competed in Top Fuel, Pro Stock, Pro Mod, and Outlaw competition, but he also has an off-road rally car, an all-wheel-drive 2004 Subaru, that he winds around dirt, gravel, and tarmac courses, over jumps and sliding sideways around corners in American Rally Association competition, and forever adding to his motorsports skillset.
“I think that it all helps whether it be karting or rally,” he said. “A lot of people would think it would be contrary to believe so, but the fact is that even going in a straight line, you still feel a car move and the things that it does underneath you, and it's these other facets of motorsports are what makes you a better drag racer.
“Of course, at the end of the day, on a perfect pass, there may not be anything you'd have to do except hit the gas and hold on, but recovering a car has always been one of my strongest points, whether it be in Pro Stock or Pro Mod. I've won many rounds from the car not being perfect and having to pedal through tire shake or fix it in one way or another. And I completely accredit all of that to karting and the other facets of motorsports that I’ve done.
“Plus, just being able to hang out with different people and different types of motorsports, you'd be surprised at how many different dots you can connect and how much you can grow your network just being around people that are like-minded within motorsports and the different companies and contacts you can make between the different variables of racing.”
With the NHRA on a break last weekend, Laughlin traveled to the MidAmerica Outdoors event in Oklahoma, where he hung out with Travis Pastrana and his RallyCross team, took in the Nitro Circus show and freestyle jet ski show, and, of course, just had to try out Pastrana’s human catapult.
“Dude, it was awesome,” he recalled. “It was built by Acme out of Hollywood, just like The Coyote [in the Road Runner cartoons]. It's pneumatically powered and will throw you 80 to 100 feet, depending on how much you weigh.
“I was a little apprehensive because the first time Travis ever did it, it knocked him out, just from the impact with the water, and other people that had done it the day before had giant bruises along their rib cages.”
None of that dissuaded Laughlin though.
“There are not many opportunities that you get to do some of those Nitro Circus items, so I thought, ‘Man, this is an opportunity that I just have to take advantage of.’ You're sitting in this chair looking at the sky, and once they hit the go button on it, you're just looking at sky, sky, sky, and then all of a sudden the earth just comes into your perception, and then it's like, figure out what your plan is from there, whether you're going to front-flip out of it, land on your feet, or try to dive in. “
Did he walk away unharmed?
“You would have thought I've done it 1,000 times,” he said modestly. “People cheered for me because it went like it was completely planned.”
Laughlin will return his attention back to the dragstrip as the Jim Dunn Racing team prepares for the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals and will take part in an autograph appearance Thursday evening from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Menards store in Sandusky, Ohio (1101 Lakecrest Parkway, Sandusky, OH 44870) to promote Electrolit hydration beverages before qualifying begins on Friday.