Ready For Radials: Alex Laughlin Prepares For Lights Out 9

NHRA Pro Stock ace Alex Laughlin has an extensive racing background that covers more than just drag racing — he’s participated in everything from karting all the way to pulling tractors. With that diverse background, it’s no surprise that he gravitated toward radial tire racing. Laughlin plans on heading to Lights Out 9 in south Georgia after the NHRA Winternationals to see how things are in the radial tire universe at the biggest small-tire race of the year.

The interest for Laughlin to try small-tire racing began after a trip to Darlington Dragway to check out Wooostock as a spectator. Seeing the excitement in the fans and the stellar performances on the track made a big impression on him — enough so that he was itching to give radials a try and be a part of the action. It was only a matter of trying to put the pieces together to field a competitive car and having the time to get to the track so he could race.

The C6 will remain blue but will be sporting SpeedSociety stickers for Lights Out 9

To get ready to try his hand at radial racing Laughlin purchased a 1963 split window Corvette roller from Bubba Stanton to race. Laughlin and his team already had plenty of parts to finish the car and go racing so it seemed like the best fit possible. The issue the team ran into was time … or the lack of it. With a very busy schedule, Laughlin never got the chance to finish the Corvette and with the season fast approaching he was in a bind; but a lucky break saved his radial tire debut in a big way.

Laughlin had a friend in the small-tire world in the form of Marty Robertson. After Robertson had an unfortunate accident behind the wheel of his Bad Fish Barracuda he purchased Kyle Huettel’s stunning C6 Corvette to race. With the Barracuda nearing completion Robertson was ready to let the Corvette go and Laughlin happened to be in the right place at the right time to pick it up.

“Marty Robertson is a friend that I met through one of his employees. I got to meet him about a year or so ago and got to go to his shop where I saw the Corvette and his Barracuda that was torn down. I became friends with guys in his shop and we would always joke about the Corvette being for sale, but I told them I couldn’t afford it. We ended up working out a deal with Marty to get the Corvette and brought it home to go racing in 2018,” Laughlin explains.

Jumping right into a Radial vs The World ride for most racers with zero experience might be considered a terrible idea, but Laughlin has driven plenty of fast door cars. Even with that experience, Laughlin acknowledges the C6 Corvette is going to be a handful to drive and he has enough respect for the car to know he has to stay on his toes.

“What really put it into perspective for me was realizing the Pro Stock and A/Fuel Dragster are hard to swap from because of how different they are, but going to something like this is even more different and difficult. The view I have from inside is similar to most door cars, the wheel is in the same place, the seating position is the same, but what I do to get this car down the track is totally different. That was the biggest culture shock I wasn’t expecting and I’ve only made a couple of runs in the car. In testing, I just haven’t had a chance to run the car the full eighth-mile, but I’ve been over 230 mph in the eighth before so I’m not worried about the speed at all,” Laughlin says.

The learning curve won’t be as steep for Laughlin as some might think. During Discovery Channel’s show “Mega Race”, where Laughlin took on the stars of Street Outlaws, he was wheeling a Dodge Challenger with a screw-blown Hemi under the hood and a Lenco transmission behind it. The big difference is that the Corvette will only be shifted manually twice on a pass and the tires are much smaller.

To ensure his transition goes smoothly into the radial world, Laughlin is doing something that might make many radial purists cringe: he’s adding a set of wheelie bars to the Corvette. While some might not like this at all, Laughlin sees it as the smartest way for him to get a handle on the car and learn what the monster will do.

“People can say what they want, but I’m rolling out to this race with wheelie bars on it since I’ve never driven a car without them before. It didn’t have a set on it when we purchased it, so we are adding them to be safe as I learn. I want to get to know the car before I really try to start pushing it. I’m not worried about my image or looking cool, I just want to keep this car in one piece. Anything with a screw blower is a wild animal so it’s going to be fun,” Laughlin says.

Some might think that this is just a way for Laughlin to get his name out there and that he isn’t interested in staying on small tires for long, but that would be a mistake; he’s ready to do radial tire battle as much as he can and isn’t planning on taking the easy route.

“Right now I’m going to hit both of Duck’s big races, for sure. If my schedule allows and the funding is there I will go to some other races, for sure,” Laughlin explains.

With so much racing experience under his belt already, it’s no wonder Alex Laughlin is jumping into the radial world head-first and swinging. His eagerness to race anything he can strap into has led him down a horsepower-filled path that isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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