Built for Speed: Erath County man turns drag racing into career
Updated: Apr 5
By Sara Vanden Berge
Alex Laughlin likes to drive fast.
And when I say fast, I mean he travels at speeds topping 260 mph.
The Erath County native is a professional drag racer with the National Hot Rod Association.
And he is good.
In 2019, he won the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in the pro stock division, which is considered to be the Super Bowl of drag racing.
And just a few weeks ago, Laughlin won the World Door Slammer Nationals in Orlando, Florida.
Not bad for a kid who grew up in Morgan Mill and graduated from Stephenville High School in 2007.
AN EARLY, FAST START
Alex says it was his father Kenny Laughlin who sparked his interest in things that go fast.
“My dad started me in go-cart racing when I was nine years old,” Alex said. “He was into tractor-pulling and was a hot-rodder himself growing up, but stopped after I was born. He always had a passion for it.”
Turns out, Alex shared a similar passion.
By the time he was 13, Alex went from racing go-carts to Legend cars and moved on to drag racing at 15.
“I was driving at 200 mph before I even had my driver’s license,” Alex said.
Alex attended school in Morgan Mill through eighth grade, then transitioned to SHS as a freshman. He played basketball and football until his sophomore year when a coach asked him to choose between football and drag racing.
“I saw more longevity in racing even if it was just a hobby, so I quit football,” he said.
The decision turned out to be a wise one.
Alex continued to compete in drag racing, and at 25, his career accelerated when he started racing professionally.
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
At 31, Alex continues to enjoy a successful career traveling at a high rate of speed.
He lives in Morgan Mill with his wife Sierra and the couple’s two dogs and parrot. He is the vice president of DRP Industries, his family-owned business based in Granbury that builds oil and gas equipment for the fracking industry.
In 2016, Alex raced in his first full circuit, competing in 24 races throughout the country.
He races under the umbrella of Elite Motor Sports alongside teammates Erica Enders, a three-time world champion in pro stock, and Jeg Coughlin, a five-time world champion in pro stock.
He is sponsored by big names like Havoline, Hot Wheels and Gas Monkey Garage.
“It costs about $1 million a year to run the full circuit so I am lucky to have the sponsors and partners to do it,” he said.
Alex said his family supports his fast-paced career, but his mother Linda, worries on occasion.
“My mom didn’t love it at first, but through the years she has put her faith in my judgment,” he said. “I have hit the wall twice and ran off the end of the track once. That’s why cars are built with roll cages and why you wear a helmet.
Like everything else in America these days, the coronavirus has stalled the drag racing industry.
“We were set to race in Florida a couple of weeks ago and they told us to go home,” he said. “We are on a 30-day hiatus.”
If things get back on track soon, Alex will fasten his seatbelt and hit the gas April 17-19 in Houston.
All photos contributed by Alex Laughlin.