Alex Laughlin, a Texas-based drag racer who’s earned a reputation for his versatile driving skills, and Geoff Turk have teamed up for the 2024 season as Laughlin is set to drive the BlackbirdX in NHRA Factory X presented by Holley EFI.
Laughlin, who stepped out of a nitro Funny Car after the 2023 season, is looking forward to jumping behind the wheel of Turk’s Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
“It’s an ultra-competitive car, and it has a good chance of winning every single race that it goes to, you know, as anybody else. I’m excited about being in something that is ultra-competitive and being able to turn on win lights and bring home trophies,” said Laughlin, who also stated that he has a few other things in the works that he’s fully committed to.
“It’s beyond awesome and beyond my wildest imagination that Alex Laughlin would agree to step in and drive the car, and we’re going to have a huge improvement in terms of the availability of the guy who wants to test the car,” said Turk. “Our guy’s driven everything. He’s very adaptable. That’s one of the struggles with this car – it’s always changing because we’re learning, and you couldn’t find a more perfect guy who knows how to improvise, adapt and overcome than Mr. Laughlin.”
This will not be the first time Laughlin has driven the BlackbirdX – he was previously Turk’s go-to test driver. Turk had to step back from driving after suffering a crash during testing that ultimately left him sidelined from driving the Blackbird that debuted at the Professional Racing Industry Show in 2022.
Turk and his team rebuilt the car, known as BlackbirdX, that former NHRA Pro Stock world champion and veteran Mopar-powered Dodge racer Allen Johnson competed in during the 2023 debut season of the class.
“We were incredibly excited and pleased that Allen agreed to drive the car, come out of retirement, and get into this car that was a first of its kind,” said Turk. “It’s a strange car, somewhat like Pro Stock, but very different in many ways, and he did a great job with us. We achieved a lot of things with Allen at the wheel in competition, under stress, and in the worst situations sometimes. We were able to get him to drive the car, and he was able to drive it.”
Turk continued to explain that Johnson contacted him after the season and wanted to take a step back this year to spend time with his family and grandkids and focus on taking care of his parents.
Johnson found much success in the BlackbirdX, including making Factory X class history at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in the BlackbirdX when he clocked a record-setting 202.55 mph speed. He also set low elapsed time of the event with a 7.046. In the final round, Johnson defeated Chris Holbrook with a 7.105 at 202.27 to score the class win.
Turk’s chassis builder and friend, Dave Zientara, suggested that Laughlin would be the perfect driver to test the car since his résumé includes racing everything but a bike and a boat. He was already slated to drive another car during testing at Xtreme Raceway Park in Ferris, Texas, and the only way for Laughlin to test the car was if Turk and team made the trip to Texas.
“They had just finished racing in Charlotte with Factory X car, and they needed to test before they went to St. Louis,” explained Laughlin. “They actually drove and made that gigantic journey from Charlotte all the way to Texas to let me make some laps for him and then drove back up to St. Louis.”
What’s more, Laughlin also drove the car a second time at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, when he became the first to clock a six-second pass under NHRA Factory X rules.
Turk and Johnson finished out the season strong, and now Turk is ready to take on the eight races on the Factory X schedule.
“I don’t know if we have a target on our back,” said Turk. “I’d like to think people respect us, but I think they respect us because, quite honestly, these are very different cars. The people we compete with are pros, and this is a pro-level class.”
The last puzzle piece for Turk is to find marketing partners for the 2024 Factory X season.
“We’re working hard on that with several people, but we need those marketing partnerships to succeed,” said Turk. “I think it would be a heck of a value for people because if you look at the coverage this class got, and specifically this car being the only Dodge, being a very, very competitive, and the quickest and fastest car in Factory X, it would be great exposure if you put your name on the side of the car.”
NHRA Holley EFI Factory X is slated to compete at eight events during the 2024 campaign, starting at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals on April 12-14 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.