Mike McLaughlin is used to winning in anything he straps himself into.  The Waterloo, N.Y., native made a name for himself racing DIRT Modifieds, driving his CraZ8 Gremlin on the bullrings of Central New York.  After a stint in a Supermodified, he found success again on the NASCAR Featherlite Modified circuit, winning the 1988 championship and a total of 16 races.  He made many trips to victory lane in NASCAR Busch Grand National North Series cars and he began competing full-time in the NASCAR Busch Series in 1994.  He has won six Busch Series events, the latest at Talladega, Ala., in 2001.

The future looked bright for the man who finished fourth in Busch Series points last year.  The 46-year-old veteran and his team were all set to come to Las Vegas to compete in the March 1 Sam's Town 300.  While their trip west may still be in the cards, the odds just got longer.  Mclaughlin's No. 03 Ford team, known as Angela's Motorsports, went bust two weeks ago, leaving the New Yorker without a ride for the 2003 season.

The team's financial insolvency also left respected crew chief Harold Holley (who guided Jeff Green to a Busch Series championship and Scott Riggs to a number of victories while at ppc Racing) team manager Clyde McLeod and about 13 other employees wondering what went wrong and what the future holds as the 2003 season is about to begin.

The team's equipment, including eight cars and a transporter, was sold to Jay Robinson.  According to a spokesperson, McLaughlin and Robinson have enough money to compete at Daytona and Rockingham, the first two races on the 2003 schedule, but prospects for the next race, Las Vegas, looked bleak -- until people started pitching in.

The team already had secured airline reservations to Las Vegas, but had no rooms.  The Orleans Hotel & Casino stepped up to the plate, offering Mike's team rooms in exchange for an autograph session and some signage on Robinson's No. 39 Ford.

Cash donations started coming in as soon as fans heard about McLaughlin's plight on XM Radio.  A donations campaign, dubbed "Hopes and Dreams 2003" was instituted and those who wish to help the team may do so by sending contributions to the Mike McLaughlin Fan Club, PO Box 45, Waterloo, N.Y., 13165.  Fans also may donate online at www.paypal.com, sending the donation to .

Mike also auctioned off three of his uniforms on Ebay last week to help raise funds for the team.

"The outpouring of support has been incredible so far, right now it looks as if we are going to raise enough money for Daytona and Rockingham.  To make it to Las Vegas is going to require some funding from a sponsor.  The XM Nation and my friends and fans have gotten this ball rolling, but Vegas is going to be a big expense.  I hope that we can attract enough attention in Daytona to get some sponsors interested.  Right now we are going one race at a time.

"We are really excited about The Orleans stepping up to help us out.  They have a great facility; I think this will be my third or fourth year in a row staying there.  Hopefully we can have a victory party there Saturday night!"

One of the largest donations came from Greg Zipadelli, crew chief for 2002 NASCAR Winstin Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.  Zipadelli worked on NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds in New England while McLaughlin competed in that series, credits McLaughlin with getting his NASCAR career on track and wrote a check for $10,000.

A group of car dealers in Mike's hometown donated $5,000 and challenged other local businesses to match it.  One anonymous fan handed McLaughlin's wife an envelope containing $100 as she stood in her driveway.

Mike is hoping a good showing at one of the season's first three races will help the team land a sponsor.  After all, it worked for fellow NASCAR Modified alumni Todd Bodine last year.  Bodine's team showed up for the 2002 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 with no financial backing after Kmart bailed out due to its economic situation.  Bodine won the Bud Pole Award and secured sponsorship from an auto parts chain for the race.

"I really want to make it to Las Vegas as it pays great and is one of my favorite tracks," McLaughlin added.  "I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to chase my dream."