Scott McLaughlin

Scott McLaughlin proved Sunday there’s no strategy like pure speed to win an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race.

McLaughlin won the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix powered by AmFirst for the second consecutive year at Barber Motorsports Park, again using a mash-the-gas, three-stop pit strategy in his No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet to earn his first victory of the season and his fifth career win.

SEE: Race Results

The triumph put a positive exclamation point on a trying week for Team Penske, which was penalized Wednesday for illegal use of the Push to Pass system at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden were disqualified from the race, while Will Power received a 10-point penalty.

“We know our job, we know what we need to do,” McLaughlin said. “I’m just super proud of the execution. A couple of yellows didn’t fall our way, but we just showed our pace. We just keep rolling, man.

“Definitely one of my best drives in terms of execution and just knocking out the laps. Very happy we could advance to the checkered flag there and bring home a W for Team Penske and for Roger (Penske).”

Power finished second in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet, 1.3194 seconds behind McLaughlin, after starting second. Rookie Linus Lundqvist earned his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES podium finish by placing third after starting 19th in the No. 8 American Legion Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

Felix Rosenqvist finished fourth in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda to continue burnishing his potential championship credentials after joining Meyer Shank Racing this season. Two-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou rounded out the top five in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda as Chip Ganassi Racing matched Team Penske also with two drivers in the top five.

McLaughlin, who led 58 of the 90 laps after earning the NTT P1 Award in qualifying Saturday, took the lead for the final time on Lap 76 after his final pit stop. McLaughlin, Power, Lundqvist and Christian Lundgaard were the leading drivers on a three-pit stop strategy, while Palou and Rosenqvist were among those who opted to make only two stops and conserve fuel in hopes of snatching an unlikely victory like Scott Dixon did April 21 in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Palou led Laps 46-55 while on the alternate strategy before making the last of his two stops at the end of Lap 56. Meanwhile, McLaughlin – who made his second stop at the end of Lap 46 – knew he had to build a gap of around 27 seconds on Palou after Palou’s final stop to be able to keep the lead after his third and final stop.

No problem.

McLaughlin led Palou by nearly 30 seconds before his last stop and exited the pits for the final time ahead of his Chip Ganassi Racing rival. It looked like McLaughlin had more than enough speed to hold off Power over the last 14 laps, as both were on identical fuel strategies and running Firestone Firehawk alternate tires to the finish. Meanwhile, 2022 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Lundqvist completed his mighty march from the back of the field by passing teammate Palou for third place on Lap 84.

But the last of the race’s four caution periods threw a trick in the tail. Rookie Christian Rasmussen spun and stalled his No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing in Turn 13 on Lap 86.

That set up a two-lap scramble for the victory on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile asphalt roller coaster. On the Lap 89 restart, McLaughlin eased away from Power and stayed inch-perfect for victory.

“It was a hard-fought 1-2 for Penske,” Power said. “We were certainly fast, but obviously a lot of strategy played into that. We were able to use our speed to come out in front again.”

McLaughlin, from New Zealand, has won at least one race in each of the last three seasons after joining the team full time in 2021. He was a legend in the Supercars Championship based in Australia, winning three consecutive titles for Penske in that touring car series from 2018-20.

Six-time series champion Dixon, who led the points entering this event, lost the top spot with his 15th-place finish capping a challenging weekend for the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crew.

Colton Herta took the NTT INDYCAR SERIES points lead for the first time – by one point over Power – after finishing eighth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Global w/Curb-Agajanian. Palou is third, just three points behind Herta. Dixon is fourth, just seven points behind Herta.

That sets the table for a magical Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The most fabled three weeks in motorsports begin with the Sonsio Grand Prix on Saturday, May 11 on the IMS road course, followed by the 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 26 on the IMS oval.