In an NTT INDYCAR SERIES season full of excitement, perhaps no driver is as stoked as Scott McLaughlin.
Team Penske driver McLaughlin is enjoying a strong second season in the series after coming to America in 2021 on the heels of three consecutive Australian V8 Supercars championships. New Zealand McLaughlin finished 14th in the standings as a rookie in 2021, claiming the Rookie of the Year title, as he endured the ups and downs of adapting to racing a high-powered open-wheel car for the first time.
Fast forward to 2022, and McLaughlin has emerged as a star. He has earned his first two career victories, at St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio, and has finished on the podium four times – already three more than last season. McLaughlin is seventh in the series standings, 86 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson.
With this turning point, McLaughlin is looking to join teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden in the top five of the standings. He could come closer to that goal with a strong showing Saturday in the No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (noon ET, NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network).
“Yeah, I think it’s been an awesome sort of turnaround for us on car 3,” McLaughlin said. “I think the potential was always there, but just putting it together in an INDYCAR is very hard. It still is very hard.”
Yet, McLaughlin has overcome this difficulty and let that potential shine. And he’s enjoyed seeing his hard work pay off.
“I’ve been really happy with our progress this year,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin has attributed this progress to his growing comfort with driving an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car, which is massively different from the touring cars he drove for nearly a decade in Australia. Touring cars are much closer cousins to a stock car.
“I feel really, really at home,” McLaughlin said. “I’m starting to get a feel for INDYCAR and the aggression needed and the confidence to do that, which has been a huge thing for me.”
This comfort also has given him room to grow as a driver. While before he was less relaxed behind the wheel, getting more comfortable with INDYCAR has allowed him to be more relaxed and focus on enjoying the sport.
“Yeah, I think I just have taken a chill pill, man,” McLaughlin said. “Gone back, just enjoyed it a little bit, enjoyed what I’m doing, believe in myself, believe in why I’ve been brought here by Roger (Penske) and Tim (Cindric).
“I’m just a lot more at ease with the whole situation of living here in America. I’m a lot more at ease with where I am in my development. Probably putting less pressure on myself, which is helping, as well.”
With this development kick-starting a new phase of his career, McLaughlin has set his sights higher.
“Our ultimate goal, we’d like to be in the top five of the championship,” McLaughlin said. “To win the championship would be an absolute bonus, absolutely.”
Winning this weekend on the IMS road course would provide a major boost toward reaching those goals. It also doesn’t hurt that McLaughlin’s car sponsor this weekend, Gallagher Insurance, also is the event sponsor and that his team owner, Roger Penske, also owns IMS.
“Just to win at Indianapolis would be very, very special,” McLaughlin said. “I think it would just be really cool to etch your name into the winner’s circle in Indy. Especially now with Roger owning the place.”
McLaughlin also understands the power of momentum. During his three consecutive V8 Supercars championship seasons, he stitched together winning streaks of multiple races, including a stretch of six consecutive wins in 2019.
So, a win Saturday at Indy could signal the start of another run in this hyper-competitive series. Only his teammate, Josef Newgarden, has won two consecutive races this season. But why not McLaughlin?
“I’m going to all tracks right now I feel really comfortable with,” McLaughlin said. “Indy, Nashville, Gateway, Laguna and Portland, all these tracks last year, this is where I sort of got on my roll a little bit, started really building up for 2022.
“Really excited to hit these tracks, to go top five for the rest of the year, maybe squeeze in a couple wins. I definitely think that’s attainable. There’s a huge amount of confidence.
“I truly believe if we got on a roll, potentially got top threes for the rest of the year, you never know where that puts you. That’s a lot of points. That’s just our goal.”