Scott McLaughlin

Today’s question: Santino Ferrucci will represent the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in the Chili Bowl Nationals midget race this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What other driver from the series would you like to see join him in competing in arguably the most prestigious midget race in America?

Curt Cavin: From this seat, there are several good options but only one great one: Josef Newgarden. For starters, he is the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, which alone gives him the clout to stroll into Tulsa with significant cache. But then there’s his talent, which is undeniable as a winner of two NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships and 26 race wins over the past seven seasons. Finally, there’s his physique. I mean, come on. Take a look at the towering Golden Driller statue outside Tulsa Expo Raceway -- that’s Newgarden without Team Penske garb. Put it all together, and Newgarden looks and fits the part, and he would represent the series well in a competition where it’s difficult to shine amid 370-plus competitors and a whole lot of dirt and dust.

Eric Smith: Give me Pato O’Ward all day every day. He’s developed the nickname “ninja” for good reason. O’Ward, an avid boxer, uses this as a form of fitness training off track. That’s helped him develop quick hands, which in turn, pays off inside of a race car on track. With fast hands, I think he’d thrive on dirt. A fearless driver who’s never been afraid to put his car in compromising situations and a nice following from his fan base would make a nice story on these cold January nights to show up on dirt in Tulsa.

Paul Kelly: Scott McLaughlin, with ease. Scotty Mac had almost no experience in open-wheel cars before his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in 2020 at the season finale in St. Petersburg. Fast-forward just three years, and he was the top-finishing Team Penske driver in the series, placing third in the standings. So, I doubt McLaughlin would have trouble adapting to the new equipment and the dirt. He drove a front-engine car that moves around on the racing surface for most of career in the shape of an Australian V8 touring car, albeit much heavier than a midget. And he chased series legend and fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon to the finish line at Texas Motor Speedway before placing second in his maiden oval race, in 2021. Add it all up, and I think McLaughlin has the best chance to avoid the “fish out of water” results of many recent INDYCAR SERIES stars who have admirably taken on the challenge of racing a midget on dirt.