After learning the ropes of the NTT IndyCar Series in 2021, Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin is contending with the top drivers on a more consistent basis. (Photo: Joe Skibinski | Penske Entertainment)
PORTLAND, Ore. - In his second full year of NTT IndyCar Series competition, Scott McLaughlin feels like he has turned a corner in the right direction with Team Penske as his comfort level in the championship continues to grow.
During his time in the Repco Supercars Championship, McLaughlin won three consecutive championships, 56 races, including the crown jewel Bathurst 1000. He was a winner at each turn in Supercars and he won often.
McLaughlin could’ve stayed in Supercars to chase Jamie Whincup’s all-time record of seven championships if he wanted to. But the partnership between his old team Dick Johnson Racing and Team Penske led him stateside to a new opportunity in open-wheel racing once Penske departed Supercars after the 2020 season.
However, when Roger Penske left the series, he took McLaughlin with him to IndyCar.
“The opportunity to race for the Captain is a very proud moment for any race driver,” McLaughlin said. “Including myself and being able to win for him and on both sides of the world has been pretty awesome. The Supercars was a chapter of my life that I enjoyed and we did a lot of cool things.”
McLaughlin currently holds the record for most wins in a single Supercars season at 18 victories. However, Shane van Gisbergen is on pace to break that record, with 16 wins and a handful of races remaining.
“Records are meant to be broken,” McLaughlin said. “Now, I’m here in the IndyCar Series. I want to try and break records over here. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Before coming to the NTT IndyCar Series, Scott McLaughlin was a household name and the driver to beat every race in the Repco Supercars Championship. (Photo: Supercars)
In his rookie IndyCar season, McLaughlin had several bright spots. The most notable moment was racing six-time IndyCar champion, Scott Dixon, for the win at Texas Motor Speedway, in McLaughlin’s first career oval race.
Surprisingly, McLaughlin admitted that iRacing helped him learn what to expect in oval racing. It gave him an idea of how the dirty air worked, using different lanes and he thought it was a “great introduction” to the ovals.
Besides the great run at Texas in 2021, there were other positives in his rookie campaign, but he endured a rough patch from the late spring into the latter parts of summer. He finished 14th in the championship last year, scoring a total of 305 points. Now, in his second full year in IndyCar, the progression is quite clear.
“It’s been a huge learning curve,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve never really raced open wheels until I drove an Indy car. I guess just trusting the aerodynamics of the racecar and trusting what I need from the racecar. It’s a very different kettle of fish, in terms of the way the car handles, the way you get the speed from it.
“For me, it was just trying to get comfortable with my feedback and telling the engineers what I want. When we found a base setup for most tracks, it’s been nice to tick boxes and tune it up throughout the whole time.”
Scott McLaughlin needs a strong day at Portland International Raceway and his championship rivals running into issues if he wants to have a mathematical shot at the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series title at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 11. (Photo: Joe Skibinski | Penske Entertainment)
McLaughlin has already scored more points than last year. He enters this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland with 428 points and he’s sixth in the championship, sitting at a 54-point deficit to teammate and points leader Will Power. Plus, after going winless in 2021, McLaughlin has two IndyCar victories this year at St. Pete and Mid-Ohio.
“We feel like the pace we’ve shown this year’s been fantastic,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve learned a lot running at the front of the championship throughout the whole season. I’ve just got to be a little more consistent in the bigger races. Obviously, Indy 500, I crashed out of there and it was sort of my fault.
“As a team, we probably didn’t pick up the right amount of points that we should’ve. You think about the points that we lost in those couple of races, we’d be right where Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) are right now. But that’s promising for me, I think I’m ahead of schedule, in terms of my development from Year 2. My sophomore season’s been pretty good, so hopefully Year 3 we can really challenge it all the way.”