By: Ashley McCubbin
After winning three straight V8 SuperCar Championships, Scott McLaughlin is getting set to turn to the page to a new chapter of his racing career, set to embark on his rookie campaign in the NTT IndyCar Series.
Aligned with Team Penske, it’s no surprise the spotlight is already shining on the New Zealander, with everyone wondering what he will be capable of, and just how long until he reaches victory lane like his teammates.
“It’s one of those of those deals to say exactly what my expectations until we get on track and see where we are at,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “Like Will (Power) said, I think we are going to have a real strong race car and three strong teammates to push me. I think that will accelerate my process. If I get to the end of the year and I’m in the top-10 of the championship or the top-eight in the championship that would almost be a win for me. I am realistic about my expectations.
“But I am impatient. I’m competitive and I want to make sure we get to the front as quick as we can. I’ve got a massive amount of expectations from the sponsors that partner with us including PPG and some to be announced. It’s an exciting period but there is a pressure there and I am excited to take that on board and move forward with it.”
McLaughlin got to make his IndyCar debut this year, unfortunately seeing it cut-short after being caught up in a wreck before the halfway point while battling for 17th. However, he has capitalized on seat time since by partaking in various test sessions, hopeful of building his trust in the car, and the aerodynamics.
“It’s the first race car I have ever driven that relies on the aerodynamics and trusting within the car,” he explained. “The grip level you get. It can also bite pretty quick so learning that and learning the limit is quite difficult, but I’ve had some good analysis with my engineers and working a few things out. Making sure I am comfortable in the car.
“Another thing as well, and I noticed this in St. Petersburg, learning the tire in qualifying conditions, it takes time for the tire to come up to temp and it is a very short window where you can get the ultimate grip for the fastest laps. That is something I think I am going to have to learn over the race period, over the journey. We only get to run the red tires in qualifying or at the race track at the race meeting so I am going to have to learn that over time and test in them.
“I think our learning development has been going okay but time will tell and we will try to learn as much as w can.”
Fortunately for McLaughlin, he also has three experienced teammates to lean on, who have proven their ability with recent series championships, race wins last year, and all placing in the top-nine in points, highlighted by Josef Newgarden’s runner-up.
As McLaughlin began testing the car, Will Power’s advice was simple – just creep up on it, as there is nothing worse than having a crash and losing your confidence.
“He’s driven in a very high-profile series at a very professional level for a number of years so he knows all that,” he added. “I think he knows the process he needs to take. There’s not really much you can give him. He’s got to really take from real-life experiences from here out honestly.”