Scott McLaughlin caps remarkable IndyCar switch with historic honour

News Corp AustraliaNews Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Scott McLaughlin has capped an impressive switch from Supercars to clinch IndyCar’s Rookie of the Year award, becoming the first Team Penske driver to earn the honour.

The Australian finished 11th at the season-ending event in Long Beach, enough to clinch rookie honours as he finished 13th in the overall standings with his season including one podium finish.

“Really excited for next year. This year was a foundation year; all about building. I feel like I’ve done that,” said McLaughlin, who is likely to return to compete in the Bathurst 1000 later in the year.

“Hopefully I can be a little bit further up next year … every area I need to get better.”

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Scott McLaughlin in his racing colours for Team Penske.
Camera IconScott McLaughlin in his racing colours for Team Penske. Credit: Supplied

Alex Palou became the first Spaniard in IndyCar history to clinch the season points championship after finishing fourth in Monday’s (AEST) Long Beach Grand Prix race in southern California.

The 24-year-old is also the second straight Chip Ganassi team driver to win the title and it comes in just his second season driving in IndyCar.

Palou is emblematic of the youth movement in IndyCar this season as he is the first series champ younger than 25 since Scott Dixon in 2003. He is also the seventh youngest champion in IndyCar history.

Southern California native Colton Herta won the race after leading in all three practice sessions.

Herta beat runner-up Josef Newgarden to the chequered flag by just .588 of a second for his second straight victory and third this season.

McLaughlin reveals plans for Bathurst 1000

By Rebecca Williams

Triple Supercars champion turned IndyCar racer Scott McLaughlin has all but ruled out a return to Australia for this year’s postponed Bathurst 1000 but has vowed to be back for the Great Race next year if Covid travel complications ease.

As McLaughlin aims to close out his rookie IndyCar season on a high this weekend, the 2019 Bathurst 1000 champion said his commitments in the United States for Team Penske had to take precedence over a return to race at Mount Panorama.

This year’s Bathurst 1000 has been rescheduled for the start of December due to the Covid outbreaks on the east coast.

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McLaughlin had been hoping to make a return to race for his former Supercars team Dick Johnson Racing but the new dates mean it is going to be difficult for him to work around off-season team and testing commitments in the US.

DJR is giving him until as late as possible to make a final call but McLaughlin is all but resigned to the fact he won’t be tackling the mountain for the first time in 10 years.

“It just depends on quarantines and stuff but I doubt anything is going to change before then,” McLaughlin said.

“We’ve spoken about it a number of times with (DJR co-owner) Ryan (Story) and I am grateful to them for giving me basically up until D-Day when they need to know by.

“But right now I can’t sacrifice being away for more than a month. It’s a long time away from home, a long time away from the sport that is meant to be my job now.

“I’m going to miss Bathurst and miss the people, miss the team and I’m forever grateful for the loyalty they are showing me …. but at this stage I am pretty sure it won’t happen.”

NTT IndyCar Series testing
Camera IconTriple Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin in action for Team Penske after making the move to the US to race IndyCar. LAT Photography Credit: Supplied

But McLaughlin, who made the move to race in the United States at the end of last year after claiming his third straight Supercars crown, hopes next year will be a different story.

“My calendar has already come out and I will finish September 11, so for sure if things get back to normal and I certainly would come out over to Australia as soon as I can to make sure I get some testing in,” McLaughlin said.

“The calendar, if anything, works out way better than it has this year. I’m excited for that.”

Ahead of the final race of the season at Long Beach in California this weekend, McLaughlin sits 13th in the IndyCar standings.

In an impressive rookie campaign, McLaughlin has finished in the top 10 five times, including a second-place podium finish in the third race at Texas.

Bathurst 1000
Camera IconScott McLaughlin won three straight Supercars championships before moving to the United States to race IndyCar. Tim Hunter Credit: News Corp Australia

Amid the challenges of learning new tracks and an open-wheel car, McLaughlin felt he had found his “groove” in the series as the year went on.

“You have got to be perfect in every IndyCar race — if you make a mistake you get punished because the field is so close,” McLaughlin said.

“I have done that a few times this year, a couple of rookie mistakes, which was expected but I am pretty hard on myself as well.

“But the last four races, I really feel like I have found a groove with the car and the team.

“We have definitely shown that we have got the speed, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

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And McLaughlin is confident he can make more of an impact in the IndyCar championship next year.

“I am excited for when I get to that stage where I feel comfortable like I was in Supercars because I feel like we can really shake things up a little bit,” he said.

“The confidence I have moving into 2022 is a lot higher than it was this year and I feel like I belong here and I feel like I’m ready for that next step.”

Originally published as Scott McLaughlin caps remarkable IndyCar switch with historic honour

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