McLaughlin “living the dream” after impressive COTA test

by Jordan Groves

After his second NTT IndyCar Series test with Team Penske, Virgin Australia Supercars champion, Scott McLaughlin, has said that he is “living the dream” as he prepares to make his IndyCar race debut at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May. McLaughlin drove the #2 Team Penske Chevrolet at the Circuit of the Americas open test on Tuesday and Wednesday and finished the second, meaningful, day of running with the third-fastest time.

After driving an IndyCar for the first time in a test at Sebring International Raceway in January, it was announced last week that McLaughlin would be making his IndyCar racing debut at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and that he would be attending the official pre-season test at the Circuit of the Americas to prepare.

Whilst the first day of testing was essentially washed out, with only twenty-minutes of running taking place due to rain and low temperatures, the second day of testing would be much more productive for all. The day started off wet, but the track would dry quickly and allow teams and drivers, such as McLaughlin in the #2 Penske Chevrolet, to complete many laps.

Despite his massive lack of experience in open-wheel racing cars compared to all of the other twenty-six drivers in the test, McLaughlin quickly showed that he was up to the task. The New Zealander got quicker and more comfortable as the day went on and would, ultimately, end up with the third-fastest lap of the day. His best lap of 1:47.2630 would put him just half a second slower than his vastly more experienced teammate, Will Power, who set the fastest lap of the day with a 1:46.7603.

During the day, McLaughlin spoke of how he was getting on with his quest to get acclimatised to the world of IndyCar racing compared to his usual home in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

“It’s an altogether new feeling,” McLaughlin said on Wednesday. “I’m a race driver. I like going fast, so this is a lot faster. I’m having fun. A lot of grip and it’s tough to drive.

“You turn that pit speed [limiter] off and there’s a lot of power and a lot of braking. I’m just really privileged to drive this car. Roger [Penske] and Team Penske have given me a go. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can with a smile on my face.”

Credit: Chris Graythen (Getty Images) / Courtesy of IndyCar

Whilst lap-times in testing can never truly be used an as one-hundred per-cent accurate indication of pace compared to the rest of the field, it is still impressive that McLaughlin was able to put down competitive lap-times compared to the other drivers who were running in the same conditions as him at the time. Of course, Scott also benefits from working with Team Penske, one of the giants of IndyCar racing, as well as his three teammates, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud; all of whom have previously won the IndyCar championship.

“I’m really lucky to have them and privileged,” McLaughlin said of his teammates. “But I also have Roger and TC, Tim Cindric, and my engineer Jonathan Diuguid, who has been fantastic with me. I’m just trying to soak it all up like a sponge and at the same time, I’m living the dream. I’m having a great time.”

Apart from his entry into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, it is not yet known what else McLaughlin and Penske have planned for the future. There had been comments made that McLaughlin could race in the Indianapolis 500 this year, but those ideas had been dispelled due to the race clashing with the Supercars race weekend at Darwin. However, McLaughlin will be attending an oval test at Texas Motor Speedway tomorrow, so perhaps an Indy 500 entry is not too far off in the distance after all.

On Wednesday, McLaughlin commented that he very much wished to get more outings in IndyCar in the future, but he also did not rule out racing in another American championship; with previous rumours having linked Scott to a seat in NASCAR in the future.

“I’d like to explore (IndyCar) more,” he said. “And I’d like to explore more in America. I’d love to get to America one day. That’s my ultimate goal. Whether it’s here or whether it’s anywhere, I just want to try to be here one day. I love the country. I love the people. I love the sport that it is, and we’ll see what happens.”

The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15. McLaughlin’s race debut will come at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which will take place on Saturday, May 9.

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