Scott McLaughlin delighted to showcase “proper racing” after charging through to P3 at IndyCar season-opener

Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski
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Team Penske had a great day in St. Petersburg with all three of their drivers ending up in the top four of the race. Scott McLaughlin took third in his #3 Chevy, after making up a lot of places during the race, having started only ninth. So obviously he was quite pleased with the eventual result, holding off Will Power in the process.

“Yeah, really stoked. For us to start ninth and move our way through to third, for us, it’s a win in some ways. I tried to get Pato there, but I had Will sort of breathing down my neck, and it was sort of a championship game in some ways thinking of the points in some ways. You just take what you can get. It’s so tight this year in INDYCAR, so you just need to get what you can and get out of here.

Josef Newgarden took pole position and led 92 of the 100 laps on his way to a commanding victory. However, McLaughlin believes a shot at the win was possible with a better qualifying result.

“I think if we started a little bit further up the front [we could have won]. We had an unfortunate circumstance yesterday in qualifying that sort of held us from making the Fast Six, but that’s just how it is. It was so tight.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the first race of the season. It swings around with us.”

The decisive overtake for the podium came when he overtook Andretti Global’s Colton Herta into Turn 10 on the streets of St. Petersburg.

“I felt really strong into Turn 10 all day and I knew I had green tires so I had to make them work. Wish I could have got past him on the first lap. I got past him on the second restart lap and maybe then I could have attacked Pato a little bit better when the tyres were a little bit fresher.

“But yeah, Colton made it hard, but that’s part of it, and just sort of threw the Dr. Divebomb cap on and just threw it in there. Yeah, it worked out good, and I was more pumped with my start. I think I made it four wide and got through it, so that was a blast.

The three-time V8 Supercars champion went all in when the green flag was shown, pulling off a big send into turn 1 to gain three spots.

“Honestly, I had so much fun out there today. It was just proper racing, thinking on your feet with fuel strategy and where you put the car and how aggressive you were, and that’s what INDYCAR is all about. There’s no prediction, it’s just a wild card, and I enjoy it.”

A lot of drivers had issues going into Turn 10, which was according to the change in wind direction, as the Kiwi explained. Marcus Armstrong crashed out of the race, and six-time champion Scott Dixon had a big scare as well.

“I think today was hard because the wind did a complete 180. Yeah, 180.

“We had a headwind. I don’t know what you think, but we had a headwind all run, basically kind of a headwind, and then we had a full-off tailwind today. I think that’s what made it probably more treacherous than anything.”

The victory for teammate Josef Newgarden means that Team Penske has now won the opening races in IMSA, WEC and IndyCar, emphasising their status as a motorsports powerhouse.

“Look, as a team, stoked,” McLaughlin responded. “I just think we’ve put a lot of work hard this season. I think me, Will and Josef, it’s just a good team. We get along really well. It’s just a great business relationship, and I feel like it just really pushes the team forward in all facets. I’m really enjoying that.

“Yeah, we’ve just got to keep winning. Captain [Roger Penske] loves winning. He’s not going to get over it, so we’ll just keep doing it.”

All in all a great day in the office for the former Australian Supercars star, who concluded by underlining his enthusiasm for the series.

“It’s so good INDYCAR is back, the amount of people that were there the last three days. This is such a cool place to kick it off, as well. Hopefully the race looked good on TV and we put on a good show.”