Scott McLaughlin has described his feat of equalling Craig Lowndes’ record of 16 race wins in a season as ‘awesome’ and one he thought highly unlikely in the modern age.
Lowndes achieved his haul in his rookie season with the Holden Racing Team in 1996, the last year before the Australian Touring Car Championship began to be marketed as V8 Supercars.
While the likes of Allan Moffat, Dick Johnson, and Peter Brock, all enjoyed periods of extreme dominance, the exploits of Lowndes and subsequently Mark Skaife at the original HRT have arguably gone unmatched since, until McLaughlin’s run of form with DJR Team Penske this year.
Today’s win in Race 22 at The Bend Motorsport Park also gives the New Zealander two shots at beating the record when the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship crosses the ditch for the ITM Auckland SuperSprint next month.
“It’s certainly awesome to equal Lowndes’ record,” said McLaughlin.
“You never think that you can probably, in this day and age, win 16 but I’m so proud of the team to give me a car I can be able to do it (in).
“Like I’ve been saying the whole time, it was a privilege to drive this.
“(I’m) Trying to stay humble, and drive the thing as fast as I can and thankfully it provides some results from time to time.
“Very lucky and hopefully (with) my 100th round in New Zealand coming up, maybe we get a win there and get maybe pass him (Lowndes) a little bit. We’ll see.”
While a 100th championship event start on home soil is imminent, Pukekohe Park Raceway has already been the scene of some special moments for McLaughlin.
It was there in 2013 that he bagged his first championship race win, as a rookie driving for Garry Rogers Motorsport, and last year he held off Jamie Whincup to take another step towards what would be a maiden championship title.
“Any time you can win a race at home is special but to pass that record (there) would be awesome,” he noted.
“We had an awesome round there, and we go in there with a lot of confidence.
“Our car was fast there last year, hopefully it’ll be even faster this year and we can have a good dab at it and see how we go.”
McLaughlin did not have it all his own way in today’s conclusion to the OTR SuperSprint, in which he was beaten to the first corner by Will Davison and Jamie Whincup despite qualifying on Armor All Pole Position.
He executed an opportunistic pass on Whincup on Lap 2 but had to wait until Davison’s Mustang coughed due to an airbox fire during the 23Red driver’s second pit stop to get back into the effective lead.
“It was risk versus reward there, behind Will especially,” explained McLaughlin.
“I felt pretty strong that whole first stint. Middle stint was a bit weird, I didn’t have as much pace but he was a fair way gone and it wasn’t his doing on the dirty air or anything.
“So I was fine behind a car, today I could do sort of what I wanted.”
The 26-year-old now leads the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship by 573 points, almost two full events’ worth, ahead of Races 23 and 24 at Pukekohe across September 13-15.