McLaughlin’s part in Team Penske’s Indy 500 campaign

Scott McLaughlin

Despite being stuck on the other side of the world, Team Penske kept Scott McLaughlin tuned in throughout this year’s Indianapolis 500 in preparation for his series debut.

Team Penske fielded four entries in this year’s race with four-time winner Helio Castroneves joining regulars Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud.

Castroneves was engineered by Jonathon Diuguid, who McLaughlin had been set to join earlier this year in his IndyCar Series debut on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

McLaughlin was keyed into the team’s radio communications from the 04:00 kick-off on the Monday morning after he swept the Darwin SuperSprint.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Parked Up podcast, McLaughlin said Roger Penske and the team’s president Tim Cindric had made him feel a part of the team’s campaign throughout the month.

“I’ve been sort of keeping in the loop with obviously Tim and Roger and the team, but also Jonathan Diuguid who was meant to be my engineer over there when I raced,” said McLaughlin.

“That car of Helio’s (Castroneves) was my crew for Indy GP. They were always keeping me in the loop. I was sort of listening into the radio, they hooked me up with that for the race.

“All the spotters, they were discussing strategies. So you’re sort of learning all the fuel codes and stuff like that that one day I might need.

“They definitely keep me in the loop with how the schedules are and explaining; they have five hours of practice, but the way they spread it out – because engines get hot – so it makes it slower in a straight line, so they’ve got to give it about two hours to cool down, so they basically have no track time for two hours.

“Probably, this month with the Indy 500, was the most info I’ve had because my engineer was actually full-on into it. But it’s cool, just keeping in the loop.

“Even with the drivers. I’ve kept in contact with basically all of them, Simon, Will, Josef, and even Helio. Texts here and there just talking about things. It’s been good.”

The two-time Virgin Australia Supercars Championship winner has long been in line to race in the IndyCar Series.

Before the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the international motor racing landscape, the 27-year-old had been rumoured to contest a handful of IndyCar Series races in 2020.

McLaughlin tested at Circuit of the Americas where he was second quickest on debut against the full field.

In the days following that he completed a rookie test at Texas Motor Speedway, leading to suggestions of an oval debut later in the year.

However, a quarantine period in the USA mandated by Team Penske as well as government-enforced quarantine on his return to Australia made the journey infeasible.

With more calendar changes on the cards for Supercars and IndyCar, McLaughlin wouldn’t rule out a drive at the end of 2020.

Nevertheless, the Kiwi remained optimistic of his future prospects.

“If calendars align, maybe,” said McLaughlin.

“It depends now, obviously Supercars is maybe finishing early or whatever. I’m not really sure.

“It’s unfortunate, but I trust what the team does in regards to a process. You know how diligent they are with all that sort of stuff.

“I fully believe one day I’ll be in a race at some point, it’s just when I’m not exactly sure.

“The biggest thing that probably screwed me over the most was the quarantine periods. I just couldn’t do my two weeks quarantine when I got to the States, which is a protocol of Team Penske not necessarily the country, the United States.

“It’s a protocol for them to keep everything safe. I had to do two weeks when I go there and then obviously two weeks when I come back.

“Basically I’m a month out with quarantine, not even being away. That was really the problem. That was the spanner in my works.

“Unfortunately, it hurt watching the Indy GP thinking you should’ve been in it.”

McLaughlin’s next Supercars outing will be the NTI Townsville SuperSprint at the Reid Park Street Circuit on August 29-30, which is followed by the Townsville SuperSprint on September 5-6.

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