McLaughlin column: My first rodeo
Tuesday 4th May, 2021 - 9:00am
Scott McLaughlin’s big breakthrough came on the weekend with a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in just his fourth IndyCar start, and first on an oval. The Team Penske rookie offers his perspective on the weekend that was in the latest edition of his exclusive Hired Gun column for Speedcafe.com, presented by Grove Hire.
Well, that was cool. I mean seriously cool. And wild… and unexpected!
And it was everything I was told it was going to be – bloody fast, bloody chaotic, seriously crazy, and we walked away with a podium!
I know it’s only second – and we have way bigger goals in this sport to conquer – but on Saturday night back in the truck with the crew, it was so satisfying after our result.
But I tell you what – I had a good feeling before the weekend.
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Not being big headed or anything – but earlier last week I was talking to my good mate, Jack Riewoldt – the Richmond AFL champion. We share a mindfulness coach, Emma Murray, and we do a podcast together – as most of you hopefully know.
Anyway we were trying to sort a time last week to do a record – and I cheekily said I was confident we could knock a result out at Texas, so let’s hold off a week.
And look what happened! It should make for a good pod this week (keep an eye out for it – Balls and Bumpers!)
But at the end of the day the test session we had at Texas earlier this year was eye-opening – but also really valuable – and it gave me great confidence and calmness that I could cope with the wild speeds.
So to the weekend – there were crazy storms and heavy rain forecast all Saturday, so we were really unsure if we’d run at all on the first day. Qualifying was scrapped with the weather – so the championship order set the grid, which meant we started way back in 15th.
Like Barber and St Pete – my goal was simple and expectations low – just first, finish the race.
I am so fortunate with the team I’ve landed in – obviously Team Penske is a giant. And I’m blessed to have the best people calling great races, doing great pit stops, and there’s seamless preparation with the car, which puts me in such a great position.
And we got lucky to land a caution at a perfect time – and all of a sudden we were running top three.
It was so cool – and the rest of the race was such a blast. I enjoyed it and was smiling the whole way.
Even the final yellow – and I spoke about this on the TV interview after the race, I found myself looking up at the grandstands taking it all in (for those who haven’t been – Texas has this ridiculously large grandstand that soars into the sky out of Turn 4 right through to Turn 1 – and I had to catch myself looking at it!)
And then I was looking at the back of Scott Dixon’s car – and even that set me off.
I mean this guy is a hero of mine – a fellow Kiwi – a guy I’ve admired for years and years, and there I am up his backside chasing him for an IndyCar race win!
It was pinch me sort of stuff.
We unfortunately couldn’t grab him in the dirty air – but to come home second for a New Zealand quinella is awesome for motorsport back home. Mum and Dad are back home and said it’s been big news, so it’s great for the sport and great for us to be getting that sort of exposure.
And Scotty Dixon was great with me afterwards – he knows I’m a fan – and has been really great with me, even though we race for archrival teams.
Sunday was a little less eventful from my end – but the start was equally crazy.
Thankfully we started up the front on the fourth row of the grid – so we missed the big pile-up down the back.
Again our goal was to finish and to score points – and we were able to do both – and to grab another top 10 with an eighth-placed finish was rewarding.
So that’s now 14th, 11th, second and eighth for our four starts this year – so it’s all positive.
Up the front, Dixon and Pato O’Ward join Colton Herta and Alex Palou as race winners – four winners in four races – it’s as seriously competitive as they forecast.
We sit ninth in the title fight – equal with my team-mate Will Power on points – which I’m really pleased with.
We have a week off now before gearing up for Indy – with the Grand Prix on the 15th, and then the 500 at the end of May – it’s going to be such a great month.
I wish so many of my Kiwi and Aussie family and friends and fans could travel – it’d be the time of your life to get over here. Seriously, I’ve done the 500 before as a race fan – and to think I’ll be racing in the thing in a few weeks still blows my mind.
Can’t wait for what’s ahead. Hope you’re enjoying the ride!