Rossi: McLaughlin will fight for IndyCar wins in 2022

Scott McLaughlin

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi believes Scott McLaughlin will fight for IndyCar Series wins in 2022.

McLaughlin is on the brink of winning this year’s Rookie of the Year (ROTY) crown, a title that has never been won by a Team Penske pilot previously.

It would be the second title for the Kiwi in 2021, who was top Indianapolis 500 rookie after a strong showing that saw him run inside the top 10 before copping a penalty.

Rossi himself won the series ROTY and Indianapolis 500 ROTY titles in 2016 after winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and finished 11th overall in his debut season.

Speaking with Speedcafe.com, Rossi said he’s been impressed by McLaughlin’s ability to adapt to single-seater racing having come from the Supercars scene.

By contrast, Rossi sampled Supercars in 2019, contesting the Bathurst 1000 with team-mate James Hinchcliffe in a Walkinshaw Andretti United-run entry.

Rossi was surprised by how quickly McLaughlin got up to speed but wasn’t shocked by his ability given the opposition he’s faced in Supercars which he witnessed firsthand.

“I just think Scott is a mega racing car driver, quite honestly,” said Rossi, who briefly reached the heights of Formula 1.

“He’s having to adapt to something that’s very challenging. Obviously, I did it the other way and I think that he’s doing an amazing job at getting up to speed.

“I think next year he’s going to be fighting for wins and podiums every weekend. I think it’s very hard to jump into this championship with no open-wheel racing background, whatsoever.

“It’s hard enough for those of us that have been doing it our whole life. I think the fact that he’s adapted as well as he’s done obviously comes from his talent, but also, for sure, he had to compete against some pretty big names.

“I know Shane [van Gisbergen] pretty well through one of my old roommates in Europe, Richie Stanaway, I got to know Shane pretty well. I know the level of talent that he is.

“For Scott to be able to do what he did against some of those guys just shows the level of talent that he has and also the level that he was racing against.”

McLaughlin was a standout on his competitive oval debut, finishing runner-up to fellow ‘Scott’, Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, at Texas Motor Speedway in only his fourth IndyCar Series race.

“It was kind of annoying for us, because it was kind of like, ‘Oh cool. We couldn’t even be on page one of the timing charts at Bathurst and here you are in your third race getting a podium’,” Rossi chuckled.

“I think he came out the box really strong, which surprised everyone and I think that it’s interesting.

“You see it with a lot of guys that come in with no expectation that are kind of immediately on the pace, then they start to get a taste of it, finding those last two or three tenths – that’s really, really challenging.

“It’s really difficult to be there week-in, week-out. I think that he’s learning that and kind of experiencing that now.

“Ultimately, he’s seeing all these tracks for the first time. So I think that when we come back and he’s had an off-season to think about it and he can come back for round number two it’s going to be scary for all of us.”

McLaughlin has at times found himself frustrated with his results.

Rossi said it’s only natural given his streak of success in Supercars, which saw him claim three straight drivers’ championships.

“It’s funny, as soon as you get a taste of it you start trying a little bit harder and overthinking it a little bit,” Rossi explained.

“That’s when it can be difficult. I’ve fallen into that trap also. You’re trying so hard to get a win and trying so hard to get a result that it just ends up not coming. Whereas, when you’re just showing up and driving the car and seeing what will happen, it all kind of falls into place.”

The 2021 IndyCar Series comes to a close on the streets of Long Beach this weekend.

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