McLaughlin: Newcastle 2017 ‘still hurts’

Scott McLaughlin at the 2017 Newcastle 500. Picture: Matthew Paul Photography

Scott McLaughlin at the 2017 Newcastle 500. Picture: Matthew Paul Photography

Scott McLaughlin admits the heartbreak of the 2017 Newcastle 500 “still hurts” as he prepares for the 2023 season as a three-time Supercars champion and three-time IndyCar race winner.

The New Zealander started the final race of the 2017 Repco Supercars Championship needing only to finish 11th in order to win the title on a countback at worst after Jamie Whincup limped to 21st on the afternoon prior.

Even after a drive-through penalty for a controversial pit lane speeding incident and a time penalty for spinning Simona De Silvestro, he was back up to the magic 11th position when he passed James Moffat on Lap 93 of 95, while Whincup led.

Three corners later, a mistake into Turn 1 triggered disaster when McLaughlin was forced to try and cover Craig Lowndes for the drag up Watt Street, only to make contact which put the #888 VF Commodore in the wall and out of the race.

Seconds before the DJR Team Penske driver took the chequered flag, Race Control issued a post-race drive-through equivalent which relegated him officially to 18th and saw Whincup credited with his seventh drivers’ championship title.

The next three, however, would go to McLaughlin before he moved to the United States at the end of 2020.

Now, the Christchurch native is not only part of a club of 11 drivers to have won the Australian Touring Car Championship three times or more, but is also a genuine front-runner in the IndyCar Series with Team Penske, ending the 2022 season fourth in the standings on a countback.

The 2023 IndyCar season starts on March 3-5 on the streets of St Petersburg, before the Supercars Championship gets underway a week later in the Hunter Valley.

As part of the build-up, Supercars has been publishing highlights of past Thrifty Newcastle 500 events including, naturally, the scarcely believable drama of 2017.

Retweeting that clip, McLaughlin wrote, “Still hurts. Made me better though”

McLaughlin’s tweet

Twelve months after the near miss which left him “pretty gutted,” the then-25-year-old calmly converted on the final day of the 2018 season, settling for second place on the afternoon having avoided a fight with eventual race winner David Reynolds.

It was after that triumph that McLaughlin would reveal a key step which he took to better himself, namely to engage the services of sport psychologist Emma Murray.

He had been sent in Murray’s direction by Richmond Tigers forward Jack Riewoldt, working with her throughout the 2018 season and speaking several times during the Newcastle weekend.

“[It was] just working out how to keep my focus because I do struggle sometimes, like in the last few laps of a race if I’m leading I do tend to drift off, and I’ve found that is a bit of an issue through my career,” said McLaughlin on the Fox Motorsport podcast in the days after the event.

“I felt like I had to tune it up.”

While that championship battle went down to the final race of the season, McLaughlin (unofficially) wrapped up each of the next two with an event to spare.

This year, he is part of an unchanged IndyCar line-up at Team Penske which is also comprised of 2022 champion Will Power and another two-time title winner in Josef Newgarden.

Both finished ahead of him on the points table last year, but the Kiwi came home with a wet sail in his second full season in IndyCar, averaging a finishing position of 3.17 in the latter six races, and hence is a genuine title threat this time around.

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