The two IndyCar title contenders have offered their say on the series’ newest arrival, Scott McLaughlin.
This weekend sees McLaughlin join fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon on the grid for the season finale in St. Petersburg. It marks the first time in eight years that two New Zealanders will start an IndyCar race together.
While Dixon will be distracted mainly with his race which could see him lift a sixth career championship, he did manage to add some late praise for McLaughlin. He highlighted the three-time Supercars Champion’s adept learning ability which he says will make him a threatening force in the race.
“He’s a beast, man,” Dixon told the NBC when asked of McLaughlin. “We’ve seen in his track record and even when he came over to the COTA test.
“It’s a pretty steep hill this weekend, but I expect him to be very fast, he’s a very quick learner.
“Obviously he is a massive talent, but I’m super excited to have another Kiwi on the grid. He’s a fairly young guy and with a fantastic team. He’s got a bright future.
“It’s just so cool to see someone like him have the opportunity from where he’s been racing. It’s almost unheard of, it is unheard of, so I’m excited for him, man. I hope it goes smoothly.”
Dixon’s title challenger this weekend is reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden.
Newgarden will be one of the first drivers to be able to gauge McLaughlin’s pace with the two teaming up together in the Team Penske pit bay.
“It’s going to be really fascinating to see how he handles this challenge,” Newgarden said.
“This is going to be an enormous task for Scott. He’s really, really good, we already know that. You could see that a mile away. I think we all admire his strengths around the Supercars side. I think he’s a great racer overall, doesn’t matter what car you put him in. As far as IndyCar this weekend, he doesn’t have a lot of time.
“This is a very abnormal St. Pete weekend. You usually have three practices, an hour apiece, maybe about two and a half hours total.
“He’d have an overnight to understand things and make sure to distil it down to useful information. He’s got to work on the fly.
“He’s never been to this track. He’s never really driven the car on a true street circuit. It’s an enormous task.
“If he finishes in the top 10, it’s a great weekend. If he finishes in the top five, it’s an amazing weekend.
“Who knows, maybe he goes and wins the race. Very possible for someone like him.”
McLaughlin has been strongly linked to a full-time gig in the United States next year, and Penske’s team owner Roger Penske says a future in the IndyCar series is entirely in the Kiwi’s hands.
He also revealed that the team would decide McLaughlin’s future within the next few weeks.
“He is going to see exactly whether he want to do it full time,” Penske said in an interview with SiriusXM “But we’ve got to make that decision over the next 30 days.”