IndyCar-bound Scott McLaughlin says his passion for the American series was fuelled by the feeling of freshness and being a “genuine rookie.”
McLaughlin had long been linked to a switch to the stock car-based NASCAR Championship once he decided to leave the Supercars fraternity.
However, after a gig in the Penske team’s IndyCar simulator at the end of the 2019 season, and then a reward test at Sebring earlier this year, the Kiwi had persuaded himself that IndyCar Series was the route he wanted to pursue.
“Initially, my goal in some ways was NASCAR,” McLaughlin said the on the Catching Up with the Kiwis podcast.
“Certainly, a few of my management people and I thought that NASCAR would be the road we would go. Then around Darwin last year in the Supercars, we started speaking about what was going on for the future. That was when Tim [Cendric, President of Team Penske] pitched the idea of IndyCar.
“I had always loved IndyCar, and Scott Dixon had a lot to do with that. But when Roger [Penske] and Tim came to me and said ‘hey, we are looking at America for you, would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I was like ‘yeah, I would love to have a go.’
“It is often always on road courses, and there are still some ovals for me to dip my toes in.
“But it was also a fresh start being an open-wheeler. I have never really been in an open wheeler before.
“We then did some testing on the simulator towards the end of the year, and I really liked it.
“And then I had that test at the start of 2020, which was a reward for winning Roger’s first Bathurst, two championships and the first with the Mustang. So, it was an opportunity for me to try the car, and something that sort of came out of the blue.
“And once I came out of that test I was like ‘yeah, this is where I want to go.’”
Despite now entirely focused on his IndyCar career, a 27-year-old McLaughlin insists a shot at NASCAR still entices his interest.
“I still would love to have a crack at a road course or something,” he said.
“But right now I am happy I have gone a completely different way because [IndyCar] just feels fresh, new and exciting. I actually feel like a true rookie…and I genuinely feel like this is going to be the hardest thing ever.”
A rookie on paper, McLaughlin believes a top-ten result in the championship is an attainable target for him to chase. However, he acknowledged that his maiden season would have him arriving at relatively unfamiliar circuits at each round.
“I want to come out there and do well, but I have also got to remain realistic. I have got to put stuff into perspective of what I am expecting.
“I think a top-ten would be achievable and something that is a good goal for us.
“I have given myself to the middle of the year to get acquainted with the car. But I’ve got to realise that at the end of the day, while I will probably be comfortable with the car, I will be going to new tracks every race.
“So, I have got this year to get a feel for everything. Then year two is when I would hit it massively.”
Main Image: Joe Skibinski