Kiwi Scott McLaughlin has received further recognition off-track, this time from the IndyCar.com team themselves who have ranked his 2022 sophomore season as their sixth favourite moment of the year.
They’re definitely not wrong, his season was nothing short of impressive and showcased his natural ability behind the wheel.
McLaughlin entered 2022 aiming to improve on his rookie season where he led a total of just five laps. That figure increased by 428 this year, the Kiwi also claiming three race victories along the way.
The Penske driver has proved his ability on both ovals, street courses and tracks this year to emerge as a regular front-runner. He won three races and scored numerous other podiums on his way to fourth in the championship.
A result has seen the Kiwi sign a multi-year deal with his team which he says is a huge honour.
“Getting a chance to move to the United States and chase my racing dream, driving in the IndyCar, is something that would not have been possible without Team Penske, so I’m forever grateful,” McLaughlin said in September when he re-signed.
“I’ve had so many great moments with this team, from winning three Supercars championships to winning the Bathurst 1000 to making my first IndyCar start.
“Now, we are competing at a high level, winning races and poles and even competing for the series championship. I can’t wait to see what the future holds with Team Penske.”
Tim Cindric, team president of Penske says “Scott took a big gamble when he came to IndyCar as he knew he would be leaving a series where he knew he could thrive for years to come. To see him have the success he has had so far has been really satisfying, as we were confident in his talent. We just didn’t know how long it would take for him to gain the confidence in himself.
“Scott has adjusted quickly and has already established himself as someone that can win at any track during one of the most competitive eras of INDYCAR racing.”
His maiden success this year came in Round 1, the Streets of St. Petersburg proving no challenge.
Round 2 saw a return to the Texas Motor Speedway where the 29-year-old backed up a podium a year earlier with a second one.
A mixed run followed for the next several races, including the iconic Indy500 where McLaughlin was classified 29th after hitting the Turn 3 wall.
It was Mid-Ohio where the results finally came back, McLaughlin taking a commanding victory to put himself near the front of the championship standings.
Race 12 of the season, on the Iowa oval, was where he returned to the podium with third before a fourth on the Indianapolis Road Course, second in Nashville and third in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 consecutively.
His results put him in a tight group at the top of the leaderboard, “The Championship Seven” being seven drivers who could still win the title with two races left to run.
The New Zealander then truly announced himself as a title contender heading into the season finale by winning the penultimate round, the Grand Prix of Portland.
Laguna Seca was a tight affair which had seen The Championship Seven reduced to five prior to the race, with both New Zealander’s in the field in contention
Sixth-place was enough for McLaughlin to finish fourth in the championship behind winner Will Power, second-placed Josef Newgarden and third-placed Scott Dixon.
With his growth and the backing of a top team it would be silly to overlook McLaughlin as a title favourite for 2023.
The 2023 IndyCar season kicks off March 5 on the Streets of St Petersburg.