Scott McLaughlin’s fanbase is known to extend far and wide. And, it includes former IndyCar Series and Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti.
While the Scotsman never raced in the IndyCar Series with McLaughlin’s Team Penske squad, he has reportedly been part of the consultation process that’s seen the Kiwi drafted to compete in the competitive open-wheel category.
In an interview with Motorsport.com, Roger Penske has said Franchitti was asked by team principle Tim Cindric about whether McLaughlin should be put through an open-wheel junior formula like Indy Lights before taking on IndyCar. But Franchitti, who himself came from tin tops to IndyCars, said no.
“Tim [Cindric] spoke to [Dario] Franchitti about it, because Franchitti came to Indy cars from DTM,” said Penske.
“That’s where I first met him, when he was racing for Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1990s. Tim asked Franchitti if we should put McLaughlin straight into Indy cars or go Indy Lights or Formula 3, 4, 5 or 6… And he said, ‘No, put him straight in at the top.’
“And if you look at [Robert] Wickens. Obviously he had some open-wheel experience and success before he went to DTM, but he was a DTM racer for a long time before he came to IndyCar and looked very strong right away. I think if you’re a racer, you’re a racer.”
Following the upcoming Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, McLaughlin will fly to the US to prepare for his IndyCar Series debut at the category’s season-ending event at St. Petersburg.
It will cap a tumultuous year of IndyCar exposure for McLaughlin, following a barnstorming performance at his Circuit of the Americas test, victory in the category’s eSports series, then the delay of his debut in the series due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s strongly tipped that McLaughlin will race for the storied team in IndyCar on a full-time basis in 2021. But, Penske remains adamant that no deal has been done just yet.
“We haven’t made the decision yet on McLaughlin,” he said. “That’s a decision about going to four cars next year in IndyCar.
“Entering McLaughlin at St. Pete is another part of the evaluation of what we’re doing, and of course sponsorship is a part of this too. He’s a special driver. He’s won 48 Supercars races for us, almost 60 poles, three championships — I have never seen anyone deliver like Scott. But now he would love to get in a series over here.”