Seasoned IndyCar Series champion Will Power is backing his to-be Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin to impact next year’s championship.
Three-time Supercars champion McLaughlin will be making his full-time IndyCar debut alongside the Australian at the Penske powerhouse effort in 2021.
McLaughlin has only one IndyCar start to his name. In this year’s series finale in St. Petersburg, he debuted for Penske where he was involved in a midrace crash to leave him classified 22nd.
But Power, who won the open-wheel series back in 2014 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2018, argues that the Kiwi’s all-round talent “absolutely” makes him a title contender for next season despite a lack of experience.
“I think once you have raced at a high level in any top-tier series and you’ve won, you have the talent and potential and work ethic to get it done anywhere else, it just takes time,” Power told News Corp from the United States.
“So, yes I do think he will be [a title challenger].
“He’s got a huge advantage by the fact that he is in the best team and he has got very experienced and fast teammates to learn off. I think that will speed up the process significantly.
“I honestly think he is going to do pretty well based on his testing speed and how he went at the first race at St Pete.”
Since 2013, McLaughlin’s racing career has revolved around the world of V8 touring cars with the Supercars Championship in Australia. It means his open-wheel experience is considerably lower than the rest of the IndyCar field.
Yet Power says that the hurdles of overcoming new machinery and new circuits are already wired into McLaughlin given he had to do all of those when he first started racing Supercars.
“He hasn’t really raced open-wheel cars at a high level before,” Power said. “But I think the level that he raced at in Australia and how competitive that series is sets him up well for how much work goes into being competitive.
“Then there is learning the tracks and learning the car set-ups and that sort of thing, but it is all the things he would have gone through when he started racing in V8 Supercars.
“I went from Australia to Europe and spent three years racing in Europe trying to get to Formula One and then moved to the States, so I had spent a lot of time in open-wheel cars by the time that I got here.
“The toughest thing the first time you move into a series where you have had drivers in that series for more than a decade running the same cars, same tyres, same tracks is just that level of experience you have got to compete against.
“That’s the biggest adjustment. You are racing against people who know the game so well.”
Next year McLaughlin will remain tied to his former Penske-run Dick Johnson Racing Supercars operation. The Kiwi is expected to slot into one of the two co-driver roles for the Bathurst 1000 if his calendar allows him to do so.
Power has made one start at Mount Panorama, finishing 18th driving a Ford Falcon AU with Mark Larkham in 2002. But he says he would love to add to that tally before hanging up the helmet for good.
“I do want to come back and do Bathurst, I want to do Le Mans, I want to do some of those races, Daytona 24 hours, they are definitely on the list,” Power said.
“But I have been so heavily focused on being competitive in IndyCar, and I haven’t put any effort into getting a ride in any of those series.
“But they are all races I would love to do.”
McLaughlin and Power now begin winter training ahead of the opening race of the 2021 season at St. Petersburg on March 7.
Images: Joe Skibinski