Rewarded with a long day of golf after bombing the course last weekend in Portland with a pole and a landslide win for Team Penske, Scott McLaughlin found himself in a state of gratitude and exhaustion Tuesday night.
The 36 holes came after a long night of celebrating his most recent victory, and Wednesday would follow the announcement of his new long-term deal with Team Penske, where he has become a key figure in his future. These are busy times for McLaughlin, but also the best of times, as the transplanted New Zealander has earned a starring role within The Captain’s most prized racing program.
“It’s probably the biggest contract I’ve ever signed,” McLaughlin said.
In just his second season in IndyCar, McLaughlin reached heights that seemed unfathomable as he completed his rookie campaign last September.
Running ninth at Portland, 12th at Laguna Seca and 11th at Long Beach, he said he was making progress in the No. 3 Chevy, but there were no indications he would return for his second year and score three wins on the board, more than any other IndyCar driver, with the exception of teammate Josef Newgarden, and contend for the championship.
Having his future secured has also helped McLaughlin produce at the highest level to date; fourth in July’s Indy road course is his worst finish in the past five races.
“It’s really exciting in that sense,” he said. “I don’t have to talk about contracts or worry about that sort of thing, I can just focus on the job at hand. And I definitely think it helped me focus on the last few events and do well. You know, I think you always have the worst case scenario. [mindset]; I always work like this. And it’s amazing to be clear about that and stop thinking about the worst case scenario. But I guess that’s how I’ve always worked.
“Super proud. I love driving for The Captain, and all of our partners and I have great support within our group. And working with Benny (race engineer Ben Bretzman)… I have a lot of good friends on the team now. It’s exciting. I think we have a long road ahead of us, especially with the way we are ending this year.”
McLaughlin went from being a wide-eyed rookie on a four-car team with teammates who were all Indy 500 champions or winners to being a major contributor to the stripped-down three-car operation where he, Newgarden and the leader of the Will Power championship can win on any weekend. Together, Penske’s IndyCar trio have forged the kind of chemistry rarely found in larger teams where individual goals may outweigh the needs of the organization as a whole.
“I think my pace and the confidence that I have in the race car has certainly helped me a lot,” he said. “And I feel like I’m pushing those guys a little bit more. Now they’re learning things from me, that last year it was just one-way traffic. And obviously, Benny and I are working very well together. But yeah, I think we have a really good and respectable relationship, all of us.
“Obviously, Josef and I get along very well, we are good friends, but at the same time, we want to rip each other’s heads off and hit each other all the time. But that’s all out in the open. There is no BS. It’s like, ‘I want to crush you, I’m going to hate when you beat me, but I’m going to be happy because it’s going to push me. And I think between the three of us we have a very competitive mentality. But you are grateful for it. That’s certainly how I feel. And I feel very privileged to have these two – they are the top two IndyCar drivers in the series.
“Josef’s is very good at certain things. Will is very good at certain things. I’m good at certain things, and we put it all together, and whoever does it the most is usually up front, close to winning. And I think that’s been good for the whole team, because we’ve all shared some successes this year. It is a very solid relationship, a good working relationship with colleagues and as in any workforce. You need that, and I think that’s what we have.”
Another fun aspect of McLaughlin’s arrival is how deeply ingrained he has become in the greater IndyCar community through active engagement with fans through social media and the formation of the Bus Bros videos he does with Newgarden that they have quickly become a favorite among die-hard fans of the series.
Two years ago, McLaughlin was a curious experiment. Two years later, coming out of the 2022 season, he has become one of us.
“You pinch yourself,” he said. “It is a hobby that I have in a profession and every day is just a dream. Just live your life, have fun and go after it. I love taking people along for the ride. I’m going to be here for a lot longer now. Very excited.”
See the full conversation with McLaughlin here: