Scott McLaughlin’s last race victory was in September 2020.
Since that day in South Australia, driving a Ford Mustang in the Supercars Championship, the 28-year-old Kiwi left to chase another dream.
In his brief IndyCar career to date, McLaughlin has already claimed his first oval podium, his first pole position, and today picked up his debut victory.
“Far out,” was McLaughlin’s response after taking the chequered flag.
Typical Kiwi attitude.
“What a day, man. It was crazy. But we did it.
“It’s unreal. To New Zealand and Australia (eh?), I miss you guys.”
McLaughlin and the Penske team executed a flawless two-stop race strategy in Monday’s Grand Prix of St Petersburg. He was never far from the race lead, only dropping outside the top few cars during the pit sequence.
Still, it wasn’t easy.
In the closing laps, snapping at McLaughlin’s heels was defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou.
The Spaniard neared within a second of McLaughlin with 15 laps remaining. Jimmie Johnson played a bit of gamesmanship in holding McLaughlin up a tad while being lapped, allowing his teammate Palou to catch up.
But McLaughlin had a few aces up his sleeve, namely push-to-pass.
He had expertly conserved most of his speed-boost advantage and could use it at will to keep Palou at bay.
It came in exceptionally handy when the leading duo encountered some late-race lap traffic.
McLaughlin is now New Zealand’s second-ever IndyCar race winner.
He’s also a new championship leader.
The only other driver on that list (with 51 of them), Scott Dixon, was the lead driver to do a three-stop strategy, finishing eighth.
Dixon had battled speed issues all weekend but ran a steady race to pick up a top-ten finish.
IndyCar returns to action at Texas Motor Speedway in March – the same circuit the first-ever New Zealand IndyCar 1-2 was recorded last year.
|1||Scott McLaughlin||100 laps|
|23||Jimmie Johnson||+1 lap|
|24||Tatiana Calderón||+3 laps|