Team Penske driver can still be factor in NTT IndyCar Series title chase.

, Why Scott McLaughlin Is Prepared to 'Risk a Little More' on Indy Road Course
Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

  • Team Penske IndyCar Driver Scott McLaughlin has two wins, four podiums and one pole in the first 12 races of 2022.
  • One of those podium finishes came this past Sunday when he finished third in the back-half of the weekend doubleheader at Iowa Speedway.
  • McLaughlin, currently seventh in the season standings, is doing much better than his rookie season, when he managed just one podium in the 16-race schedule.

    His name is Scott, he’s from New Zealand, he’s a multi-champion and he races in IndyCar. But we’re not talking about six-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon.

    Rather, we’re talking about Dixon’s fellow countryman who has made a significant name for himself in this, his second full season in IndyCar.

    Known as “the OTHER Scott” by some, Scott McLaughlin has two wins, four podiums and one pole in the first 12 races of 2022. One of those podium finishes came this past Sunday when he finished third in the back-half of the weekend doubleheader at Iowa Speedway.

    McLaughlin hopes to keep the ball rolling on Saturday at the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

    “I think we could have easily walked away with two podiums,” McLaughlin said about Iowa. “At least to get one was fantastic. First time racing in Iowa, certainly first time qualifying there. Felt we were pretty competitive, certainly a lot different to what I’ve been used to on some of the other short tracks and even some of the big ovals.”

    The 29-year-old McLaughlin got off to a spectacular start to 2022 with his first career IndyCar win in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, followed by a runner-up finish in the next race at Texas.

    Then he hit a performance wall, dropping to 10th in the standings after finishes of 14th (Long Beach), 6th (Birmingham), 20th (Indianapolis Grand Prix), 29th (Indianapolis 500), 19th (Belle Isle) and 7th (Road America).

    But then he started seeing better showings, including winning for the second time this season (at Mid-Ohio), was ninth at Toronto, 22nd in the first race at Iowa and then followed it up with a third-place podium showing the following day in the second half of the weekend doubleheader at the .875-mile oval in the middle of Iowa corn country.

    “I think it’s been an awesome sort of turnaround for us on car 3,” McLaughlin said. “I think the potential was always there, but just putting it together in an Indy car is very hard. It still is very hard.

    , Why Scott McLaughlin Is Prepared to 'Risk a Little More' on Indy Road Course

    Scott McLaughlin has wins this season at St. Petersburg and Mid-Ohio.

    Penske Entertainment/Chris Owens

    “I’ve been really happy with our progress this year. I surely would like to be a little bit closer. I think Saturday really hurt in terms of points-wise where we’re at in the championship. I think we still have that belief that we can come back in the top five and potentially win the championship.“(But) it’s going to be hard to beat the front five. They’re very strong and they’re racing up the front every week, not making mistakes. That’s ultimately what we need to make sure we do on car 3.”
    Two of those front five are McLaughlin’s teammates. Will Power is second, eight points behind Ericsson, while Josef Newgarden, who wrecked while leading Sunday’s race, is tied for third with Dixon, each driver 34 points back of Ericsson.

    “I feel a lot more at home with everything.”

    In a sense, McLaughlin is somewhat of an enigma in IndyCar this season. While other drivers typically struggle in their sophomore season on the circuit, McLaughlin is doing quite well, certainly much better than his rookie season, when he managed just one podium in the 16-race schedule, and finished 14th in the standings (although still good enough to win Rookie of the Year honors).“I don’t know,” McLaughlin replied when asked why he’s excelling in a season that most drivers typically don’t. “I feel a lot more at home with everything. Even off track it’s great. Going to the tracks, I understand a bit more. Got my bus set up now which is really nice to have at the racetrack. I’m in a really good head space off the track.“On track I’ve really gelled, pretty well-known, with my engineer Ben Bretzman, and my strategist Kyle Moyer. Got a really good team there in terms of pit stops as well. I feel really, really at home. I’m starting to get a feel for IndyCar and the aggression needed and the confidence to do that, which has been a huge thing for me.
    “Yeah, I think two wins is probably really good. I always want to win more, but I think it was a good goal to win a race this year. We did that. To win two is fantastic. I wouldn’t say my boxes are checked, but I believe we’ve had a really good run with it this year and something we can build into 2023.”

    , Why Scott McLaughlin Is Prepared to 'Risk a Little More' on Indy Road Course

    Scott McLaughlin says a top-three finish in the season standings is a possibility this NTT IndyCar Series season.

    Penske Entertainment/Chris Owens

    Even though he’s looking ahead to next season, McLaughlin isn’t completely giving up on 2022, either. With five races remaining on the schedule, the Team Penske driver sits seventh in the point standings, 86 points behind series leader and Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson.While McLaughlin concedes he would like to finish the season in the top five, if he were to potentially return to victory lane an additional time or two, and the guys ahead of him go into a collective slump, anything’s possible.
    “Yeah, if we can get on a bit of a roll,” McLaughlin said confidently. “We can risk a little more if we need. We’re in a position 86 points off, we have nothing to lose.”

    But, he concedes, “One bad race, we’re sort of out of it. We have to go after it, see what we’ve got. Yeah, I’d love to be in the top five, love to win the championship. But a top five would be a big tick in the box.”

    While 86 points is a pretty big margin to overcome, the former three-time Australian Supercar champion likes what he sees ahead of him in the final five races of the IndyCar season.“I’m going to all tracks right now I feel really comfortable with: Indy, Nashville, Gateway, Laguna and Portland,” McLaughlin said. “All these tracks last year, this is where I sort of got on my roll a little bit, started really building up for 2022. I’m really excited to hit these tracks, go top five for the rest of the year, maybe squeeze in a couple wins. I definitely think that’s attainable. There’s a huge amount of confidence.
    “You’re past the point of relying on luck right now. Wins are going to do it. Wins are going to separate you from all of us. Either the wins are going to get back into contention, and we saw at that Mid-Ohio when I won, 10th to sixth, I was right there. Things can change pretty quickly.

    “I fully believe if we got on a roll, potentially got top threes for the rest of the year, you never know where that puts you. That’s a lot of points. That’s just our goal.”

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