Scott McLaughlin 2020 (IndyCar Photo)
Scott McLaughlin's No. 3 Team Penske IndyCar entry will fly the colors of PPG in several races in 2021. (IndyCar Photo)

McLaughlin Getting An American Education

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Scott McLaughlin is taking a crash course in living in America.

The 27-year-old from Christchurch, New Zealand, has ordered NFL RedZone so he can watch all of the action of an NFL Sunday. He also discovered Butterball turkey, the centerpiece of a unique American holiday known as Thanksgiving.

His racing career has taken him from New Zealand to Australia to Birkdale Village in Huntersville, N.C., about a 20-minute drive from Team Penske’s racing facility in nearby Mooresville, N.C. That’s where he lives with his wife, Karly, from Queens, N.Y.

The couple met each other in Las Vegas, later developed a romance and were married in California in November 2019.

McLaughlin has become a world traveler in a short period of time. The winner of three-straight Virgin Australia Supercar championships for DJR-Team Penske has prepared himself for his next destination – victory lane in an NTT IndyCar Series race.

“It’s a great start and a nice thing to take off my chest knowing where I’m going to be next year,” McLaughlin told SPEED SPORT. “To be signed up and ready to go is really cool.”

The New Zealander was a racing legend in nearby Australia, but after accomplishing his major racing goals in Supercars, it was time to move on to a new challenge.

“It was an enjoyable time in my life,” McLaughlin said of his Supercar career. “I didn’t want to be a big fish in a small pond; I wanted to come across the globe and compete against the best drivers in the world. It’s a challenge that is different from anything I have ever done in my life and I’m real excited about that.

“Three of those best drivers are my teammates and I can learn from them much quicker.”

McLaughlin will be part of a championship lineup at Team Penske that also includes two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, 2014 IndyCar champ and 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power and 2016 IndyCar champion and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.

Scott McLaughlin during testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (IndyCar Photo)
Scott McLaughlin during testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (IndyCar Photo)

“In Australia, I’ve done everything I wanted to achieve,” McLaughlin continued. “I wanted to win at Bathurst and a championship. Thankfully I won three championships and one Bathurst. I moved my way up the ranks in terms of the wins and stuff like that, poles. I’ve done everything I wanted to achieve. If it did come to the point where I was moving on from Supercars, I would be satisfied.

“At the same time that series leaves you wanting more, as well, especially when you have a race like I did at the weekend at Bathurst. It wasn’t my best race. It’s one of those races that you love so much but hate just as much as well because it’s such a wild card. It leaves you wanting more.”

McLaughlin’s racing hero, however, will soon be his rival. It’s six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Auckland, New Zealand. Although Dixon drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, McLaughlin admits he’s a bit star struck when he’s in Dixon’s presence.

“I’ve always been a Scott Dixon fan because of the Kiwi connection,” McLaughlin explained. “It’s a bit weird now, I have to work out who I’m going for now that I’m at Team Penske.

“Scottie is an icon of New Zealand motorsport. What he has done doesn’t get talked about enough. He’s a proud Kiwi and it’s awesome to be able to compete against him and be part of his era. It’s extraordinary that he has been able do to what he has done.

“The guy is unbelievable. He doesn’t get enough credit in New Zealand either. New Zealand is full of rugby. Motorsports takes a bit of a backseat.

“What he has done, even with six championships, it’s very exciting.”

McLaughlin got one of those lightbulb moments in February at the pre-season test at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas.

“I can’t explain at COTA at the pre-season test the way the pit lane order worked, Scott was actually behind me,” McLaughlin recalled. “His pit box was right behind me. Rolling out on one of the sessions there, he passed me on the out lap because obviously I was a bit slower. It was surreal.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for a lot of the drivers. Scottie has always been someone that in New Zealand is just an icon. What he’s done with Indy 500s, now five-time champion, going for his sixth. To be racing him and still be in his era is pretty cool. Probably personally a cool moment for me.”

McLaughlin has traded in the tin-tops of Supercars to the fast-paced open-wheel Indy cars. He believes IndyCar is the most competitive series in the world and is fascinated at winning its biggest race.

“The Indy 500 is the biggest race in the world,” McLaughlin said. “Now that it’s Roger Penske’s backyard, it’s even cooler. To drive one of his cars at the Brickyard is a very special moment for any driver. For me to do it in my rookie season in IndyCar is even cooler.

“It’s a great moment and something to be proud of.”

Team Penske President Tim Cindric has cautioned against high expectations regarding the rookie driver from New Zealand. Although McLaughlin is a three-time series champion in Supercars, Cindric chooses to take a realistic approach to next season.

“The biggest thing with Scott is keeping in perspective what our expectations are of him,” Cindric told SPEED SPORT. “Typically, we’ve had guys in the series that want to drive for us. With Scott, he is so competitive, but from our standpoint if he can run in the top 10, that will be a big accomplishment for him in the first year.”