If you have any type of fuel in your blood system you will be well aware of Scott McLaughlin, our reigning V8 Supercar champion. And if you know anything about Scotty Mac you will be aware that he has long harboured a strong desire to race in America in the Nascar Series.
So I was a little surprised to hear this week that Scotty managed to secure a test drive in a full-blown Indy car. And what a test drive! Scott drives for the massive Penske team so of course, that is who he tested for, but this really is a big deal, normally someone trying to get into the Indy game would be trialled in the lower-spec Indy Lights format first, which are reasonably similar to our own Toyota Racing Series cars.
To go straight into a full Rookie Evaluation Day with Penske is a major feat. These evaluation days are supposed to be an opportunity to try out a few of the up and coming drivers to see who might fit the bill but with restrictions on testing, these days they become defacto test sessions, and if as a new driver, you are not able to provide good feedback on the car, changes made etc, you can rest assured that you will be very unlikely to get a call-back.
By all accounts, Scotty impressed with his clear and insightful feedback, and this, from someone who has never really driven much in the way of open-wheeled cars, is a major feat, one which shows his calibre as a driver. The fact that his times were only just below the experts says a lot too but you can’t always rely on that as different programs are often being trialled so comparisons can be difficult.
Scott completed over 140 laps during the session, which is a massive amount of work, and again shows how happy the team were with him. If he had been rubbish, he would’ve been lucky to do twenty!
And 140 odd laps is physically incredibly draining. As Scott said when interviewed after the session…
My neck was pretty torched!…
The team had put extra padding around my head, which I think is pretty normal for a new driver.
But the first time I drove out of the pits and hit the brakes for the first time, I swore my helmet was going to hit the steering wheel! Unbelievable.Autosport.com
So let’s hope this will lead to other big things for Scott. As much as we would hate to lose him from our local V8 series, it would be amazing to see him follow in the footsteps of Indycar legend and fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon. Only I don’t see them working together anytime soon, Dixon is in the other powerhouse Indy team, Chip Ganassi Racing, so let’s hope we can get a decent rivalry going.
If I was to make a prediction however, I think it will be Nascar that we will see him in first. Marcos Ambrose went from Aussie V8s to Nascar and although he never really featured highly on the ovals, he smashed it out of the park on the road tracks, even winning on occasion. I expect McLaughlin would do even better on the road courses, but in the weird wide world of Nascar, you really need to come up through the ranks to learn the game, so tryouts in their version of ute racing and the Xfinity lower-spec formula would be much more likely.
The Indycar Series is dominated by road and street courses with only a few oval races included now, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past a talent like Scott being able to make the transition pretty well.
We shall see I guess, but I would put money on it that we will see Scotty driving on the wrong side of the car pretty soon.