A few weeks ago I mentioned that our great Kiwi racer Scott McLaughlin had completed a very successful Indycar test with his Penske team. I suggested that it was probably more likely that Scott would be trying out Nascar in the future but with such a productive open-wheeler test, Indycar certainly wasn’t out of the question, albeit a bigger jump for him as he has almost no experience in that type of car.
Well, it seems that my prediction was a little off base with regard to the Nascar issue as it has just been confirmed that Scotty will indeed not only be conducting another test session at the amazing Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin Texas, but he will also be starting his first actual Indycar race at the 2020 GMR Indianapolis Grand Prix, which is the race run on the 9th of May, two weeks before the famous Indy 500.
The Indy GP is run on a road course inside the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it will be a great proving ground for him. But first, he needs to get through the open test at COTA.
This test will see all the drivers there and so will give Scott a much better indication of where he sits. Make no mistake, he will be expected to be at the lower end of the leaderboard for this test. In fact, if he isn’t last on the first day next Tuesday, I will be surprised: the competition is that great. But by the close of play on Wednesday, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him floating around mid-point. He is in one of the top two teams and will have an extremely good car, so it will be time for him to shine.
COTA is a very interesting course, built for F1 and MotoGP in mind, it offers a crazy mix of fast stuff, tight and technical corners, off camber unsighted transitions etc. It is very much a drivers’ circuit, but one that Scotty has been to before, albeit on a shortened version of the track. He raced there in 2013 when V8 Supercars made a one-off foray there to try and break into the lucrative American market.
But the big test will come at Indianapolis. This place is amazing. I attended the 100th running of the Indy 500, along with 400,000 of my closest friends. Think about that, that’s more people than the population of Christchurch, in one place, for one day. The logistics of simply running the place are ridiculous, but they do it very well. I certainly won’t forget getting a Police escort in our tour bus to the speedway, complete with lights and siren, careening down the wrong side of the road, blasting through red lights etc! Only in America.
Scott will no doubt find the whole experience to be a bit out there. But he will need to overcome the pressure if he is to shine, and he will be very sure of the fact that he will need to keep improving, and of course, only time can help with that. Well time, and expert assistance, and he will have that in spades with teammates like Aussie Will Power, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and American Josef Newgarden, who just happens to be the reigning Indycar Champion.
At this stage, it seems that Scott has only been offered the one race drive but the plan will be that he will get further races, probably all road or street courses; however, I would suggest that the Indy race at the world renowned Road America course in Wisconsin on June 21st would be the most likely next appearance.
As Scott is still competing in the V8 Supercars championship, date clashes will have to be avoided. The Road America race will be OK in that regard, as will races in Toronto on July 12th and Mid Ohio on August 16th, but I can’t see him competing in the final Indycar round at the famous Laguna Seca road course in Monterey, California, due to a clash with the timing of the V8 race at The Bend in South Australia.
At some point, he will have to prove himself on the ovals too, and if he can do that well, he should be in a very nice position, with a full-season drive in Indycar being a real possibility for 2021 or 2022.
Either way, it shows that Kiwis can fly. We haven’t had two New Zealanders competing at this level in America since the Bruce and Denny Show back in the incredible days of CanAm racing, so bring it on.
But now it leaves me with a dilemma. I have always told my long-suffering wife that if she ever kicks me out, I am going to move to the USA and get a job driving Scott Dixon’s RV to all the Indycar events.
Now I might have to choose between two Scotts as I’m sure Scotty Mac will be needing my assistance too!
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