It’s always refreshing to hear a rookie’s views on Indianapolis after his first serious running and it makes it even better when they adapt quickly to 225 mph and blind corners.
So it’s fair to say that Scott McLaughlin loves everything he’s seen so far at West 16th Street.
He logged 195 laps (most overall) on Friday, wound up 18th overall at 223.808 mph but had the second best no-tow speed of 221.153 mph in his Pennzoil Chevy. He drafted with team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud like a veteran and seems just about as comfortable as possible considering he’s never raced on an oval.
“I love this place,” said the 27-year-old Kiwi. “I really liked practicing at Texas and coming back here I thought it might be something similar, but nothing prepares you for this place. The sensation of speed, hearing the wind, setting up for the corners and the way it funnels down doing into Turn 1, I can’t imagine what it’s like when this joint is packed.
“There’s no place like it and I’m so excited to be part of it.”
McLaughlin, who came highly recommended from former CART owner Steve Horne, already owns the right attitude.
“I know I’ve got one of the best cars here so I didn’t get flat out on Thursday until about the seventh lap. Watching Rinus’ shunt was probably the best thing before I rolled out because it put me on the edge of my seat and made me feel everything. It’s something similar to Bathhurst because you don’t sleep on that place and obviously, you don’t sleep on this place.
“When I took my ROP it was a calm day and the last two days the wind has been tricky.”
— Team Penske (@Team_Penske) April 9, 2021
He’s also got the benefit of Rick Mears in his ear and his head.
“I’m so lucky because Rick is just a great guy to talk with about everything,” McLaughlin added. “He’s got some quaint expressions like feeling the air, trusting your ass and working on your pattern, not your line.”
McLaughlin has done iRacing at IMS, but says that was just a good introduction.
“You’ve got a reset button on your computer, you don’t have one those out here and I know I’ve got a great team and I just need to get some confidence.”
He’s had some extensive homework too.
“I’ve watched the last few Indy 500s from the on-board cameras to get an idea of what all the wash is like and how you have to time your passes and you just have to be so thorough and precise,” McLaughlin said. “I just can’t wait until next month. I’ve got a motorhome, great teammates and I’m driving for Roger Penske.”