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Supercars champ Scott McLaughlin to make IndyCar debut for Penske

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Defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will try racing in another series for Team Penske this May.

McLaughlin, 26, will test a Dallara-Chevrolet next week at Circuit of the Americas in Austin before making his NTT IndyCar Series debut in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The May 9 race (which will be broadcast on NBC) will start at 3:50 p.m. ET on the IMS road course, which is the primary type of circuit in the Supercars series. McLaughlin also tested a Penske open-wheel car for the first time last month during an IndyCar rookie evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway.

“This is an amazing opportunity – to race against some of the best open-wheel drivers in the world on one of the most historic tracks in motorsports,” McLaughlin said in a release. “It’s a driver’s dream to get a chance to race an Indy car for Team Penske.

“With the experience I gained at the test in Sebring, I know a little bit more about what to expect when I get back into the car at COTA. I just want to learn as much as I can every time I’m in the car so I can make the most of the opportunity to race with the team at the Grand Prix in Indianapolis.”

McLaughlin will join Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power in Penske’s lineup for the GP. Helio Castroneves will be fielded by the team in the Indianapolis 500 with Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power.

McLaughlin will attempt to win a third consecutive Supercars championship in the Australian-based series this year for DJR Team Penske. The New Zealand native has 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons and also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin set a series record last year with 18 victories.

“Scott has experienced tremendous success in Supercars over the last three seasons with DJR Team Penske and we believe his talent and his drive will continue to shine behind the wheel of an Indy car,” Roger Penske said in a statement. “It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop as we work up to his first race at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. We know Scott will work hard to improve with every lap and he will represent Team Penske well as he gets acclimated to the IndyCar Series.”

Since the IndyCar debut of the 2.4-mile layout in 2014, Team Penske has won five of the six races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with drivers Will Power (2015, ’17, ’18) and Simon Pagenaud (’16 and ’19). Power and Pagenaud swept wins on the road course and in the Indianapolis 500 the past two years.

In addition to IndyCar, McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

 

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.