Supercars champ Scott McLaughlin to make IndyCar debut for Penske

Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
0 Comments

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).

 

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
0 Comments

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”