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, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.