Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet, Snap-on, Indy Car

5 Minutes With Scott McLaughlin

IndyCar fans are quickly getting familiar with Scott McLaughlin, a 28-year-old rising star from New Zealand who was a three-time Australian Supercars champion before making the jump to Team Penske’s U.S. IndyCar team in 2021. McLaughlin had a strong enough first season to earn the NTT IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Award Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet, Snap-on, Indy Carand has built on that success in 2022 by winning his first race at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Florida driving the Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

McLaughlin, who began racing go-karts when he was six, is also an all-around car guy. “My family was always into cars,” he says. “Dad’s always been into hot rods. He has a ’56 F100 he’s owned since before I was born. It’s a prized possession of his. I was brought up around cars, hot rods, American muscle cars. It’s a big thing in our family. It made the whole racing transition easier.”

We caught up with McLaughlin shortly after the Grand Prix of Long Beach, where he raced the Team Penske #3 car with Snap-on livery. We had a great talk about racing, hot rods, and coming to America.

Goodguys: What’s the biggest difference between racing Australian Supercars and IndyCars?

Scott McLaughlin: The Supercar is a very high-powered, under-tired, under-aeroed racecar. You now go to an open wheeler which is very light, lots of aerodynamics. It requires a completely different driving style. I’ve had to really learn to trust the aerodynamics of the racecar.

GG: What did it mean to you to win the IndyCar Rookie of the Year honor in 2021?

McLaughlin: I came across last year and that was a goal, to win Rookie of the Year for the Indy 500 and Rookie of the Year for the championship. And we managed to do both. The next goal was to win a race, and we managed to do that in the first race of [2022] in St. Pete.

GG: How did it feel to get that win in Florida?

McLaughlin: It was awesome. One of the proudest moments of my career. I had a lot of doubters wondering why I left a perfectly good position in Australia. To have this opportunity to drive a Penske IndyCar for Roger in America – it’s a world-renowned team. And to win for him, the first race of the season after a pretty hard year, was awesome. Something I’ll never forget.

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet, Snap-on, Indy Car

GG: You race many different road and street courses. Any favorites?

McLaughlin: Long Beach is a very cool week in LA, with lots of history. Obviously, St. Pete now is a favorite, too. Indianapolis is great from an oval perspective. Probably the toughest place I’ve been is Detroit, from the perspective of getting on top of that track.

GG: You moved to the U.S. a couple of years ago. What has that transition been like?

McLaughlin: Once you’re here, you feel that freedom. It’s such an amazing country with so much opportunity. I count myself very lucky to start my American dream. I’ve really enjoyed it. The transition has been easier because my wife is from New York.

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet, Snap-on, Indy CarGG: What sort of physical conditioning do you do between races?

McLaughlin: I try to train 4-5 days a week, a mixture of cardio, strength, and high-intensity training. I’ve had to really build up my shoulders for IndyCar because there’s no power steering and the way you sort of lie down in the car, your body is more fixed. It puts a lot more pressure on the shoulders.

GG: Do you have any pre-race rituals?

McLaughlin: I always make sure I go to the toilet, that’s for sure. (laughs) I just try to keep as relaxed as I can. I like being nervous, though, I feel like that’s just part of it. I do normal stuff – always get in from the left side of the car; I’ve done that ever since I was in IndyCar.

GG: What racers did you look up to coming up? Who do you admire now?

McLaughlin: Initially Greg Murphy, and probably still today. He’s a New Zealand Supercars driver and won Bathurst, which is our sort of Indy 500, four times, so he was a bit of a legend back home.

When Scott Dixon started winning in IndyCar, that was big news in New Zealand, so I always kept an eye on what he was doing, whether it was when he won the Indy 500 in 2008, and obviously all those championships. He’s like a living legend, so to race against him is very cool. I look at him as someone you aspire to be like, to be successful every year.

GG: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

McLaughlin: There’s a line I’ve always used: “there’s no finish line to perfection.” My mum and dad were very hard on me with work ethic. It doesn’t matter if you’re winning races or having bad ones, the work ethic stays the same.

GG: What’s your daily driver, and do you have any vintage cars in your garage?

McLaughlin: I drive a Chevy Silverado High Country, brought to me by the great people at Chevy. Coming to America, I had to get a truck.

In my personal collection, I’ve got a replica American Graffiti ’32 coupe. It’s amazing. It’s just a really cool road car. And I’ve got a ’67 Camaro I’m working on with my dad back home. It’s a cool little thing for me and dad to have.

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet, Snap-on, Indy Car

GG: If you hadn’t gotten into racing, what would you be doing?

McLaughlin: I really don’t know. I never thought about anything else. I’m a fabricator by trade; I did a four-year apprenticeship at a trade school. I did that purely to be a part of the motorsport business if racing didn’t work out. I can TIG weld and do all the sheet metal stuff, so that’s probably where I would have ended up – with a fabrication business or working on a team.

Editor, Goodguys Gazette

Damon Lee began snapping photos at car shows when he was 10, tagging along with his father to events throughout the Midwest. He has combined his passion for cars and knack for writing and imagery into a 20-year career in the automotive aftermarket, writing for titles like Super Chevy and Rod & Custom and, more recently, working for respected industry leaders Speedway Motors and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association.