Australian racing legend Dick Johnson is prepared to lose his driver Scott McLaughlin to the NTT IndyCar Series as soon as 2021. The co-owner of DJR Team Penske told the Australian Supercars series on Wednesday its back-to-back and defending champion will “be going over there full-time, but it certainly won’t be this year.”
The 26-year-old New Zealander was the star of IndyCar’s recent Spring Training session at Circuit of The Americas where he set the third-fastest lap in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy, and backed it up two days later by posting quick speeds at Texas Motor Speedway where he passed the series’ oval rookie licensing requirements.
The Kiwi is presently confirmed for a single race on the 2020 IndyCar calendar when he’ll join reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden, 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power in a four-car Penske effort at May’s Indianapolis Grand Prix.
RACER has learned McLaughlin is also being readied to contest as many as eight IndyCar rounds this season in preparation for a full-time move to the American open-wheel series once he completes the new Supercars championship run, which extends into early December.
After the Indy 500, McLaughlin’s schedule is free of Supercars conflicts for the May 30-31 Dual in Detroit, the June 21 race at Road America, the July 12 Honda Indy Toronto, the August 16 Mid-Ohio round and the Gateway oval the following weekend on August 22, and the September 6 Portland Grand Prix.
Of the dates listed, only the Detroit doubleheader could prove problematic as Team Penske’s IMSA team runs its fourth entry; Acura Team Penske’s two-car WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi program is in action at Detroit where its ARX-05s practice and qualify on Friday and race on Saturday.
With McLaughlin on a swift trajectory towards IndyCar, Johnson supports the Kiwi’s desire to challenge himself on the international stage.
“I encourage him because he’s got a career that he’s got to make the most out of, and in this day and age, these careers are getting shorter and shorter,” he said. “He’s got quite a number of years left, and honestly I think he’ll make the most of it and so he should, because it’s a great honor to be able to go overseas and do something like this.”