Australian Supercars double champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske at the St. Petersburg season finale in October.
Preparations have been under way for the New Zealander, who impressed the reigning IndyCar champions during pre-season testing and was scheduled to contest as many as eight races before COVID-19 rewrote the calendar, to pilot a fourth Team Penske Chevy at the Oct. 25 event. The chance for the DJR Team Penske ace to join Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud on the Floridian street course in the No. 3 Chevy, will take place in the days following the Supercars finale at Australia’s great race, the Bathurst 1000.
With the benefit of time zones and gaining a day by flying east after Bathurst, the Kiwi will have ample time to reach St. Petersburg. McLaughlin’s appearance at IndyCar Round 14, where defending series champion Josef Newgarden could be in the frame to earn a third title since 2017, can only help Team Penske as it looks to overtake Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon atop the standings.
“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin said. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.
“I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”
Long rumored to be under consideration for a fourth, full-time Penske IndyCar seat in 2021, the St. Petersburg outing is believed to be the first step in formalizing the process, while also giving McLaughlin and the team a head start on readying themselves for a rookie campaign next season. McLaughlin, whose wife is American, has repeatedly expressed his interest in transitioning his career to the U.S., and among the other possibilities for the 27-year-old, RACER understands he could remain in the states after St. Petersburg and begin the relocation process.