The main question facing Scott McLaughlin coming into the new season was how long it might take for the sophomore IndyCar driver to bond with his new Team Penske race engineer Ben Bretzman. Well, we can cross that one off the list.
At the venue where the triple Australian Supercars champion made his NTT IndyCar Series debut late in 2020, McLaughlin took ownership of the St. Petersburg street circuit on Saturday as he topped the morning practice session by a wide margin before stunning the field with a bold run to pole in the No. 3 Chevy. Beaming with pride, a smiling Bretzman lavished praise on his new charge as the crew of the No. 3 Chevy posed for photos in pit lane.
“He just showed he can do it,” the championship- and Indy 500-winning engineer told RACER. “He’s the real deal. Like we figured out last year, you saw it. There’s a reason he won all those races down in Australia. He’s really freaking good. I’m super proud of the guy, and our whole team to get him this far in such a short period of time.”
Any driver capable of barging past Penske’s Will Power, who qualified second, and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who dominated St. Petersburg last year, is a serious operator.
“He can find lap time,” Bretzman added. “It’s just focusing him towards doing the right things because he’s got the talent to do it. Super proud of him. What impresses me the most he did it with no mistakes. What a debut. This is a good start.”