Scott McLaughlin made no effort to hide his disappointment after coming within touching distance of a first IndyCar oval win at WWTR only to finish third on Saturday night, but he had nothing but praise for the last-lap move at his expense by rookie David Malukas.
McLaughlin was leading the race when a rain shower prompted a two-hour spell under red, setting up a 42-lap run to the checker. Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden passed him for the lead straight after the restart, but McLaughlin looked relatively safe in second until Malukas sprung a move out of Turn 2 on the final lap.
“I went the high line against Josef; that didn’t work,” he said. “I went low-line against Dave thinking, ‘He’s a rookie, he might not, he might not.’ Then he did. Oh well; I was wrong. He went around the outside. It was a solid move. It was awesome. That’s what oval racing is all about. I left him enough room, he left me enough room. We got through there two-by-two. It was a stellar pass. What we’re doing with building the lanes, making them really nice for oval racing, is really cool.
“[But] I’m absolutely disappointed. I felt like we were really solid there today in the daylight. Yeah, sort of lost it there at the end.”
McLaughlin was in command of the race before the rain shower and believes he’d have been in good shape had the weather not come into play, but said that his car was much less co-operative in the cooler nighttime conditions that greeted the field for the restart.
“After the sun went away, lost my balance in that last stint,” he said. “I didn’t have what Josef and David had. David was strong, coming at us really hard. Obviously me and Josef pulled away. I sort of knew I didn’t have much. Midway through the stint, started loose. [It was] hard to get runs similar what I had in the daylight. That second-to-last lap, I got a little bit loose off of [Turns 3 and 4]. Dave got a good run. I could see what he was doing. I couldn’t get out wide because of the confidence I had in the rear of the car, but [Malukas] did a phenomenal job. He’s been doing an amazing job all year. A first podium in IndyCar is pretty hard to come by, especially on a short oval.”