Scott McLaughlin to make 50th IndyCar career start at Portland

Embarking in his third full-time season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Scott McLaughlin is within reach of a milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway, the driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet will be making his 50th career start in the IndyCar circuit.

A native of Hamilton, New Zealand, McLaughlin made his inaugural presence in the IndyCar circuit at the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in October 2020, which served as the final event of the 2020 campaign. McLaughlin’s IndyCar debut occurred nine months after testing an IndyCar for Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway before turning in his first laps on an oval circuit at Texas Motor Speedway in February. His debut also occurred eight months after Penske initially planned for McLaughlin to make his debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course before the COVID-19 pandemic hindered the plans. Driving the No. 3 Penske Dallara-Chevrolet, McLaughlin started 21st and finished 22nd in his series debut after being involved in a two-car wreck with Rinus VeeKay nearing the halfway mark.

A few days prior to his IndyCar debut at St. Petersburg, McLaughlin was named a full-time IndyCar competitor for Team Penske for the 2021 season. The news occurred as Team Penske also announced its transition from the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship following a six-year run. McLaughlin’s first full-time entrance in the IndyCar Series also occurred as he contended against former Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson for the Rookie-of-the-Year title.

Assuming full control of Penske’s No. 3 Chevrolet, McLaughlin commenced his rookie IndyCar campaign by finishing 14th at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. After finishing 11th during the following scheduled event at St. Petersburg, he then excelled in the first of a Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader feature by finishing a career-best second place behind fellow New Zealander and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. He then notched back-to-back eighth-place results before finishing 20th in his first career start in the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As a result, McLaughlin was named the 2021 Indy 500 Rooke of the Year, joining Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves as previous Penske competitors to achieve the award.

As the 2021 season progressed, McLaughlin finished no higher than 12th during the following six scheduled events before notching a strong fourth-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway in August. He then proceeded to finish ninth, 12th and 11th, respectively, in the final three events on the schedule before capping off his first IndyCar Series season in 14th place and with 305 points in the driver’s standings. At the conclusion of the season, McLaughlin was named the 2021 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year.

McLaughlin commenced the 2022 IndyCar season on a high note by claiming his maiden career pole position and race victory at the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, in February after leading a race-high 49 of 100-scheduled laps and fending off a late charge from the reigning series champion Alex Palou. He was then beaten in a photo finish over teammate Josef Newgarden on the final lap during the following scheduled event at Texas despite leading a race-high 186 of 248-scheduled laps, but he managed to retain the series points lead for two consecutive weeks. McLaughlin would then lose the points lead after finishing 14th during the following event at the Streets of Long Beach, California. By the time the first eight events on the schedule were complete, however, McLaughlin and the No. 3 Penske team had dropped to ninth place in the standings after posting only two top-10 results during a five-race span between April and June.

McLaughlin then ignited a late charge to the championship battle by collecting his second career victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in early July. Despite finishing ninth at the Exhibition Place in Toronto and 22nd in the first of a Iowa Speedway doubleheader feature during the following two scheduled events, he rallied by notching respective finishes of third, fourth, second and third from the second Iowa event in July through World Wide Technology Raceway in August. After scoring his third IndyCar career victory at Portland in September, where he led all but six of 110-scheduled laps, McLaughlin had climbed back up to fifth place in the standings and trailed the points lead by 41 points, which made him championship eligible entering the season-finale Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. During the finale, McLaughlin ended up sixth on the track, which was enough for him to conclude the season in fourth place in the final standings despite falling 50 points shy of winning his first IndyCar title. Overall, McLaughlin capped off his sophomore IndyCar season on a high note by notching a total of three victories, three poles, seven podiums, 433 laps led and an average-finishing result of 8.8.

Four days prior to competing for his first IndyCar title, McLaughlin had inked a multi-year contract extension to remain at Team Penske. He commenced this season by finishing 13th at the Streets of St. Petersburg before notching respective results of sixth and 10th at Texas and the Streets of Long Beach, respectively. He then notched his first IndyCar victory of the season and the fourth of his career at Barber Motorsports Park after leading the final 19 laps and prevailing in a late battle against Grosjean. Despite finishing 16th in the GMR Grand Prix and 14th in the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, McLaughlin has notched nine consecutive finishes inside the top eight, including two runner-up results at Iowa Speedway in July and at Nashville Street Circuit in August. Coming off a fifth-place result at World Wide Technology Raceway, he is currently situated in fifth place in the driver’s standings and trailing the points lead by 140 points with two scheduled events remaining.

Photo by Joe Skibinski (Penske Entertainment).

Through 49 previous starts in the IndyCar Series, McLaughlin has achieved four victories, four poles, 11 podiums, 555 laps led and an average-finishing result of 10.0.

McLaughlin is primed to make his 50th NTT INDYCAR Series career start at Portland International Raceway for the Grand Prix of Portland on Sunday, September 3, during Labor Day weekend at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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