Motorsport: Scott McLaughlin quietly confident of debut Indy 500 win

  • 26/05/2021

Kiwi Scott McLaughlin hopes to punch a ticket to the final 20 laps of his Indianapolis 500 debut on Monday.

The Penske flyer - a three-time Supercars champion - will start from 17th on the grid at the famed ‘Brickyard’ race circuit, but knows how to win big races from behind, after taking the lead late at Bathurst 2019 and holding on for victory.

McLaughlin is quietly confident he has the tools to work his way through the pack to push for victory in the closing stages. 

"It's kind of like Bathurst in that it's about buying that ticket to be somewhere near the front in the last stint," McLaughlin says.

"If we can get it all right on the day, we have the pace to maintain a good position."

McLaughlin was the quickest of the four Penske drivers - some feat, considering the talent in that team, with Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power holding a collective four series titles and three Indy 500 wins.

But Penske struggled for consistent pace during qualifying, with the 27-year-old Hamiltonian their only driver inside the top 20. 

McLaughlin admits qualifying was underwhelming, but warns not to write off the most successful team in Indy 500 history off.

"We all have the ability to come through the field and our pace in race trim has been strong. 

"It's a wild race, and with strategy and stuff, you shouldn't count us out yet.”

McLaughlin believes he has as much chance as any of the 33 drivers, despite being one of only two rookies in the field.

"Crazier things have happened. There is no reason why I can't win - I guess the only thing against me is inexperience.

"If I can put myself in a position to win the race through strategy and some passing, I think our car is fast enough to carve through the field.

"The car is quick enough to run at the front and if I can get to the front with a chance to win, I feel like I am good enough to grab onto that and get the job done."

Scott Dixon will start on pole for the Indy 500
Scott Dixon will start on pole for the Indy 500 Photo credit: Photosport

And the ideal outcome for McLaughlin? To pip polesitter and fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon for victory.

"It's cool for both of us. It's amazing to have two New Zealanders - from such a small country, battling for one of the world's biggest prizes - in any sport that's pretty big. 

"As a country, in sport, we have always punched above our weight. Scotty is a legend here and, man, he's been fast this week. 

"He will be very hard to beat, but I will try and come through, and beat him and make it a Kiwi 1-2. 

"Feeling good about my car, so we will see what we can do."

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