Scott McLaughlin showed no reluctance in his NTT IndyCar Series oval debut and backed that up with a second place finish to Scott Dixon in Saturday’s Genesys 300 at the Texas Motor Speedway.
The result was jubilating but finishing second to his racing idol had him even more enraptured.
“I’ve never been this bloody happy with second,” said the three-time Supercars Champion. “I just couldn’t get Scotty at the end but it was bloody cool battling with one of my all time heros – Scott Dixon. Two Kiwis one and two is fantastic.
The Team Penske rookie started the race 15th and made some positions on the race’s early stint. The yellow flag on Lap 56 played into his hands as a handful of his rivals made their preliminary stop beforehand.
A quick stop by his crew elevated him to sixth on the restart. He then backed up a solid second stint with a good pit sequence to advance to third behind Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist.
Fortune improved once again on the final pitstop under yellow as Ronsenqvist had a disastrous stop which allowed McLaughlin to sneak into second heading into the final restart.
He kept Pato O’Ward at bay on the ensuing restart and sighted Dixon during the final stint but came up a scant .265s short at the line.
He acknowledged that he had to keep his emotions in check as he trailed Dixon the final stint.
“So to follow him and race him towards the end, have genuine pace for him, was pretty cool. I said to the guys in the caution period, This is pretty cool, isn’t it? I think they were trying to calm me down a little bit. It was cool.”
With 212 laps under his belt, the 27-year-old New Zealander feels more confident heading into Sunday’s Xpel 375.
“More comfortable in dirty air, how I need to sort of adjust my driving style, what changes inside the car I can do to help me in dirty air, stuff like that. What moves I can do. Like the restarts I felt really strong tonight. I made a couple moves in the early parts at the start, went sort of outside into three, a few others. That worked out good for me. Was a bit of a chance, but you got to try them sometimes.”