MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — IndyCar newcomer Scott McLaughlin is here to stay with a multi-year contract extension from Team Penske, just as the New Zealander begins his first championship race since joining the series.
The extension announced Wednesday is the third in a month to be issued by Roger Penske, who also recently extended the contracts of NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano.
McLaughlin, who was last year’s IndyCar rookie of the year in a class with Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson, mathematically enters Sunday’s season finale in the title chase. His win last week in Portland was his third of the season and took him to fifth in the standings, 41 points behind teammate and IndyCar leader Will Power.
McLaughlin switched to IndyCar after winning three consecutive titles for Penske in the Australian V8 Supercars. The 29-year-old assumed Penske would move him to NASCAR, but was instead assigned to IndyCar.
“Really for him it was a bit of a risk to say, ‘Hey, let’s jump over and do IndyCar.’ I think he probably had more confidence to do something with the roof over his head,” said Penske team president Tim Cindric. “But he was definitely drawn to racing in America and hadn’t really thought too much about IndyCar until we talked to him about how he thought that transition would go.
“I felt that after spending so much time with him in Australia, I had the ingredients to really drive any race car and be successful,” Cindric added. “I think everyone really saw what we saw in him when he won the three Supercar titles for us.”
McLaughlin first joined Team Penske in 2017, finishing second in the Supercars championship with eight wins and a record 16 poles. He won three consecutive titles from 2019 to 2020 and won 40 races in a four-year period, including a series record of 18 wins in 2019.
McLaughlin also gave Penske his first win in the prestigious Bathurst 1000 when he won from pole in 2019.
He moved on to IndyCar with nothing left to accomplish in supercars and showed steady improvement last season before taking his first career win in this year’s opener. His second win was in Mid-Ohio in July and he dominated in Portland last Sunday by leading all but six of the 110 laps.
“Team Penske has been such a big part of my career and helped me get to where I am today so I’m excited to continue racing with Roger, Tim and the whole team well into the future,” said McLaughlin . “Having the opportunity to move to the United States and pursue my racing dream of driving the IndyCar Series is something that would not have been possible without Team Penske, so I am eternally grateful to you.
“We are competing at a high level, winning races and poles and even competing for the series championship. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Team Penske.”
McLaughlin will race Sunday with teammates Power and Josef Newgarden, as well as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson, for the title at Laguna Seca Raceway. It is the toughest championship race since 2003.