Scott McLaughlin could still be going IndyCar racing in 2020.
The COVID crisis punched a giant hole in his hopes and plans for the USA after two successful pre-season tests back in February, firstly on the Sebring road course and then on the high-speed Texas oval.
But things are again looking positive.
The early end to the 2020 Supercars championship at Bathurst on October 18 leaves a narrow window for a debut race in the USA.
The IndyCar season is set to wrap on the St. Petersburg street course in Florida on October 25, leaving McLaughlin just enough time to jet out from Australia to join the Team Penske single-seater squad for the last race of the year.
Speaking exclusively to Race News, the two-time Supercars champion admits there is still a chance for him to make his IndyCar graduation.
“Right now, it’s available. Yes,” McLaughlin says.
“The new Bathurst date means it could work. I could fly across.
“It’s the one event this year I know I could do, if everything worked out.”
But he says his primary focus is still on winning a third straight Supercars crown and taking back-to-back victories in the Bathurst 1000.
If McLaughlin is to realise his IndyCar ambition it will take a number of things to go right, from the financial backing for the car to enough crew to run the engineering and pitstops in St. Petersburg.
Team Penske runs three full-time entries in IndyCar, with Australian Will Power alongside Simon Pagenaud and defending champion Josef Newgarden, and also fielded an extra car for Helio Castroneves at the Indianapolis 500. During the pre-season tests the team pulled crew from its IMSA Sports Car program, which is about to fold as Honda has withdrawn from the series.
McLaughlin says he has not been advised by either Roger Penske or his motorsport boss, Tim Cindric, about any solid plan for St. Pete.
“It’s up to Roger and Tim. And whether they have the resources. That’s the funds to run the car, and the personnel,” he says.
The other hurdle is travel arrangements, as anyone leaving Australia needs special government permission. And a return trip would mean two weeks in hotel quarantine.
That should be relatively easy to overcome, as young TCR racer Dylan O’Keefe was able to fly to Europe to test a Renault Megane RS for Vukovic Motorsport and is prepared for his fortnight in a hotel when he arrives back from Switzerland.
McLaughlin and his American wife, Karly, could also extend their time in the USA – particularly if the long-term goal of putting the speedy Kiwi into a full-time IndyCar ride with Penske goes ahead as originally planned in 2021.
McLaughlin says he is not getting tied-up or carried away with the American connection, but admits it is often on his mind.
“I’m always thinking about it, because I want to race IndyCar. I just want to race,” he says.