Scott McLaughlin is one step away from a full-time IndyCar ride in 2021.
His debut in the American open-wheel series is finally confirmed and that means a solid performance at St. Petersburg on October 25 will almost certainly springboard him into the single-seater series next year.
That would also leave DJR Team Penske looking for a Grade A replacement provided the factory-backed Ford Mustang team continues into next year.
Confirmation of the IndyCar start comes from the president of Team Penske, Tim Cindric, in the USA.
“We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg,” says Cindric.
McLaughlin tells Race News he also has the essential government approval to leave Australia, one of the key’s to the St. Pete plan.
“The travel has been approved. I thought it would take a couple of weeks but it’s come through earlier. Let’s get it done,” McLaughlin says.
The final IndyCar race of the year comes a week after the Bathurst 1000, allowing McLaughlin to round out his Supercars campaign – with the objective of a third championship and second Bathurst victory – with the Shell V-Power squad.
“We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut,” says McLaughlin.
“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia.”
While McLaughlin has been focussed on Supercars he has also been keeping a close watch on the IndyCar situation.
“I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”
Cindric says the plan is a definite but will not be allowed to interfere with McLaughlin’s efforts in Australia.
“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the IndyCar series this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars championship,” he says.
“COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some IndyCar seat time.”
McLaughlin’s ride at St. Pete will carry backing from Shell V-Power Nitro+, the same as the Dallara he tested at the start of the year in Sebring and Texas.
Meantime, Cindric highlights that the Supercars ace is already the third-most-successful driver on the Team Penske winners’ list.
With 53 race wins, he only trails NASCAR star Brad Keslowski and Roger Penske’s original team leader, Mark Donohue, who competed in everything from TransAm sedan and CanAm sports cars to Formula One and the Indy 500 with ’The Captain’.