Continuing our driver review series of the top 20 drivers of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, we are continuing our single-driver reviews until reaching Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.
Here, we will focus on Scott McLaughlin, the fourth placed driver in the championship points.
Scott McLaughlin spent 2021 learning how to race an open wheel car again. The three-time Supercars champion raced in that championship all over Australia and New Zealand and had to learn a new form of racing.
The start of the 2022 season showed that McLaughlin’s efforts paid off, scoring his first IndyCar pole and race win on the streets of St. Petersburg.
The domination of that win and the win at Portland International Raceway in September has this writer convinced. If the New Zealand native can win two races before June of 2023, he will win the IndyCar championship.
McLaughlin backed up his win at St. Petersburg with a very dominating performance at the next race at Texas Motor Speedway. The No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet led over 200 laps before teammate Josef Newgarden snuck by on the last lap of the race to win by a nose. McLaughlin was gutted, but learned a valuable lesson that his teammates will figure out a way to win if they can.
RETWEET to congratulate @josefnewgarden on his WIN at @TXMotorSpeedway!
He passes Scott McLaughlin coming to the checkered! pic.twitter.com/APVzRlvKnc
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) March 20, 2022
McLaughlin’s only retirement came at the Indianapolis 500 when he crashed in the north end of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At the time, McLaughlin was the leading Team Penske entry. On the results sheet, he was 29th.
May and June were the low points for McLaughlin. A 22nd place finish at the IMS road course and 19th at Detroit sandwiched the 500 finish. A seventh place finish at Road America signaled a turnaround in McLaughlin’s season, however.
Starting with Road America, McLaughlin finished every race for the rest of the season in the top-10 except for the first race at Iowa Speedway. After that Iowa race, McLaughlin’s worst finish was sixth at the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
That race came one week after McLaughlin absolutely spanked the IndyCar field at Portland. Leading 104 of the race’s 110 laps, it was easy to see why IndyCar fits McLaughlin so well.
From learning American culture to becoming a podcasting mogul with Newgarden, McLaughlin has immersed himself in the IndyCar community and it has embraced him back.
If the bad luck can hold itself away from McLaughlin, expect to see him fight for the title next year. To repeat the earlier prediction, expect McLaughlin to win the 2023 championship if he wins two races before June.
After all, with wins on a street circuit and a road course plus leading 200 laps at Texas, there’s almost no downside to McLaughlin except his inexperience.
That could change in 2023 or beyond. McLaughlin did sign a multi-year contract extension with Team Penske, after all.