Scott McLaughlin’s debut in IndyCar didn’t exactly go to plan.
‘F***ING BLIND?': Max Verstappen explodes after epic crash
McLaughlin started from 21st on the grid but made his way to 17th in the 100-lap street circuit St Petersburg Grand Prix, before spinning out after making contact with another car.
The New Zealander spun on lap 47 after touching Marco Andretti, and then made contact with Rinus VeeKay which took him out of the race.
Despite a disappointing result, the three-time Supercars champion was in awe of his experience as he starts a United States career with Team Penske.
“Awesome. Far out. The best day of my life, besides my wedding,” said the 27-year-old newlywed.
McLaughlin confirmed at the weekend he will drive full-time for Penske in the 2021 IndyCar series.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin’s Australian teammate at Penske, Will Power, crashed out after 37 laps.
Polesitter Power was in a tight race for third in the final standings and he threw his gloves in anger and admitted to driver error.
“I just lost it. Had a moment,” he said.
McLaughlin’s fellow Kiwi driver Scott Dixon secured the IndyCar title with a third-placed finish behind Josef Newgarden while Power was fourth overall.
Scott McLaughlin and Rinus Veekay have collided in Turn 1 and the caution is right back out.#IndyCar
— Nick DeGroot (@ndegroot89) October 25, 2020
And another caution. Scott McLaughlin wrecked in his first #IndyCar race, as does series Rookie of the Year VeeKay.
— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) October 25, 2020
— Sean Sedor (@SASedor2994) October 25, 2020
— Ryan Holman (@realRyanHolman) October 25, 2020
Scott McLaughlin’s baptism of fire in IndyCar
McLaughlin had no deal in place to leave Australian Supercars and expand into a fourth IndyCar entry for Team Penske when he flew from Sydney to the United States this week.
McLaughlin had just won his third consecutive Supercars title and immediately jumped on a plane to begin preparations for his IndyCar debut.
It was among the worst kept secrets that McLaughlin would be full-time in IndyCar next season, but without a deal the 27-year-old approached Sunday's season finale as a tryout.
“I was confident that I'd be OK and have an opportunity next year,” McLaughlin said.
Instead, he said he was pulled into a meeting with team owner Roger Penske and president Tim Cindric and told a deal was done - Team Penske was leaving Supercars and McLaughlin was in the No.3 IndyCar next year.
“They told me they were going to announce it and that suits me because it got a bit of a weight off my shoulders,” McLaughlin said.
“I was able to walk into the pits knowing that I'm going to be back here in March and be at the Indy 500 and it's an awesome opportunity.”
Although he was keen for a move to IndyCar - citing a desire for a fresh challenge, and the fact that his wife Karly Paone is an American from New York - McLaughlin said closing out his Supercars career left him restless the night before his first practice.
“It was a bit emotional. For it to end is a bit sad,” McLaughlin said.
“The fans in Australia have known me since I was 16 when I jumped on the scene.
“It's nice to be able to spread my wings, but it's a little nerve-racking feeling like the first day of school.
“I was a big fish in a little pond and now I'm jumping in as a little fish again.”
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