The two-time and reigning Supercars champion for DJR Team Penske announced in mid-December that he would get his chance in a Penske-run Dallara-Chevrolet as part of a rookie evaluation test.
Motorsport.com learned that the 26-year-old New Zealander, who has scored 35 of his 43 Supercars wins over the past three years for DJRTP, showed startling speed on the IndyCar simulator last year and matched the pace of IndyCar regulars Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud around the Indianapolis road course.
While McLaughlin is confirmed to defend his Supercars title in 2020, he has long talked about a move to the USA and NASCAR being his “obvious goal.” Team owner Roger Penske, too, has openly discussed the possibility of the tin-top ace piloting NASCAR machinery in the future.
McLaughlin’s IndyCar test can therefore currently be regarded as a one-off, along the lines of Brad Keselowski’s run in a Penske in 2016. However, given his apparent affinity for open-wheel cars, he has clearly been decreed as capable of carrying out significant work for the team without using up the IndyCar drivers’ highly restricted test days.
Also at the test will be Rinus VeeKay driving the Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet equipped with an aeroscreen for the first time, while the driver who beat him to the 2019 Indy Lights title, Oliver Askew, will get his initial test with the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet team.
Testing alongside his 2020 teammate, Lights champ predecessor Patricio O’Ward, the test will mark the team’s first track action overseen by new R&D engineer Craig Hampson who spent the last three seasons at Dale Coyne Racing.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-Chevrolet will also be in action, as team principal Dennis Reinbold plans to take his team part-time this season on all types of course. Over the past six years the team has run at the Indy 500 only.
In Monday’s test, the team will run Sage Karam as usual. The 2013 Indy Lights champion, aside from subbing at Carlin Racing in Toronto last year, has not run an IndyCar on a roadcourse since 2015.