Scott McLaughlin is prepared to run his debut IndyCar race on the streets of St. Petersburg later today, and he can tell already that he has a lot of learning ahead of him.
The three-time Australian Supercars champion is completing his long-term goal of making a transition into the American open-wheel scene this weekend, and he will be doing it while driving for the illustrious Team Penske.
“I’ve got a lot to learn and everything’s happening pretty quick,” said McLaughlin after Saturday morning’s running.
“I’ve still got my training wheels on at the moment. Tried to take them off a couple times and went up the escape road.
“I’m really happy and privileged to be here to drive one of Roger Penske’s IndyCars. It’s no mean feat, and I’m really proud of that.”
Ahead of his debut race, it was announced that McLaughlin would be driving for the team full-time next season alongside talented team-mates such as 2019 series champion Josef Newgarden and this weekend’s pole sitter Will Power.
But driving for Team Penske means that you are expected to perform well, both on and off the track. “Penske Perfect” is a real mantra within the team, and it will take some time for the charismatic Kiwi to get used to the new standards.
“It’s a responsibility to your sponsor partners, your team, who you’re representing on your car,” said McLaughlin about the ethos of the team.
“Especially for me with Shell, they’re a massive multinational business. To represent those brands at a high level is what Roger asked for. Little things like having a shave and tucking in your shirt, that sort of stuff.
“The Penske way is not only presentation, but it also runs all the way down to how they prepare the cars and how they make me feel. I feel like there’s a job for everyone in this team. It’s crazy.
“I shouldn’t even be holding my drink bottle right now because I feel like someone should be holding it for me,” continued McLaughlin jokingly.
“I’ll have to get used to it.”
McLaughlin held his own in practice, but struggled to keep up with the higher pace of qualifying. He will start from 21st later this afternoon and will look to get a clean race under his belt.
The green flag waves from St. Petersburg, Florida at 2:30 PM EDT.