Scott McLaughlin was racing in his first Indianapolis 500 this year, and found out the hard way just how much small mistakes can hurt you.
The Kiwi started in 17th and immediately found that his car was working well in traffic. By the halfway point, he had moved his way into the top 10 and wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Then the critical moment came when he entered pit road too fast and locked up his front tires as he approached the speed limit line.
McLaughlin maintained control of his car, but was not able to avoid a speeding penalty that relegated him all the way back to 29th.
He again worked his way through the field, but was only able to manage a 20th place finish at the end of the 500 miles.
McLaughlin’s experience was the perfect example of how easy it is to throw away a good result with one mistake, and his downtrodden mood afterwards reflected that sentiment.
“One mistake just eats you,” said McLaughlin after the race. “You can’t make mistakes here. It genuinely needs to be a perfect day. It’s a place that really bites you when you don’t think it’s coming.
“I just made a simple mistake. Didn’t quite pump my brake pedal up enough. Had a pretty stone cold set of rotors going into pit lane there and couldn’t pull up.
“Thankfully no one was hurt because I came in there pretty hot. At the end of the day it’s a learning experience. I’ll take away these learnings and I’ll tell you what, I’ll always check my brake pedal coming into pit lane.
“I felt like up until that pit stop we were really solid. I was saving good fuel, the car was good. I was learning a ton
“I made some pretty cool passes which I really enjoyed. I think I made it four-wide, which was pretty interesting for a little bit.
“Look, obviously pretty stoked to get the Rookie of the Year. Absolutely that was the main goal. At the same time, I had a really good car today. It’s just a little bittersweet.
“I would have loved to have been a little higher. Feel like I could have been in the front group.
“Don’t know if I would have won the race, but I certainly feel I could have been a factor in the top 10.”
McLaughlin currently sits ninth in the overall points standings and is well on his way to securing the 2021 Rookie of the Year award.