McLaughlin’s list of regrets in bounce-back season

Scott McLaughlin has expressed his pride to bounce back mentally from arguably the most challenging year of his storied racing career to date.

At the peak of his powers, McLaughlin was the man to beat in Supercars. After three championships, 56 race wins, 106 podium finishes, and a Bathurst 1000 crown, the Kiwi left Australia for the United States to have a crack at IndyCar.

Joining the all-conquering Team Penske, the expectations were low, at least to begin with. Year one was about getting his feet on the ground and maybe by year two or three they could look at podiums, wins and then maybe a championship run.

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By all accounts, McLaughlin has exceeded expectations. In only his third race, he shocked the IndyCar paddock with a second place finish on his competitive oval debut.

The then-rookie had put pit lane on notice.

However, a run of seven finishes outside the top 10 soon followed. In all, McLaughlin only cracked the top five twice in his first season to wind up 14th overall.

By McLaughlin’s standards, it was tough to get used to having been accused of standing on the rostrum week-in, week-out.

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If his first podium appearance in 2021 was sweet, then his first triumph in the 2022 season-opener was the cherry on top.

With three races remaining this year, McLaughlin has two wins and an additional three podiums to his name – making him an outside chance to win the championship.

It’s reason to smile, but the “what-ifs” have been a bitter pill to swallow.

At Long Beach, he clipped the wall while running inside the top 10, which sent the No.3 into a spin.

At a wet road course-configured Indianapolis, he was on course to win only to make the wrong strategy call and spin out under yellow on slick tires.

In the Indianapolis 500, he crashed while running on the fringe of the top 10.

In Iowa, a loose wheel forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop while running in fourth.

“If I just stayed off the loud pedal at turn three and at Indy 500 and didn’t crash there, it’s points,” said McLaughlin, who lies 58 points in arrears of series leader Will Power.

“Then Long Beach, I hit the inside wall like a gumby. Spun there, points. There are so many that have gone begging. Indy GP we were leading, chose the wrong tire. Points.”

There is no doubting though that McLaughlin has speed to burn, which he’s shown throughout the 2022 campaign.

This year’s effort stands in stark contrast to his debut in which he lacked mid-season pace.

“Like I’ve said to you and many people all year, we’ve had pace this year, and that’s all I ever wanted,” he explained.

“Last year was tough. I’ve always said it. It’s tough mentally. To bounce back like we have this year, it’s a proud moment.

“I still fully believe I can win a championship. I feel like I’m going to three tracks I really enjoy; Gateway, Portland, Laguna.

“Yeah, we might be an outsider, but I don’t care. I’ll be an outsider as long as I can be, and maybe we can switch that closeness in second the other way.

McLaughlin claims maiden IndyCar race win

“I’m very proud of just the efforts. Me and Benny [Bretzman, engineer] have worked really good together all year.

“Kyle Moyer, my strategist, my team have been fantastic. I’m just really proud of the advancements we’ve made as a team.

“I can’t thank my team enough for having their backs with me as well throughout that period when it was tough.”

The IndyCar Series continues at World Wide Technology Raceway on August 21 at 8am.

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