Chat that allayed fears of ‘crazy’ McLaughlin call

One of IndyCar’s all-time greats proved pivotal in Team Penske’s decision to draft Scott McLaughlin into its single-seater program.

Dario Franchitti is widely regarded as one of IndyCar’s best with an illustrious career that saw him claim four IndyCar crowns, three Indianapolis 500 titles, 31 wins and 81 podium finishes.

Before coming to the United States, the Scotsman found success in German touring car racing.

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Driving for the factory Mercedes team, he took wins and podiums in his sole DTM season and two years of ITCC – what was essentially Germany’s equivalent of Supercars.

It was that experience that Team Penske thought was a good reference point to get a gauge on whether they were silly or not to put McLaughlin in the IndyCar Series.

“Obviously he’s taken on IndyCar,” Team Penske president Tim Cindric said of the Kiwi.

“Really for him, it was a bit of a risk to say, ‘Hey, let’s jump over and do IndyCar’. I think he probably had more confidence in doing something with a roof over his head.

“But he was certainly attracted to racing in America and really hadn’t considered too much about IndyCar until we talked to him about how he thought that transition might go.

“I think I said before that I had a pretty good conversation with Dario because I think he made a similar type of transition just to see if we were crazy.”

Franchitti’s advice and the subsequent decision to put McLaughlin in the IndyCar Series ultimately paid dividends.

In his second season, he has so far won three races, claimed eight podium finishes, and scored pole position twice.

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Cindric said McLaughlin took to single-seater racing like a duck to water. Perhaps the only surprise was his ability on ovals, a discipline he’d never experienced.

“I felt like after spending so much time with him in Australia that he had the ingredients really to drive any kind of race car and be successful,” said Cindric.

“Kind of the one unknown for him more than anything else was what’s oval racing going to be like. Oval racing was something he never experienced.

“When I look really at the way in which he’s approached the ovals, I guess that controlled aggression that you have to have for the ovals, you combine that with inexperience, I think some of that showed at Indy the past couple years.

“At the same time he’s been right there at the forefront, certainly competitive, knocking on the door at every one of them.

“Really that’s the one that was kind of an unknown in my mind as far as how he would adapt, not in terms of talent, but his confidence level. He reached that confidence level pretty quickly.”

For Cindric, McLaughlin’s success is vindication for believing that he could be quick in anything with four wheels.

“I think everybody has really seen what we saw in him when he won the three Supercar titles for us,” he concluded.

The IndyCar Series comes to a close at Laguna Seca on Monday where McLaughlin is an outside shot at the title.

He lies 41 points in arrears of series leader and teammate Will Power. Sandwiched between them are Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon who lie 20 points off the lead and Marcus Ericsson who is 39 points away from the top.

The season finale gets underway at 5am live, exclusively and ad-free on Stan Sport.

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