MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — IndyCar newcomer Scott McLaughlin is here to stay with a multi-year contract extension from Team Penske just as the New Zealander heads into his first championship race since joining the series.
The extension announced Wednesday is the third in a month given out by Roger Penske, who also recently extended the contracts of NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano.
McLaughlin, who was last year's IndyCar rookie of the year in a class that included Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson, heads into Sunday's season finale mathematically in the title hunt. His win last week at Portland was his third of the season and moved him to fifth in the standings, 41 points behind teammate and IndyCar leader Will Power.
McLaughlin moved to IndyCar after winning three consecutive titles driving for Penske in Australian V8 Supercars. The 29-year-old assumed Penske was moving him to NASCAR but instead he was slotted for IndyCar.
“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 the roof over his head,” Penske team president Tim Cindric said. “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 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,” Cindric added. “I think everybody has really seen what we saw in him when he won the three Supercar titles for us.”
McLaughlin first joined Team Penske in 2017 and finished second in the Supercars championship with a series-high eight wins and record 16 poles. He won three consecutive titles from 2019 to 2020 and won 40 races in a four-year span, including a series-record 18 wins in 2019.
McLaughlin also gave Penske its first win in the the prestigious Bathurst 1000 when he won from the pole in 2019.
He moved to IndyCar with nothing left to accomplish in supercars and showed steady improvement last season, then got his first career victory in this year's opener. His second win was in July at Mid-Ohio and he dominated last Sunday at Portland by leading all but six of the 110 laps.
“Team Penske has been such a huge part of my career, helping me get to where I’m at today, so I’m excited to continue racing with Roger, Tim and the entire team well into the future,” McLaughlin said. “Getting a chance to move to the United States and chase my racing dream, driving in the IndyCar Series, is something that would not have been possible without Team Penske, so I’m forever grateful.
"We are competing at a high level, winning races and poles and even competing for the series championship. I can’t wait to see what the future holds with Team Penske.”
McLaughlin will race teammates Power and Josef Newgarden, as well as Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson, for the title Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway. It's the tightest championship race since 2003.