MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Scott McLaughlin will finally get his chance to make his NTT IndyCar Series debut, after he was granted a special exemption to leave Australia by its government.
McLaughlin was originally going to drive for Team Penske when the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course was scheduled for May 9.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdown, which has dramatically impacted all professional and collegiate sports. Australia also prohibited its citizens from leaving the country as part of pandemic-related restrictions.
Team Penske president Tim Cindric told SPEED SPORT Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that it was the team’s intention to run McLaughlin in the season’s final race, the rescheduled Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Oct. 25.
However, that was dependent on the ruling of the Australian government regarding a special exemption to leave the country.
Late Thursday, Team Penske announced that McLaughlin will be able to compete in the IndyCar Series finale. McLaughlin is the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader.
“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the IndyCar Series this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars championship,” Cindric said. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some IndyCar seat time.
“We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”
McLaughlin is the two-time and defending Supercars champion for DJR Team Penske. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the IndyCar preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session.
The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring Int’l Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.
“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop.
“I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”
McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. He has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend.
Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the Bathurst 1000 in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat.
Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.
Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” IndyCar debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT IndyCar Series drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.
McLaughlin will drive the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, Oct. 25.