NEWTON, Iowa – Since coming to the NTT IndyCar Series full-time in 2021, Scott McLaughlin has become a quick study on oval tracks.
In his 12 oval races with Team Penske, McLaughlin has four podium finishes, including one Saturday afternoon when he finished second at the HyVee HomeFront 250 at Iowa Speedway. It seems like the Kiwi is on the verge of his first oval win, but one big factor stands in his way:
His teammate, good friend, and Bus Bro, Josef Newgarden.
Newgarden won for the fifth time at Iowa Speedway, and over the last three seasons, has been the series’ oval master, with eight wins over that span.
Newgarden has set the standard, but McLaughlin feels like he’s up to the challenge.
“I’m going to get him at some point,” McLaughlin said after the race. “I’m very determined. I’m a little bummed, the second to last stint we just didn’t have the balance that I needed. If I had the balance that I had in the last stint where I was able to stay with him, I really feel like we could have been right there with him and made some moves. But, yeah, didn’t quite get there.”
McLaughlin is always learning, and to Newgarden’s credit, he’s happy to help. On a recent trip to a sponsor event, the two spent their flight watching the onboard video for both cars from the first Iowa race from a year ago, a race where Newgarden led 208 of the race’s 250 laps and cruised to a six-second victory.
“I give credit to Josef,” McLaughlin said. “He was very open about what I could do better, where I could get air, whatever. He doesn’t have to do that. I think that’s the camaraderie I think we’ve got on the team. I’m sure there are things he hasn’t told me, but at the end of the day, he opened up a lot, and I learned a lot.”
Newgarden prides himself on being a good teammate and feels like being transparent and helping McLaughlin is the right thing to do. That philosophy is one of the basic tenants of Team Penske: it doesn’t matter who wins, as long as it’s a Penske car doing it.
“He’s a great member of the team,” Newgarden said. “I want to kick his ass as much as anybody. It’s got nothing to do with that, and I’m not giving him any favors necessarily. If your teammate wants to learn something, I hope he would give me the courtesy the same way. When he’s got something on me, I want him to teach. I think that’s how it should be.
“You don’t always get that,” Newgarden continued, “but I’m happy to teach him what I know. I look at it that it doesn’t really matter — if he knows exactly what I know, then it’s just going to come down to who’s doing a better job.”
McLaughlin out-qualified Newgarden for both races and will roll off next to teammate Will Power on the front row for Sunday’s race, with Newgarden three rows back on the seventh starting position. With a night to make adjustments and a morning warmup session prior to the green flag, will Sunday be the day McLaughlin breaks through and wins his first oval race?
Newgarden has other plans, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it happened, either.
“I hope he doesn’t do a better job than me tomorrow, but if he does, he’ll be a deserving winner,” Newgarden said. “Let’s see what happens. He looked really good today. I’m going to probably have to step up a little bit more (Sunday).”
The 25-minute warmup session will begin at 10:05 a.m. CDT, with the race starting at 1 p.m. CDT and being broadcast on NBC.
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