Race Weekend Central

A Helping Hand Behind Scott McLaughlin

Scott McLaughlin‘s road to the 2024 Indianapolis 500 began back in the winter when he asked for some help from an old friend.

Simon Pagenaud was one of McLaughlin’s teammates at Team Penske back in 2021 before leaving for Meyer Shank Racing. Looking ahead to the 2024 season, McLaughlin asked the Frenchman for some advice about competing in the Indianapolis 500.

The three-time Supercars champion finished 14th in the 2023 Indianapolis 500, his best finish to-date in the Memorial Day classic. After competing three times at Indianapolis for Team Penske, McLaughlin figured some advice was just what he needed.

“He’s a very keen observer of many things, a note taker, and we’ve been exchanging notes all week,” McLaughlin said of Pagenaud in the post-Carb Day practice press conference. “I asked him to do this like February, January or February, and we’ve been analyzing a lot of things since.”

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Pagenaud became a mentor for McLaughlin. The 2019 Indianapolis 500 champion has been on the sidelines since an accident during practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2023 and has been able to observe from afar, helping McLaughlin whenever the 2019 Bathurst 1000 winner needed it.

The help worked as the New Zealand native set a new pole position qualifying record with a four-lap average of 234.220 mph. McLaughlin cryptically sent his appreciation on pit road after climbing from the No. 3 Chevrolet.

“There’s one person I know that is watching this that’s helped me all week, you know who you are brother, but thank you so much,” McLaughlin said.

Throughout the week there was speculation about who McLaughlin’s mentor was, but Pagenaud appeared on Peacock’s Carb Day broadcast to speak about his time with his former teammate.

“Scott doesn’t need that much advice, he’s a true champion,” Pagenaud said. “But like every champion, he’s always trying to find a little edge, a little more. It’s so tight right now, the field is just so talented.

“When Scott asked me if I could help, I gladly wanted to do it because working with someone like him that really wants to get better, that’s exciting. I did open all my books to him, a lot of books, a lot of writing and I just tried to walk him through the process of how every day goes and how much you have to crank it up every day without making a mistake or cranking it up too much.

“And he’s just incredible with the way that he can pick up things. He’s the type of guy that you tell him exactly what he needs to do, he goes out, does that, does it. Unbelievable. He has such talent and a capacity to understand that’s really incredible.”

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Pagenaud had one full season with McLaughlin as a teammate in 2021, in addition to the 2020 IndyCar season finale. In that time, McLaughlin was figuring out how to make the transition from racing heavy touring cars to racing much lighter single-seaters. McLaughlin began the 2022 season by qualifying on pole at St. Petersburg and backing up that qualifying performance with his first IndyCar win.

Pagenaud was all too eager to help McLaughlin, and it gave Pagenaud another reason to be back at the track following his accident last summer.

“It’s been fun for me,” Pagenaud said. “It’s been fun to be involved, fun to have that chance to be again with Team Penske and him and when he got the pole I was as excited as if I was in the car. So that was really cool and I hope everything goes smoothly and I think he’s got a real shot.”

McLaughlin was 20th in the Carb Day standings, but is confident in his racecar and is even more confident with the Frenchman in his corner.

“He’s always been a Team Penske member,” McLaughlin said of Pagenaud. “He’s won the 500 for us, and at the end of the day, we all just want him to be okay. So this is for me an opportunity for me to work with him, but also an opportunity for me to help maybe bring him back to the race and get his name back involved.

“Whether that’s not driving a race car, at least he’s involved, and he gets that feeling of being at the 500 again. I’m sure it’s so hard for him right now. It’s his first 500 he’s missed in a long time. He’s a 500 winner, and he’s at a point in his career where he could easily keep going for many, many years.”

About the author

Christopherdeharde

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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