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McLaughlin Finishes Third in Points Following Laguna Seca Podium


Scott McLaughlin overcame mayhem to score a podium and finish third in INDYCAR points. (Photo: Aaron Brink | The Podium Finish)

MONTEREY, Calif. — In a season where Chip Ganassi Racing ruled the INDYCAR scene, being “best of the rest” is the most a driver could do. This was the case for Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who was in a ferocious battle for third in the final standings during Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca.

McLaughlin entered the finale fifth in the championship trail, 22 markers behind third-place Josef Newgarden. Suffice it to say, the Kiwi had his work cut out to eclipse both his teammate and Pato O’Ward. The latter could even earn an FIA Super License and be eligible to become a reserve driver for McLaren’s Formula 1 team.

After a hard-fought, grueling, chaotic 95-lap contest, McLaughlin overcame the odds and finished runner-up, sandwiched between series champion Alex Palou and race winner Scott Dixon — both of whom race for the dominant Ganassi camp that won nine races to Penske’s five.

What mattered most for the Penske racer was besting O’Ward by four points and an additional five points over Newgarden for third in points. That was the goal for McLaughlin entering this weekend and he got the job done to cap off his third INDYCAR season.

However, it was far from easy, and he knew things had to click following contact from Christian Lundgaard on the opening lap. It sent him back several positions and knew his day fell into his control going forward.

McLaughlin’s mindset was to get at least second and his No. 3 XPEL crew delivered big on pit strategy. It ultimately boiled down to his capabilities of gaining valuable track position to achieve third in the final standings.

“I think I hit everything but the pace car today. Certainly one of those crazy days, peak INDYCAR days. Super pumped,” McLaughlin said after the race. “Things that didn’t go my way, things I probably shouldn’t have done either, but we just kept our heads down and kept working. Took the fuel when we needed, pitted when we needed to. Just slightly came back through.

“I think I had one really good restart where I picked off sort of six or seven cars. I was just hauling. So much fun. Thought I maybe might be able to have a crack at Scottie [Dixon] at the end. He was just too fast.

“I knew if I finished second, I was most likely going to be top three in the championship. That ultimately was my goal coming into this weekend.”

Sunday’s result marked McLaughlin’s fourth podium of the season and his first since Nashville, where he also finished second. As wild as the finale was, McLaughlin remained adamant that the street circuit (except this year) was the wildest form of racing he’s ever been a part of.

At the same time, McLaughlin noted how the race went for him ranked up with the previous Nashville races and losing the Supercars championship to Jamie Whincup by 21 points in 2017.

“It was wild. For me as a driver, just thinking of my race, it was probably the most craziest race I’ve ever had in my career just from an up-and-down perspective,” said McLaughlin. “It probably takes me back to the year I lost the Supercars championship for the first time. Up and down, penalties, things you could avoid and couldn’t avoid. It was just nuts. It was peak INDYCAR. To be able to come back from that is pretty cool.”

McLaughlin scored his fourth podium of the season and helped Chevrolet clinch the Manufacturers’ Championship. (Photo: Aaron Brink | The Podium Finish)

With three seasons under his belt, McLaughlin has racked up four wins, five poles, 12 podiums and has improved in the standings each season. Naturally, talks about salary and contract negotiations arose.

Meanwhile, finishing the campaign on an absolute high is a pride thing. For McLaughlin’s own sake, he wanted to be the team’s top man as Newgarden finished fifth in points and Will Power went winless as the reigning champion.

Additionally, McLaughlin wanted to do it for Chevrolet and Penske as they wound up being the top organization for the bowtie brigade over Arrow McLaren, who went winless. It served as a surprise to the team that was hyped of being a threat to Penske and Ganassi’s dominance in the preseason.

“Obviously prize money changes, but that’s just how it is. I don’t even know from a team perspective,” McLaughlin said. “For me it’s just a pride thing. More importantly, we wanted to be the top Chevy team, beat McLaren and we did that. I wanted to beat my teammates. Ultimately ticked both those goals.

“I talk about beating our teammates. We had a serious good camaraderie between the three of us. It’s very competitive. It gets tense at times. That’s what you want in a relationship. I think we all push each other to new levels. To beat those two is a proud moment.”

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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