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Scott McLaughlin Takes Firestone Grand Prix For First Career IndyCar Win

Scott McLaughlin scores an impressive maiden NTT INDYCAR Series win at St. Petersburg, Flordia. (Photo: Chris Jones | Penske Entertainment)

Scott McLaughlin scores an impressive maiden NTT INDYCAR Series win at St. Petersburg, Flordia. (Photo: Chris Jones | Penske Entertainment)

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin held off a fierce challenge from reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou in the final laps, hanging on to secure his first career IndyCar win in the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Pete.

“Thank you to Roger Penske, everyone,” McLaughlin said. “Yeah, DEX Imaging jumping on board, trusting me, and then Roger Penske and Tim Cindric giving me the opportunity to come here.

“I miss my mom and dad dearly and my family. Wish you guys were here. What a day.”

However, it wasn’t an easy victory for McLaughlin. In the closing laps, the leaders were approaching Jimmie Johnson at the tail end of the lead lap. With Johnson’s teammate Palou in pursuit, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion gave his younger teammate an assist by making it difficult for McLaughlin to overtake the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Carvana Honda.

McLaughlin eventually got by Johnson but he still had one final obstacle to overcome. On the final lap, Andretti Autosport rookie Devlin DeFrancesco was ahead of McLaughlin and Palou who were fighting for the win.

DeFrancesco didn’t move over and let them by. But that didn’t matter because McLaughlin never put a wheel wrong and came out victorious.

In his second season of racing full-time in IndyCar for Team Penske, McLaughlin was expected to take a major step forward this season. After leaving Australia following a Bathurst 1000 victory and three champions in the Repco Supercars Championship, the sacrifices of moving to America finally paid off for the 28-year-old.

“But we did it,” McLaughlin said. “Chevy gave us the fuel mileage.

“Drivability this weekend has been a change, and to win at DEX Imaging’s home race is unreal. Oh, my God, I’m just – love you Australia, New Zealand, miss you guys. Thinking of everyone in the Queensland floods at the moment.”

Championship Defense 

At the beginning of the weekend, the Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas got off to a slow start. Marcus Ericsson was the highest Ganassi car in the first practice session of the weekend in 15th. Then, there was an improvement in the second practice, with Alex Palou being seventh-fastest despite a heavy shunt.

Palou qualified 10th and slowly worked his way up the running order to the front. While he was unable to beat Scott McLaughlin, Palou’s quest to go back-to-back NTT IndyCar Series championships got off to a solid start with a runner-up finish.

“It was close,” Palou said.

“It was really, really close, but I don’t think we had the pace he had today. Like he was on rails, and he knew where to go fast and where to obviously save some fuel at the end. I was just there trying to make some pressure so hopefully, he made a mistake or anything, but no, he was all good.”

The Rookies

Six rookies competed in the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Pete: Christian Lundgaard, Kyle Kirkwood, Callum Ilott, Devlin DeFrancesco, Tatiana Calderon and David Malukas.

The highest finishing rookie was Christian Lundgaard, who finished 11th in his No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Lundgaard made his IndyCar debut last year at the IMS Road Course and really turned some heads. Coming from Formula 2, Lundgaard qualified fourth that day with very little seat time in an Indy car and finished 12th in the race.

The other rookies competing in the Firestone Grand Prix had a relatively quiet and uneventful day, minus David Malukas, who hit the wall and crashed out of the race on Lap 25.

Next Race

The NTT IndyCar Series will return to action on March 20 at Texas Motor Speedway (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC) for the first oval race of the season.

There will only be one race this year at Texas after IndyCar did a doubleheader weekend in 2021, with Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward finding victory lane.

Firestone Grand Prix Top-10 Results: McLaughlin, Palou, Power, Herta, Grosjean, VeeKay, Rahal, Dixon, Ericsson, Sato.

Kobe Lambeth is a 2021 graduate of UNC Charlotte, who earned his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies (mass media concentration), with a double minor in Journalism and American Studies. In February 2007, he initially developed a strong passion for motorsports. His childhood dream is to work in the motorsports industry for a long time. In June 2017, his journey began as a freelance journalist and social media specialist for RockinghamNow, covering high school sports and leading a Twitter project. He was a part of expanded coverage of high school football within his local community. Through the use of Twitter, his team had a goal of significantly increasing the number of followers on multiple accounts. At The Podium Finish, he intends to provide professional motorsports coverage, focusing on series such as the NASCAR Cup Series, NTT IndyCar Series and more. He's also a Freelance Editor at NASCAR Digital Media and Multimedia Producer at GRID Network

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