NEWTON, IA — Scott McLaughlin knew he had a podium car under him on Saturday afternoon from the Iowa Speedway. Unfortunately, a mishap on his right rear tire on a late race pit stop cost him dearly. He had to pit shortly after to tighten it which dropped him from a top 5 to 22nd.
On Sunday, he made up for it with a podium. McLaughlin started 5th and finished 3rd in his No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet for his 5th podium of his career, 4 of which coming this season alone.
“Really pumped to back up. Felt like we had a car to challenge for the podium yesterday. We managed to sort of pull it off today,” he said.
“I think you have to push the limit on everything these days in INDYCAR. The competitiveness. My guys yesterday, the stops have been tremendous all year. I think we were again fastest on pit road, or close to fastest on pit road today.
“They did a stop. The stop before was a second faster than anyone in pit lane, that last exchange yesterday. They tried to go a little bit faster. You weren’t going to do it. Unfortunately they dropped the car too early, didn’t tighten the wheel.
“You are pushing the limits. You are doing stuff.”
McLaughlin though faded outside the top 5 at one point of the race. He wasn’t happy with his car near the midway mark. However, his crew kept him calm on the radio and worked to get the car back in a good range for him to fight in the end.
“Kind of brought us back to life,” McLaughlin said.
“Managed to get my head down, did some really good pit exchanges, managed to get ourselves into P4 there before the last caution. Then P3 on Dixon, which was a fun pass. I really enjoyed that. It was a really good exchange with him all race. Hope he enjoyed it. Probably didn’t enjoy it as much as me, but it was definitely a lot of fun racing with him.”
Among his 6 top 5 finishes in the sport, 4 of which came on ovals. That’s shocking in a sense that he had no prior oval experience before coming to the NTT INDYCAR Series in October 2020.
“Yeah, this is up there. This is awesome,” he said of ovals, especially Iowa. “I wish we could race every weekend, to be honest. It’s just bad ass. You can throw it on the outside, run two lanes. You can take air off the guy behind you, guy will go behind you. It’s wicked, you know.
“Texas was fun. It’s a bit more sort of like one-lane groove. Once we built that second lane, it was really good. Kind of like here, a bit faster, but scarier.
“Indy is its own kettle of fish. Indy is INDYCAR.
“Ovals for me, I’ve said it a number of times, I learned from a blank sheet of paper. Had great people around me, Will, Josef, Simon around me last year. Learned as it went.
“Really, really pumped with how we’re going, our development throughout the whole season. We’re right there. Unfortunately we didn’t get those points yesterday, which would have been pretty vital. We would have been right there with the guys at the front. Didn’t happen.
“I’m really pumped with our performance on the ovals.”
There’s still 1 more oval left which is at Gateway next month. The other 4 races left in the season suit him too with another trip to the Indy road course, a street course in Nashville and 2 more natural road courses.
He sits 7th in points (-86) and while it may be difficult to win the title, he’s only 50 points outside of the top 5. He’s had 7 top 10’s now this season in which he had 5 in 17 starts last year.