Supercars ace McLaughlin could make IndyCar race debut in finale
The final round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season at St. Petersburg could see Scott McLaughlin make his debut for Team Penske-Chevrolet.
The New Zealander who has won the last two Supercars titles for DJR Team Penske and conquered the 2019 Bathurst 1000 has been open about his aim of switch to U.S. motorsport and is particularly interested in IndyCar.
To this end, McLaughlin tested an IndyCar at Sebring in January, three weeks later he became a confirmed entry in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and eight days after that he finished third in IndyCar Spring Training at Circuit of The Americas.
Two days later, he passed his oval rookie test at Texas Motor Speedway and then headed home.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, severe travel restrictions were applied both in Australia and the USA, and the schedules for IndyCar and Supercars suffered upheaval, thereby complicating the process of putting McLaughlin in an IndyCar for an actual race weekend.
Both series put out revised calendars, but in IndyCar’s case the situation remains very fluid. For instance, just eight days before practice is due to begin for the twice-rescheduled Mid-Ohio doubleheader, teams still don’t know if the event is going ahead.
Such uncertainty seemed likely to push likely to push back McLaughlin’s IndyCar race debut to 2021. However, with the 2020 Supercars calendar locked in to end with the Bathurst 1000, it means McLaughlin is free on the weekend of IndyCar’s planned finale, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersbug, FL on Oct. 25.
That Oct. 23-25 weekend is also a free one for IMSA participants, so race engineer Jonathan Diuguid and key crew members from the Acura Team Penske program would be available to man a fourth Penske-Chevy, just as they did for Helio Castroneves in the Indianapolis 500.
Asked if McLaughlin could join Penske incumbents Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud on the grid at the season finale, team president Tim Cindric told Motorsport.com: “No firm plans there, but we are considering the possibility.
“There are too many moving parts at this point to do much more than put a contingency plan in place.”
McLaughlin would require a travel exemption from the Australian government to leave the country and would face 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine on his return.
With 17 of the 27 Supercars rounds completed, McLaughlin is leading the 2020 championship, locked in title battle with seven-time title winner Jamie Whincup.
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