McLaughlin remains convinced he can win 2022 IndyCar title

Team Penske-Chevrolet sophomore Scott McLaughlin, who took his second career pole in Nashville today, insists he’s still a title contender.

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The three-time Supercars champion came into the weekend 81 points behind teammate and points leader Will Power, but says that with four rounds remaining – with over 200 points on offer – he still has a chance of overhauling the six drivers ahead of him in the points race.

“Yeah, the belief is there, absolutely,” said the 29-year-old New Zealander. “I've said it all along, I feel like a little bit of an underdog in this. There's no reason why we can't go on a run.

“These are four tracks that I really enjoy [coming up],” he said with reference to his 2021 performances. “Gateway we ran fourth. Portland I outqualified my teammates. Feel like our cars are quicker there this year. No reason why we can't be fast there again.

“Laguna, I love that track. I just made a mess of qualifying – as I did all last year! So, really excited for this final run.

“Anything can happen. It's IndyCar. We have a solid week, focus on ourselves, who knows what will happen? Yeah, certainly a position I'm not unfamiliar with, that's for sure.”

McLaughlin, whose first pole also came on a street course – the season-opener at St. Petersburg – said his Penske was so strong this weekend that he and race engineer Ben Bretzman had barely needed to make any changes.

“The car has been just absolutely phenomenal all weekend since we rolled out the truck,” he said. “We massaged it overnight, came out with a beauty today. Really haven't touched it apart from a little bit of front wing. It's a credit to Ben and the the team; the DEX Imaging Chevy car is good.

“I'm really excited for tomorrow. I think it's obviously going to be a pretty blockbuster, crazy race. To start from the front… Last year I think I started from Narnia last year! I don't know where I was. I was 20th? So it's going to be a lot easier to start, control the pace hopefully, and see where we go.

Today’s qualifying session was delayed by 90 minutes because a rainstorm brought lightning with it, and the regulation is that there needs to have been no lightning within an eight-mile radius for at least 30mins before IndyCars can return to track. With the weather forecast for Sunday in Nashville also looking poor, McLaughlin said that could cause an already challenging race to turn wild.

“No doubt it's going to be a pretty crazy race,” he said. “Last year's was pretty long in bone-dry conditions. I'm sure with a little bit of rain it's going to be crazy.

“A lot of painted lines in the middle of apexes here on tight corners with no room for error. I sort of looked at that before. I thought we might have had a bit of wet then. I was trying to figure out where the lines were and whatnot.

“Yeah, it's pretty crazy.”

Teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power will line up sixth and eighth. Newgarden ran the Firestone Fast Six on primary Firestones, a tactic that didn’t work out at all since he wound up 0.6sec off McLaughlin’s pole time.

Power had his best time in Q2 deleted after causing a local yellow flag with a brief trip down the Turn 9 runoff which forced Pato O’Ward to back off on one of his flying laps. That dropped Power from sixth to eighth on the Q2 times, and allowed O’Ward to graduate to the Fast Six.

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