Matching a record is one thing, but breaking it — and taking it away from one of your heroes — is as sweet as it gets.
That’s the situation facing Scott McLaughlin after he equalled Craig Lowndes’ record of race wins in a season.
McLaughlin took his 16th win of 2019 at the OTR SuperSprint on Sunday, and drew level with the record set by Lowndes 23 years ago.
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Back then, McLaughlin was just three years old and could only harbour dreams of racing success. Now, he’s living those dreams to the fullest, and a second drivers’ title is all but a certainty with the New Zealander building a massive 573-point lead.
Lowndes achieved the mark as a 22-year-old rookie with the Holden Racing Team in 1996, and went on to take 107 career victories alongside three drivers’ titles and seven Bathurst wins.
Sunday’s Race 22 win at The Bend Motorsport Park marked McLaughlin’s 41st career victory, opening a door into where the 26-year-old sits in ATCC/Supercars history.
McLaughlin is now sixth all time on the race winners’ list. Only Jamie Whincup (114), Lowndes, Mark Skaife (90), Garth Tander (54) and Peter Brock (48) have won more races.
Think of names like Glenn Seton, Mark Winterbottom, Allan Moffat and John Bowe. McLaughlin is ahead of all of them, and he’s continuing to rise up the list.
Master qualifier McLaughlin is already second all-time on the pole winners’ list with 60, behind just Whincup (80). Winterbottom (36) and Shane van Gisbergen (18) are the closest active drivers in the ballpark.
This is all before McLaughlin’s 100th round start, which fittingly comes at his home event at the Auckland SuperSprint across September 13-15.
Joining Lowndes is “awesome”, but usurping him on home soil would be even sweeter in such a competitive era.
“You never think that you can probably, in this day and age, win 16,” McLaughlin said.
“I’m so proud of the team to give me a car I can be able to do it.
“I’ve been saying the whole time, it was a privilege to drive this.
“Trying to stay humble, and drive the thing as fast as I can and thankfully it provides some results from time to time.
“Very lucky and hopefully [with] my 100th round in New Zealand coming up, maybe we get a win there and get maybe pass him [Lowndes]. We’ll see.”
The fast and ferocious Pukekohe Park Raceway holds special memories for McLaughlin, who as a teenager in 2013, became the youngest ever driver to win an ATCC/Supercars race.
It was a special moment for the then Garry Rogers Motorsport young gun, who shared the podium with Lowndes on that very special day.
Career win No. 1 was tough as the then 19-year-old held off a fast-finishing pack which included Jason Bright, Lowndes, van Gisbergen, current DJRTP teammate Fabian Coulthard and Will Davison.
Career win No. 41 also featured a ding dong battle with Davison at The Bend, who loomed to break his own personal winless drought stretching back to Bathurst in 2016.
A win at Mount Panorama remains the major blank spot on McLaughlin’s impressive CV, but the focus is firmly on continuing winning momentum at Pukekohe and overtaking Lowndes’ 1996 marker.
“Any time you can win a race at home is special but to pass that record would be awesome,” McLaughlin said.
“We had an awesome round there [last year], and we go in there with a lot of confidence.
“Our car was fast there last year, hopefully it’ll be even faster this year and we can have a good dab at it and see how we go.”