Three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin has stunned the IndyCar world with a sublime drive to surge from 15th to a maiden podium in Texas.
In just his third race of his debut IndyCar season – and the first oval circuit he has ever raced – McLaughlin lit up the field with a staggering display of pace.
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The New Zealand star was beaten only by fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon, a six-time IndyCar champion, in the 212-lap race at Texas Motor Speedway.
An elated McLaughlin said: “I’ve never been so bloody happy for second.”
“It was bloody cool battling my all-time favourite hero,” McLaughlin declared of Dixon.
McLaughlin’s 14th in the season-opener was followed by 11th in the second race. That meant he started the Texas race from 15th on the grid based on championship points, with qualifying cancelled due to rain.
The Team Penske driver opted to pit earlier than most of rivals for his first stop, a move which paid off when a crash saw yellows waved and sent most drivers into the pits. Suddenly McLaughlin was riding in sixth, and he never looked back.
The next stint was scintillating, as he moved up to third by the time the next set of pit stops were complete.
His pit crew were in fine form, sending him out in lightning-quick time – something which paid off on lap 160 when a second big crash sent the field diving back into the pits for fresh tyres.
McLaughlin had been in third, but Felix Rosenqvist went from second down to 12th as he had to avoid Marcus Ericsson in pitlane, after Ericsson’s right rear wheel fell off.
Emerging from pit lane in second, the final stanza became a showdown with the 40-year-old veteran Dixon, who stormed to a quick half-a-second lead over McLaughlin and controlled the dying laps. Some traffic from lapped cars tightened the chase in the final moments, but Dixon held on for a 0.2 second win.
Dixon was asked how much attention he was paying to McLaughlin behind him. “A lot,” Dixon replied. “I have this thing on my dashboard that tells me the gap to the other cars but I might need to remove it because it was stressing me out. He was fast.”
Dixon’s win was his second-consecutive victory in Texas, and means he has now won at least one race in each of the last 19 seasons – a new record in IndyCar.
The pair will rejoin battle on Monday morning at 7am AEST. Watch live on Fox Sports and Kayo!