After making his debut in the final race of 2020, the three-time Supercars champion’s IndyCar rookie season netted just one podium, but his bigger concern was not getting the most out of Firestone’s softer compound tyres in qualifying.
He did so with aplomb in 2022 by taking pole and victory in the St. Petersburg opener, later capturing two more poles and two more wins on his way to fourth in the championship.
Speaking to media ahead of the recent Thermal Club pre-season test, McLaughlin said only “a couple mistakes mid-season” denied him a realistic chance of the title in the Launga Seca finale and “felt like everything sort of clicked” from Road America onwards.
The Kiwi explained that he now feels confident in his he approaches stitching a weekend together and is determined to continue the new campaign with the same strong form that yielded four podiums from the last six races of 2022.
“I think right now I feel comfortable with where I’m at,” he said.
“I know, I believe I’m fast enough to win the championship. It’s also up to me executing and doing what I can to perform on the day.
“What I tried to do last year was, sometimes when I had an eighth-place car, I tried to make it a second-place car and I’d crash or go down the escape road or something like that.
“That’s what I changed towards the end of the season. It’s just about letting it happen, letting the pace come.
“I know I have the speed to win a championship, but I’ve got to put it together. That’s the same for Indy 500.
Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet
Photo by: IndyCar Series
“I’ve learnt a lot over the years that I know I’ve got the right ingredients around me, I feel like I’ve learnt enough to be a force come May.
“At the same time it’s about executing at the moments that you really need to and not risk too much in the moments you don’t need to. I believe in myself that I can do it and be a part of the fight again.
“I mean, being a part of the fight last year was a pretty cool moment. Realistically, we weren’t a part of the fight, but we were mathematically in it.
“This year for sure I’m excited to continue to learn and be a sponge and just execute the way I think we need to execute to be there at the end. I truly believe I can do that.”
McLaughlin added that he feels confident of handling the extra pressure that comes with driving for Team Penske in his third full year with the multiple title-winning outfit.
“At Team Penske, you’ve got a car that you know can win races, you’re expected to compete for championships,” he said.
“That’s an expectation that I have, that I had in Australia for five, six years. I understand the mentality and understand what it’s like to have that pressure.
“I feel like it’s not an unknown for me. I’m not really stressed about it.
“I sort of know my ability, what I can do. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough.”