By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – What started off as a three-man rookie class, one man stood out throughout the Month of May. That man being Scott McLaughlin, who wins this year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors.
Far from an ideal race indeed, but the 20th place finisher will leave IMS with an accolade. His fellow rookie competitors Pietro Fittipaldi finished a lap down in 25th while RC Enerson failed to qualify.
After the race McLaughlin described his Indy 500 debut as a “pretty awesome experience.”
“Really happy to get the Rookie of the Year honors. I would have loved to have been a little higher. Feel like I could have been in the front group,” said McLaughlin. “Don’t know if I would have won the race, but I certainly feel I could have been a factor in the top 10.
“Bittersweet day for me. I’m proud of everybody on the Pennzoil car, it felt good. I’ve got many more to come, hopefully.”
The greatest pitfall McLaughlin will look back and ponder what might’ve been would be pit road. On Lap 116, INDYCAR slapped the New Zealander with a drive through penalty for speeding. Such simple mistake ate his afternoon up.
“You can’t make mistakes here. It genuinely needs to be a perfect day. It’s a place that really bites you. When you don’t think it’s coming. I just made a simple mistake,” McLaughlin commented. “Didn’t quite pump my brake pedal up enough. Yeah, had a pretty stone cold set of rotors going into pit lane there. Couldn’t pull up.
“Thankfully no one was hurt because I came in there pretty hot. But, yeah, look, obviously pretty stoked to get the Rookie of the Year. Absolutely that was the main goal. At the same time I had a really good car today. It’s just a little, like I said, bittersweet.”
There’s a single oval race left on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar. That being at World Wide Technology Raceway August 21. Showing already his flashes of brilliance, McLaughlin is already excited but that’s a ways from now. The doubleheader at Belle Isle (June 12-13) is the series’ next stop.
“I’m going to have my work cut out for me a little bit at Detroit. I think I have to learn a track in one practice session, qualifying, race. So it’ll be tough, then a doubleheader as well,” McLaughlin on upcoming races. “I back my team to give me a great car, back my ability to go well.”
McLaughlin added that his goal is to bring the No. 3 Chevrolet home on the lead lap each race. When you’re ninth in points after the Indy 500, such goal can be obtained.
“We’re doing that, we’re ticking boxes. Doing 200 laps around here is a tough gig. Mentally it’s very hard. I’m stoked to do it,” said McLaughlin. “I’ll take this experience, move forward with it for the rest of the season. Certainly knowing what to expect, I know it’s going to be even bigger next year for the 500. I’m really excited for it.”