New Zealand’s Scott McLaughlin claimed his maiden IndyCar win of his career after winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.
McLaughlin managed to hold off defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou from Spain in the final 15 laps to secure the victory.
The 28-year-old Team Penske driver started on pole and finished in 1hour 51 minutes and 27.34 seconds, just .5095 of a second ahead of Palou.
Australia’s Will Power finished third as Team Penske drivers claimed two spots on the podium after the 100-lap race.
After winning three straight Australian V8 Supercars championships, McLaughlin made his IndyCar debut in 2020 with his previous best result being second at Texas Motor Speedway in May 2021.
Following his victory, McLaughlin stood on top of his car in the victory lane, then fell off the roof in excitement as his legs gave way.
As is becoming customary in sport when celebrating a victory , McLaughlin called for a cold beer, took off his racing boot and performed a ‘shoey’ for the crowd.
McLaughlin was greeted by a hug by team owner Roger Penske, who just one week ago celebrated his 85th birthday.
“Thank you to Roger Penske for trusting me and giving me the opportunity to come here. He’s the one that calmed me down last year,” McLaughlin said post-race.
“No s—, I jumped and my legs were jelly bro.”
“I couldn’t believe it, my legs just wouldn’t move. And when I hit the ground, I was done. I was trying to make it as delicate as I could, and I just looked like a wombat out there.”
During the post-race interview, McLaughlin had a special message for his parents, who he hasn’t seen in two years, back home in New Zealand.
“Mum and dad and my sister. I know you guys are watching back home. Far out I wish you guys were here.”
Second place Palou paid tribute to McLaughlin for staying calm during the race and congratulated him for taking the first win of his IndyCar career.
“It was really, really close, but I don’t think we had the pace he had today,” Palou said after the race.
“He was on rails, and he knew where to go fast and where to obviously save some fuel at the end.”
“I was just there trying to make some pressure so hopefully he made a mistake but no … Congrats to him, I’m super happy that he got his first win.”
So, after claiming the first win of the IndyCar season, how does McLaughlin rate his chances of claiming the championship?
“I don’t know. Let’s keep it low key,” McLaughlin said about his title chances.
“Let’s be the underdog for a little while longer.”
The second race of the IndyCar season takes place at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on March 20.