Scott McLaughlin, Penske, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2021

Pit stop error eating at McLaughlin despite top rookie honours

IndyCar

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Scott McLaughlin was the top-placed rookie in this year’s Indianapolis 500 despite collecting a costly drive-through penalty for going too fast at the entrance of the pit lane.

The Penske driver said he could have finished much higher than 20th place, were it not for that speeding penalty.

“One mistake, it just eats you,” said McLaughlin after the race. “You can’t make mistakes here; it needs to be a perfect day.

“That’s why experience is so important in this sport. It’s a place that really bites you, especially when you don’t see it coming.”

Several more experienced driver encountered problems with their brakes as they entered the pits. Stefan Wilson and Simona de Silvestro each retired due to pit lane accidents, and former Indy 500 winners Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s races were compromised by similar dramas to McLaughlin’s.

“I didn’t quite pump my brake pedal up and had a stone-cold set of rotors coming into pit lane,” McLaughlin explained. “I’m thankful that no one was hurt, as I came in there pretty hot.”

He was given a drive-through penalty for the error, which dropped him out of the top 10 to 30th place. He managed to stay on the lead lap, but needed a third caution period to make his fuel strategy work at the end.

“I felt like I’ve learned a ton this whole month,” said McLaughlin, who is in his first full season of IndyCar racing. “I’ve really enjoyed it.

“It’s been more positive than negative for me. I’ve done every lap I possibly can. It bodes well for me the rest of the season, at least for next year when I come back here.

“Our goal this year has been to finish every lap we can in every race. 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.”

McLaughlin was one of three rookies tackling the race this year. RC Enerson failed to qualify and Pietro Fittipaldi finished 25th.

The Penske driver is making an unusual transition from a successful career in Australian Supercars to IndyCar. The three-time Australian champion and reigning Bathurst 1000 winner says he has a lot to work on before next year’s Indy 500, particularly in terms of race craft.

“I have to learn a little bit my timing, understand the draft a little bit more, really get a feel for the draft process, when you get the wake,” said McLaughlin. “I lost a couple of positions today. I eventually got them back, but I lost a couple of positions in the wash, washing up, trying to avoid the wall, basically.”

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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  • 7 comments on “Pit stop error eating at McLaughlin despite top rookie honours”

    1. Generally one fears massive crashes on the 500. The track, the cars, they looked in control, pit stops though, what a mess never seen so many issues going into the pits and the Rahal incident who knows what might have happened.

      1. That looked so dangerous. Could they make the pit entry safer? There were cars almost spinning into pit teams!

        1. The issue at Indy (or Texas also) is the drivers never want to use their brakes as they need to be full throttle, or lose positions. The brakes are cold when entering the pits which creates problems. Something that the less experienced drivers have to be mindful of. Ride the brake an bit before making a pit stop to get them hot.

    2. McLaughlin lost a Supercars championship by overshooting the pit lane entry line by about a metre a couple of years back and copped a drive through.

      I’m sure he’ll be remembering that as well – still being inch perfect getting down to speed is part of why top drivers are top drivers. He’ll no doubt have learned a lot about brakes in Indycar.

      1. Well @drbradock, they’d have to make the entry to pitlane earlier, getting it in a curve to change angle (and speed) I guess, which would make it clearly slower; might be okay to increase safety but it would be a clear change to the race with such a short lap and the pit-time-loss already so relatively large.

    3. McLaughlin is really a good rookie

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