A Kiwi can be several things, including a bird and a tasty piece of fruit. But when it comes to racing, Kiwi stands for outstanding racing talent from the country of New Zealand.
And the amount of talent that the land of the Kiwi is exporting to the USA is suddenly growing by leaps and bounds.
Up until this season, Scott Dixon was the only New Zealander in the NTT IndyCar Series. And boy, has he made his homeland proud. The defending series champion, Dixon’s title last season was his sixth, meaning he’s chasing a seventh title this season that would tie him with legendary A.J. Foyt for most career IndyCar championships.
Dixon is now joined in the series this season by fellow Kiwi native, Scott McLaughlin, who is racing for Team Penske.
“It’s big,” Dixon said of McLaughlin coming to IndyCar. “I’ve been waiting 20 years for another Kiwi to join me on the grid here in IndyCar.
“I’ve obviously followed McLaughlin’s progression for many years in junior categories as well as Supercars. I’m a big fan of that series as well and watch every race. To finally have him here, especially with a powerhouse team like Penske, is a huge thing for New Zealand.”
The 26-year-old McLaughlin comes to IndyCar after winning three consecutive Australian Supercars championships (2018-2020). He made his IndyCar debut in last year’s season-ending race at St. Petersburg, Florida, wrecking out just 46 laps into the 100-lap event and finishing 22nd.
In the first two races of 2021, McLaughlin has shown steady progress, finishing 14th at the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park and was knocking on the top-10 before finishing 11th in the April 25 return to St. Petersburg.
“Yeah, overall a good day for us in the DEX Imaging Chevy,” McLaughlin said. “It was a full-on race, very hot, very humid and one of the most physical races I have ever done. Solid race from our end and I was probably a little bit too safe at the start.
“I was just trying to keep my front wing on. It was pretty forceful out there and a lot of the veterans around me were just using a bit more of their experience on colder tires. We got around in the first stint and we pitted at the right time and we were actually on a very alternative strategy there, that could have almost put us in the lead.
“Unfortunately, there was a couple of spinners towards the middle of that race. Our team reacted and we pitted and we did the right thing on that strategy, just unfortunately there were no yellow flags. We didn’t use the speed we had in the clear air to really get going, but for me right now its continuously finishing races.”
McLaughlin gets his first exposure to oval racing this weekend in the IndyCar Saturday-Sunday double header at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Finishing P11 is a great run for us and we will continue to build on that and hopefully come the end of the year we will be bigger, better and stronger,” McLaughlin said. “(I’m) excited for the next few races.”
Dixon’s success in IndyCar, as well as McLaughlin’s emigration to the series, has led to three of their fellow New Zealanders to begin their own journeys on the road to IndyCar racing:
Dixon smiles with pride that so many of his countrymen are following in his and McLaughlin’s footsteps.
“Honestly, for me, racing is all I know,” Dixon said. “Because of my dad in racing, but also the strong history of racing (in New Zealand history) especially through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, Formula 1 and Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme and the list goes on.
“For me, there is a lot of history there. A lot of people don’t realize it but we see there’s a ton of great drivers come from New Zealand to be on the world stage. I’m extremely proud of that and extremely proud to fly the flag for New Zealand and I welcome them.”
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