Scott McLaughlin’s initiation into Shell V-Power Racing will be completed this weekend in Perth when he races under the direct gaze of owner Roger Penske for the first time.
The American billionaire businessman and racing legend is making his annual appearance in Western Australia, which is an important region for his off-track interests.
Although Penske’s presence can add pressure to the Shell V-Power garage, McLaughlin says he’s excited to spend more face-to-face time with one of motorsport’s all-time greats.
In the lead-up to the Barbagallo weekend, McLaughlin has revealed that his first encounter with Penske came via what he calls a ‘fan boy’ moment less than three years ago.
It occurred during a visit to the New Hampshire NASCAR in July, 2014, when McLaughlin was emerging as a star of Supercars spearheading the then-new factory Volvo effort.
Coincidentally Penske was in the final throws of extending negotiations with Dick Johnson Racing that would see the formation of DJR Team Penske for the following season.
“I was walking around at New Hampshire as a fan boy and got a photo with Roger,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.
“He didn’t know who I was and I didn’t say anything (about being a driver), I just asked for a photo as a fan.”
It’s a moment that perfectly captures both the boyish innocence of McLaughlin and the aura of Penske, whose IndyCar team has 16 Indianapolis 500 wins to its credit.
“When I was growing up I wasn’t a massive Formula 1 fan, for me it was IndyCar,” continued McLaughlin.
“(Kiwi) Scott Dixon was with Ganassi, but I always looked up to Penske and what he achieved.
“He’s a real racer as well as being a businessman. It’s a real testament to him that he’s still going strong in both areas after all these years.”
While McLaughlin admits that racing for Penske in the US in some form is a long-term goal, he insists that his focus remains firmly on succeeding for ‘The Captain’ in Supercars.
Penske, whose last visit to a Supercars event came at Bathurst last year, has flown to Australia with Team Penske president Team Cindric.
Following their recent run of form, both McLaughlin and team-mate Fabian Coulthard will be aiming to score the team’s first win in front of the American management.
“It’s good for the guys to show the team from America how much we’ve grown,” said McLaughlin, who along with Coulthard arrived in Perth on Monday for a full week for sponsor commitments.
“They got a lot of feedback in the US but to have a first hand look is different.
“He’s always watching even from the States. Good or bad he sends a text about the races, so from that perspective I don’t think there’s any more pressure.
“I’ve actually only sat down with him a couple of times for any length of time, so this weekend is probably the most time I will have spent with him since I signed on.
“We’ll both have a lot on though, he’s got a lot of commitments with corporate guests. It’s a big weekend for us on and off the track, no doubt.”
McLaughlin enters the weekend fifth in the championship, trailing leader Coulthard by 97 points.
While McLaughlin has taken pole for three of the last four races, penalties for Safety Car and pit infringements at Adelaide and Phillip Island respectively have proven costly.
“There have been a lot of weird things that I’ve been pulled up on this year that I’ve never been pulled up on in my whole career,” he said.
“Obviously we’ve had to rectify each issue and work through them, but unfortunately each one has cost us pretty big.
“But we’ve done what we can to learn from each one. The team has responded better than I’ve seen before.”