Roger Penske has teased a ‘near future’ opportunity for Scott McLaughlin in the United States, but insists Sunday’s Bathurst win doesn’t impact the team’s plans for the driver.
McLaughlin has long spoken of his desire to eventually move to the US, but only after achieving his goals of winning a Supercars title and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Having won the 2018 championship, the 26-year-old ticked the second of those boxes on Sunday, albeit provisionally with the result still pending Shell V-Power Racing’s team orders charge.
Team Penske runs NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA sportscar teams in the US, ensuring there are a number of potential future homes for McLaughlin, either on a full-time or cameo basis.
Speaking on McLaughlin’s future after Sunday’s race, Penske stressed the importance of the Kiwi’s role for the team in Australia, but also suggested a US outing is on the horizon.
“We’re running in three different series [in the US], we’ve got a job to do here, we’re committed to our sponsors on a long-term basis, so we have to look at that,” he said.
“I think that we want him to come over. He’ll have to start like we did here, but he’s got a good future and you’ll see him in America I’m sure in the near future.”
Asked if a Bathurst win accelerates his US plans for McLaughlin, Penske said: “No. I think it’s just part of the plan.
“I think together with [Team Penske president] Tim Cindric and the rest of the team we just have to decide what the best path is that he’s able to move forward his career.”
McLaughlin said on Sunday he’s not fussed what he drives in the US, joking “I’ll race a wheelbarrow if I need to!”
Following the Great Race, Penske paid tribute to McLaughlin’s influence on his team’s rise in Supercars.
The American billionaire bought into a struggling Dick Johnson Racing at the end of 2014, going winless for two seasons before McLaughlin and tech whiz Ludo Lacroix arrived in ’17.
Including Sunday’s provisional result, the team has subsequently piled on 42 wins – 35 to McLaughlin and seven to teammate Fabian Coulthard.
“We saw him running the Volvo and knew if we could get him on our team it was going to make a big difference. And we’ve grown together,” said Penske of McLaughlin.
“One thing you’d have to say is he’s gotten the momentum within the team and lifted it, he lifts the whole place, and I think that helps lift him to the next level.
“I’ve said it many times… he reminds me a lot of [Penske Indycar legend Rick] Mears, who’s won the Indianapolis race four times. He could always dig deeper and get it for us.
“[McLaughlin] is a guy who knows how to win, he knows how to go fast and he has great commercial savvy, which is so important to us in today’s world.”