When Wayne McLaughlin saw his son for the first time in 31 months, the first thing he noticed was how much weight he had lost.
Scott McLaughlin moved to the United States in late 2020 to become an Indica driver, and epidemic restrictions in Australia and New Zealand prevented him from saying goodbye to his family.
Finally able to travel outside of New Zealand, his parents embarked on their 14th trip to the United States on Monday (AEST) to watch their son drive the Indianapolis 500.
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The reunion for Wayne and Diane McLaughlin came on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It was weird, I was a little shocked to see them,” Scott McLaughlin told the Associated Press.
“It was just all this energy and excitement and I was strangely nervous.”
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FaceTime kept the family connected, but those calls did not prepare her parents for how to find their 28-year-old son.
McLaughlin lost weight as he left Australia, where he won three consecutive V8 Supercars championships, but then had to build muscle to operate cars that lacked power steering.
“We knew she lost a lot of weight,” Wayne McLaughlin told the AP.
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“He’s always been a fat guy, he’s already reasonably tough and I got a big shock when I saw him.”
Much more was to come.
McLaughlin’s parents saw a team qualify from the Pensk Pit stall and his mother could not pick up speed, which was at a peak of 370 km / h.
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“I was looking for a bucket,” Diane McLaughlin smiled.
Owen and Diane enjoyed racing as a couple before the birth of their two children.
They bought their son a go-kart as a hobby for his seventh birthday, but did not allow him to race for the first six months.
When they finally got him into the competition, the kid got pretty good.
Wayne McLaughlin decided to move the family from New Zealand to Australia – partly for a trucking business owned by Wayne – but to further their son’s career.
“If he can be good at racing, if he wants to go to the V8, then we really have to stay in Australia,” Owen said. “And I’m going to say, ‘Not just the boy’s age!'”
“It’s a pie-in-the-sky stuff!” Diane recalls, recalling Wayne McLaughlin.
“So when he won his first championship I said, ‘Pie-in-the-sky stuff, isn’t it?'”
Wayne McLaughlin realized it was no longer “father and son racing” and got some help with one rule: absolutely no open-wheel racing.
But then McLaughlin took his place in the V8 Supercar and then Roger Penske joined the team that was with McLaughlin and Kiwi became a full-fledged star in Australia.
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“Things were pretty good before Roger Pensk, but Roger took everything to a whole different level. He took Scotty’s career to a whole different level,” said Wayne McLaughlin.
Tim Pensk wanted to take McLaughlin to the United States for a race.
McLaughlin assumed it would be a NASCAR opportunity but Pensk took him to IndyCar instead – an open-wheel series.
“But he’s grown up now. What shall we say?” Wayne asked McLaughlin.
It was horrible for his parents, but conversations with Pensk and team president Tim Cindrick “reassured us that they would take care of our son,” Wayne McLaughlin said.
When the epidemic began, McLaughlin was finishing his final supercar season in Australia when his parents were in New Zealand.
Travel lockdown prevents McLaughlin and his wife from seeing each other before they go abroad.
For the first time in his career, his parents were not part of it. McLaughlin felt uncomfortable going racing in a series about 13,000 km away and knew very little about him.
The rims around Wayne McLaughlin’s eyes have turned pink and she has cried more than once since 31 months when they last saw their son and talked about the journey he had made without them.
McLaughlin is spinning in a hairpin
“We were heartbroken,” said Wayne McLaughlin.
“We couldn’t say goodbye,” added Diane.
“And now he’s moving to America and going to a department that’s the best in the world and we haven’t been there and we’ve been with him since he was just a boy,” Wayne continued.
They have to wake up at 4am to watch their son compete in his Indica rookie season, relying on McLaughlin’s wife Carly, to let them know about a race weekend and lots of shouting on television. Owen McLaughlin goes viral when his son posts a video of his “Number One Fan”.
When McLaughlin’s sister arrives, the whole family will be together after McLaughlin’s wedding in 2019.
Her parents’ visa is good for 12 weeks and they will travel in nine Indica races and spend time at Scott and Carly’s North Carolina home.
They are big fans of the United States – marking McLaughlin’s 14th trip to America this week, his parents traveled on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a few years ago, and Wayne McLaughlin has an American flag decal in the back window of his Chevrolet Silverado.
The opportunity to move to their favorite country for their son and drive for Roger Pensk, who promised that McLaughlin was in good hands, was very good for leaving.
“They knew we were very concerned and they pushed for safety. Roger invited us to visit the store and meet everyone at Charlotte after the wedding and it made us feel better,” Wayne McLaughlin said.
“This is new racing for us. But we’re here now and we can’t wait to see Scottie on the Indy 500.” – Auxiliary printing press
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