A huge crowd of up to 300,000 fans is expected for Monday’s (AEST) Indianapolis 500, one of the world’s truly iconic motorsport events.
In the starting grid will be three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, New Zealand who is enjoying a strong sophomore indica season and third place in the championship behind Australia’s Will Power and Spain’s Alex Palo.
McLaughlin, 28, will chase fellow Kiwi and childhood hero Scott Dixon on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after The Iceman’s record-breaking speed in pole-setting qualification.
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McLaughlin claims to have won the first Indica race
WWOS: I heard Indianapolis has signed up on a street in your honor. This is pretty amazing for a Kiwi kid …
McLaughlin: Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. And they let us put up street signs that are pretty nice. It took over the whole city, they just went crazy for this race.
The whole month is a big thing and restrictions are off for many sporting events, including America, the 500, and what we’re going to see is going to be crazy, the amount of people out there.
We had 135,000 there last year and for that time it was still a lot, I think it was the biggest sporting event since the epidemic started. Now perhaps the biggest homecoming of all in the game at the end of May, that’s going to be a fantastic special to be a part of. It’s great to be one of the 33 drivers.
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WWOS: Are you aware of the magnitude of the crowd, your eyes are hopeful on the road but you can feel it in the car?
McLaughlin: Oh you do The first time you lap your brakes, they basically tell you to look around and like your spotter, ‘Hey man, enjoy it, look around, it’s something like your lap.’ Wave of fans, it’s crazy.
The amount of people they crowd on both sides of the fence is insane. And there are people who are going to this race – I think it’s the 106th race of the year – and some families have been going there for 60-70 years, consistently, and just holding their seats.
It’s just tradition, they still go to the indie 500 on Memorial Day weekend, regardless of whether they’re right in the series.
It’s something that’s really special, you feel the vibe and it wants to make you feel good. It’s like bathhurst on steroids in some ways but like bathhurst.
WWOS: Have you seen the Indy 500 as a child and what are your standout memories of great races?
McLaughlin: I always knew what IndyCar was and what it was but I think it was when Scott Dixon won in 2008, I knew he had a chance to win so I really saw the first.
I was always on the indicator but it was always on and it didn’t really work with school and stuff. But the indie 500, the first time I remember watching that race and seeing him win for the first time, no matter where I was, it gave me some inspiration.
For me, at first, Supercar was primarily my hope and dream. I have done many things in Australia that many people have not done or are interested in doing.
I am very lucky to be in America at the age of 28 and to be able to compete in a race where I have always dreamed of racing but never thought I would get a chance to be alone in a car in Pensacola. I feel very privileged about it and really excited about what lies ahead.
Just excited to get another chance to race, it’s just so special.
WWOS: COVID-19 means you haven’t seen your family in two and a half years. How special would it be to see you race in their indie 500?
McLaughlin: Yes they are actually allowed in the country for 90 days so they are going to go to Nashville, I think they are here 88 days in the country So they’re going to spend a lot more time with us, maybe a big trip this year because we’ve been seeing each other for a few years and the next year will probably be like coming here on the weekends and then going back and working it out.
But they will try and make the most of this first American trip, just to hang out here and learn about our lives.
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