Scott McLaughlin talks future: 'NASCAR is the obvious goal'
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A month ago, Roger Penske — a man in motorsport with more influence, experience, and far-reaching success than most — confirmed that he's spoken to Kiwi Scott McLaughlin about a future in NASCAR.
"I think that opens the door for him to take a look around. Tim [Cindric] and I will look at strategies and what our [NASCAR] driver line-up will be in the future. I know [McLaughlin] wants to come over here, and certainly he deserves the chance to drive here," said Penske.
McLaughlin is still fresh from claiming his first Supercars Championship crown; a first for both the 25-year-old and for Penske's Shell V-Power–backed DJR Team Penske race team. Off the back of the successful season, McLaughlin helped write and release a book about the feat; titled Road to Redemption.
And in that book, he's expanded on the swirling NASCAR discussion.
"I'm asked a lot about America and my NASCAR ambitions," he writes. "Obviously with an American fiancée it's something that is a serious factor, and Karly would like to move back to be with her family one day. But for now I have to keep kicking goals here. I know if I continue to do a good job the spoils will come.
"I have massive respect for what Jamie Whincup has achieved with his seven championships, but I'm not sure I could keep doing what he's doing, year after year. If I was able to tick off a championship and a Bathurst win in the next half-dozen years or so I would consider doing something else.
"If the opportunity came up to try something Stateside I'd jump at it. And NASCAR is the obvious goal. NASCAR is a dream of mine and Roger Penske and the team know that."
McLaughlin is one of a circle of drivers in Supercars who have dipped their toes in overseas competition. Shane van Gisbergen remains a ring-in factory driver for McLaughlin, while Chaz Mostert holds a similar role with BMW's GT3 and GTE programme.
While van Gisbergen's made no inclination around being interested in relocating to Europe, BMW made a curious play on the weekend for Mostert; offering him a full-time deal for 2020 that aligns with the end of his current deal to race with Ford Supercars outfit Tickford Racing.
“That's something Chaz has to decide – where does he enjoy himself most. Is it mainly in Australia? Or is it on a bigger scale?" said BMW Motorsport boss Jens Marquardt. “And then obviously, yeah, I would be absolutely happy to talk to him about plans that we could do together. [...] He is one of the superstars down here, and to have him for a few events out of Australia, and give the world a bit of a taste of Chazzy, is a good thing.”
It's a curious thing, really. The last time a driver in Supercars upped and left to pursue an international career, it was Marcos Ambrose. Depending on your perspective, that move was either a reasonable success (underlined by wins for a team that's sparingly visited victory lane since) or a failure, given the lack of top-level longevity.
One difference here is that McLaughlin is in his mid-20s, while Ambrose was approaching his late 20s when he committed to the move in 2005. Another big difference is that unlike Ambrose, McLaughlin is already ingrained in Penske's global sphere — something that could prove invaluable as time goes on.