The Thunder from Down Under

As they had in 2021, the cars and stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES arrived in Portland a week early in preparation for the Grand Prix of Portland held Sept. 4. This year a three team contingent was led by Team Penske featuring series point leader Will Power, runner-up in current points Josef Newgarden and an energetic up start from New Zealand by the name of Scott McLaughlin.
“Scotty Mac” as some refer to him, is completing his second season in Indycar and has already visited the winner’s circle. Though he operates in the long shadows of veterans Power and Newgarden, McLaughlin’s enthusiasm shines through and his personal excitement about racing in America’s premier open wheel series is palpable. (Evidently it has been his goal since he first began racing for Penske in Australia’s Supercar Series several years ago).
Newgarden set the pace in practice but when it mattered most, twenty nine year old McLaughlin put his Freightliner sponsored mount on the pole. Power timed second quick with Newgarden third (although an engine swap pushed him back to the eighth starting berth). At the drop of the starter’s flag McLaughlin charged into the lead. Rookie Christain Lundgaard raised a few eyebrows when he pushed his Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry by Power and they were followed by Mexican Pato O’Ward and last year’s winner Alex Palou. Newgarden’s issues were compounded by an unfortunate tire choice and he fell completely out of the top ten initially.
Little changed in the first half of the 110 lap contest- McLaughlin set a blistering pace which not even his teammates could match. Aussie Power recaptured the second spot and O’Ward ran third. Newgarden and his crew rallied and to their credit slashed their way back into the top five with forty laps remaining. Lundgaard’s moment in the limelight faded but a career best finish seemed attainable.
McLaughlin forfeit his lead only when he made his pit stop and it was looking as though the entire race might be unfettered by a single caution period. Then mid-pack racer Rinus VeeKay stuffed an unsuspecting Jimmie Johnson and the pace was slowed to a crawl. McLaughlin continued his dominance on the restart while Power and O’Ward scuffled behind him, Newgarden ran fourth and Californian Alexander Rossi appeared in the top five for the first time.
A second yellow flew with just a hand full of laps remaining but it didn’t rattle McLaughlin. O’Ward’s McLaren entry had a sidepod break loose after contact with Power yet both maintained their positions. Meanwhile behind them six-time series Champion Scott Dixon materialized seemly out of nowhere and displaced Newgarden in fourth. (“The Iceman” had been pushing toward the front all day after a dismal qualifying effort). Dixon subdued the crippled car of O’Ward before the finish and Graham Rahal salvaged the day for his father’s team with a hard fought top five.
So it was a perfect day for young “Scotty Mac”- He led all but five laps and is destined to be a champion in the not too distant future. His flawless win from the pole wasn’t exciting to watch but can’t be faulted. Fellow Penske driver Power did a yeoman’s job protecting his point lead and fighting off the advances of O’Ward (who was relentless). And the incredible Scott Dixon made it an all “Down Under” podium. Newgarden brought his Penske entry home eighth. It was an afternoon he would just as soon forget but he was able to maintain his position in the point standings going into the final race at Laguna Seca Sept. 11.
Sadly Indycar racing will never regain the prestige and popularity that it once held yet I still get a kick out of watching Scott Dixon wheel a racecar. Most in attendance fail to recognize it but they are watching one of the greatest racers of all time…right up there with Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt. That is not my opinion…It is a fact.

Never to be dismissed, “The Iceman” Scott Dixon rallied from 16th on the grid to finish third and still has a shot at the title.

Current Indycars resemble F-16 fighter jets. #26 Andretti entry is piloted by Californian Colton Herta.

Point leader Will Power practices a pit stop with Team Penske prior to the Grand Prix of Portland.

Young Scott McLaughlin dominated the weekend for local sponsor Freightliner and Team Penske.

Penske teammate Will Power fought hard to retain his series point lead coming into Portland and successfully defended his position.

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