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McLaughlin: Tower Drive “Great Introduction” to Prototype Racing

Team Penske IndyCar aces gaining sports car experience for potential Porsche 963 future drives…

Photo: Brett Farmer/IMSA

Scott McLaughlin said his and Josef Newgarden’s LMP2 drive in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Tower Motorsport is a “great introduction” to prototype racing, with both drivers holding aspirations of being part of Porsche Penske Motorsport’s LMDh lineup in the future.

The pair of Team Penske IndyCar stars will be making their IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debuts in the defending LMP2 championship-winning Oreca 07 Gibson alongside John Farano and Chip Ganassi Racing development driver Kyffin Simpson, forming an all-star lineup of sorts in the Pro-Am-enforced category.

“I’ve never driven a prototype before,” said McLaughlin, who won three Australian Supercars championships before joining the Penske IndyCar program last year.

“The whole reason I’m doing this is really I’ve never done this race before but I’m trying to expand my racing portfolio.

“Saying that, you have to expand it doing some marquee events. Daytona 24 Hour, Sebring and Petit, that’s three events in America that I really want to do.”

Newgarden, the two-time IndyCar Series champion, said he’s been trying to put together a deal for the Rolex 24 for several years.

Once his ride was set, he asked teammate and friend McLaughlin to come along for the adventure and the Kiwi agreed.

“There’s a lot of variables that we’re not familiar with, both Scott and myself, so we’re going to be getting up to speed to some degree,” Newgarden said.

“But I believe in our approach and our abilities and I know Scott very well at this point, and I know exactly what he’s capable of.

“I feel him and I together can set the tone just fine and try and really align with John and Kyffin and make this a robust effort.

“Even though it’s brand new to us and we’re going to have to learn a lot, I think we can tackle the challenge head on and be there at the end of the race.”

Newgarden will get his first taste of the LMP2 car at this week’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway.

Both drivers admit having an eye toward additional prototype races down the road, especially with Porsche Penske preparing Porsche 963s to tackle the top classes in both the WeatherTech Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship.

Porsche Penske, however, has already locked in its drivers for the 2023 seasons.

“No doubt,” McLaughlin said when asked about his long-term interest in the Penske LMDh program.

“For me, [the ride with Tower] is a great introduction into this racing where I can learn and understand the race a little bit… If you can run an LMP2, it’s not too dissimilar to what the top class runs.

“I might not ever be a part of it and there’s nothing being promised to me about that – and I think the same thing is for Josef – but I think it’s just the fact of if I expand my CV by proving I’ve done this race before and then absolutely if Penske come up to me and the team said, ‘Would you like to drive that Porsche?’

“For sure, I’d love to do it. But ultimately this year is just focusing on Tower.”

Newgarden echoed his teammate’s thoughts.

“It’s hard to speak for the Penske Porsche Motorsport program,” he said.

“It’s very exciting to watch what they’re doing and obviously we’re big fans of it being within the team, seeing it grow and evolve and excited to see where it’s going to go.

“If there’s something that comes up down the road and they want to put us in the car, we’re going to be all about it, both Scott and I.”

Mark Robinson/IMSA News Wire contributed to this report

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