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McLaughlin “pumped” despite missing Mid-Ohio pole

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Scott McLaughlin said he was satisfied with a front-row start at Mid-Ohio as “we've had this coming for a while.”

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

The former Supercars ace started off his second season in the IndyCar Series with a pole and victory at St. Petersburg, but today’s performance around the 2.238-mile track in Lexington, OH. was his strongest qualifying result on a road course. He finished the session 0.1324sec adrift of IndyCar’s ninth different pole-winner in nine races, Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet.

“We felt like we’ve had reasonable pace, and we've been wanting to sort of build on that bit by bit,” said McLaughlin, “and to finally sort of nail it in qualifying and get through to the Fast Six and keep going was nice. Then to compete for pole and be as close as we were to Pato was fun.

“Really pumped for tomorrow. It's all about qualifying here in some ways, so hopefully look forward to starting off good and getting on with it.”

Regarding his final flyer on the softer alternate tires in the Firestone Fast Six, McLaughlin said there were two areas he recognized cost him a bit of time. One was Turn 12, which serves as Turn 1 for qualifying, before the timing line is moved to the start/finish line overnight, and Turn 2, the 180 degree Keyhole hairpin.

“Yeah, I didn't quite nail Turn 12, which is the first turn, and then, probably Turn 2, I went really deep,” he said. “Yeah, Turn 2. Probably cost myself a little bit of time there.

“But look, I think Pato's lap was pretty stout. I think that's very strong, to be honest. When I crossed the line I was like, ‘That must be pretty close, if not pole,’ because we did a run early in qualifying on a used set and went out in 67.5.

“To do a 66.8 was good, and then Pato's 66.7, so it shows how much the track evolved. Anyway, I deliberately told the guys, ‘Don't tell me the time that I'm chasing; just let me drive.’ That sort of worked out well.”

After winning in St. Pete and finishing a close second at Texas Motor Speedway, McLaughlin hasn’t finished in the top five since, yet he said that was less frustrating than last year when he was often struggling to find the ultimate pace he needed in qualifying.

“I went through so much adversity last year that this was nothing, this is water off a duck's back in some ways to what was going on,” he said. “The last few races unfortunately haven't gone great for us. We were competing potentially to be in top 5s and whatnot. It's not like the pace wasn't there.

“Last year we lost ourselves a little bit because the pace wasn't there. That's what was the tough pill to swallow. But yeah, certainly last year shaped me to be, ‘Trust the process, trust what I'm doing is right.’ I've got two great teammates in Josef [Newgarden] and Will [Power] who I fully believe could have been right here next to me if they had got through qualifying without any issues.

“Really feeding off them and really feeding off the team and Ben [Bretzman, race engineer], and that relationship is going well, too.”

McLaughlin’s Odyssey Battery-backed #3 car is the sole Penske-Chevy in the top dozen, as neither Power nor Newgarden escaped their Q1 segments. Newgarden couldn’t quite nail a strong enough lap while his Firestone alternates were at their peak grip, and Power had his best two lap times deleted after unintentionally impeding one of Helio Castroneves’ laps during his own out lap.

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