Three-times Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin has recorded a stunning podium finish in his maiden oval race in his IndyCar rookie season.
The 27-year-old Kiwi finished just 0.2646 seconds behind countryman Scott Dixon on Saturday night in the first of two races on consecutive days at the first oval track this season.
“I’ve never been so bloody happy for second,” McLaughlin said.
“It was bloody cool battling my all-time favourite hero.
“Two Kiwis one and two is fantastic. My mum and dad is watching at home for sure.”
McLaughlin said he almost let the emotion of the occasion get to him late in the race.
“The last caution period, I was (like) holy crap. I was looking at the crowd and I was getting all excited. I’m just so proud,” he said.
Dixon passed Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and pole-sitter Alex Palou at the start of the third lap and went on to lead 206 of 212 laps for his 51st career victory, his fifth at the high-banked Texas Motor Speedway.
The 40-year-old New Zealander maintained his lead despite the fast-charging McLaughlin.
“Who doesn’t love Texas. I love this place,” defending series champion Dixon said.
“I was looking down, and looking in the mirror. He was fast.”
Dixon moved within one of matching Mario Andretti’s 52 victories for the second-most on the career list that A.J. Foyt tops with 67.
Dixon has now won a race in 19 different seasons, breaking a tie with Foyt for the most. Dixon last year won his sixth season title, one short of Foyt’s record seven.
Pato O’Ward finished third, with Palou fourth ahead of Graham Rahal and Josef Newgaden.
Australian Will Power, McLaughlin’s fellow Team Penske driver, was as high as third but fell to a disappointing 14th.
“Things just didn’t work out our way today, but we’ll be back ready for tomorrow …,” Power tweeted.
There have been three different winners in three IndyCar races this season.
Dixon won last June in what was the opener in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
After qualifying was washed out, the grid for the double-header was determined by the entrant points.
Having taken the series lead, Dixon will start race two on Sunday from pole position with Palou alongside him.
Power has maintained third in the standings which is where he will line-up from.
McLaughlin’s second-place finish, after a 14th and 11th at the opening two rounds, has vaulted him to seventh in the standings.