The first round of the 2022 NTT Indycar Series has begun with history made at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Taking out a maiden victory in the series was three-time Supercars and Australian Touring Car Champion Scott McLaughlin, while Australian and Team Penske teammate Will Power finished third behind Spaniard Alex Palou.
Both McLaughlin and Power were towards the top of the field for much of the weekend with the Kiwi star going fastest in practice two and Power fastest in the second round of qualification.
However when it came to the final qualifying session, the Firestone Fast 6, it was McLaughlin who secured his first ever Indy pole position, edging out Power by just one tenth of a second.
As for the race, both Team Penske drivers were once again occupied the front of the field throughout the 100-lap race, with McLaughlin leading from the front for almost half the race.
Even though he led for an accumulated total of 49 laps, McLaughlin didn’t regain his final lead until lap 80 where he passed Scott Dixon after his fellow countryman took a third pit stop.
From then on, McLaughlin controlled the race but battled with last year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner in Alex Palou, who closed the gap to within half a second with just a couple of laps to go.
Despite Palou trying to reign McLaughlin back in, he was unable to catch McLaughlin who crossed the finish line in front of a roaring crowd just five tenths ahead of the Spaniard. Watch here.
It took McLaughlin just 18 starts to secure his first IndyCar victory having moved to the US in 2021 after winning three consecutive Supercars titles between 2018 and 2020.
“Thank you to Roger Penske, everyone. DEX Imaging jumping on board, trusting me, and then Roger Penske and Tim Cindric giving me the opportunity to come here,” McLaughlin said post-race.
“I miss my mum and dad dearly and my family. Wish you guys were here. What a day.
“It was crazy. Really struggled those last couple laps just to keep my head and then save the fuel and all that sort of stuff.
“But we did it. Chevy gave us the fuel mileage. Drivability this weekend has been a change, and to win at DEX Imaging's home race is unreal. Oh, my God, I'm just – love you Australia, New Zealand, miss you guys. Thinking of everyone in the Queensland floods at the moment.”
Although Power was unable to notch up his first win for the year, it was still a solid performance from the Queenslander, who even led the race for a lap.
Eventually he finished two seconds behind McLaughlin but was comfortably in third place with the next driver in Colin Herta more than 13 seconds behind.
Click here to view the full results from the race.
The next round of the NTT Indycar Series will be the Xpel 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on 20 March.