Scott McLaughlin faced the unique challenge of not falling asleep between qualifying and the virtual race that marked his first success in IndyCar.
The Supercars ace triumphed in the virtual running of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama over the weekend, McLaughlin holding off Will Power by 0.4s to claim his first bit of IndyCar silverware.
That was despite facing the unique challenge of simply staying awake.
Racing from his Brisbane home, McLaughlin needed to be awake before 3am on Sunday to prepare for qualifying.
He then had to make sure he didn’t fall asleep before qualifying and the start of the race.
By the time he crossed the finish line for the 45-lap, it still hadn’t quite gone 6am in the Queensland capital.
“The alarm went off at 2.50 am – I wanted to give myself the best chance to be ready to roll for qualifying and the race,” McLaughlin explained in a newsletter for personal sponsor Grove Racing.
“A strong coffee, some toast, and juice followed. A few stretches to wake up and I was set to jet.
“The gap before the race was a challenge. I was trying my best not to fall asleep – can you imagine if I missed the start of the race because I nodded off?”
McLaughlin’s success in the race came thanks to a well-executed two-stop strategy, which gave him track position early and then put him on fresh rubber to chase down Scott Speed and Power in the final stint.
He says some help from Team Penske was invaluable, having tried to do his own race management in the season opener.
“We were always planning to stop twice – I have to thank Penske’s lead engineer Jonathan Diuguid who set me up brilliantly,” he wrote.
“Last week at Watkins Glen I tried to organise the whole race myself. It was too much to remember fuel numbers while I was out there racing. This allowed me just to focus on steering the thing as fast as I could.
“It was the weirdest Sunday I’ve ever lived. But also one of the most satisfying – to win my first IndyCar iRacing Series race was a bloody thrill.
“I know it’s clearly not the real thing, but this was a cool box to tick.
“I was that pumped sitting in my simulator in Brisbane, winning a race in Alabama on the other side of the earth.”
Adding to McLaughlin’s excitement was getting to share the grid with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson.
“I’m a massive NASCAR fan, so to be racing against Jimmie, in particular, was surreal,” he added.
“He even followed me on Twitter on Sunday morning which was a thrill!”
McLaughlin will be back in action tomorrow night for the opening round of the Supercars All Stars Eseries.
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