26 Nov 2018

Supercars title helps McLaughlin keep promise

6:28 pm on 26 November 2018

As he crossed the finish line to seal his maiden Supercars crown, and the tears streamed down inside his safety helmet, those at the track weren't the only ones on Scott McLaughlin's mind.

Scott McLaughlin crosses the finish line to win the 2018 Supercars title.

Scott McLaughlin crosses the finish line to win the 2018 Supercars title. Photo: Mark Horsburgh/Edge Photographics/Photosport

The DJR Team Penske driver was one of two Kiwis who had motorsport fans on both sides of the Tasman captivated over the weekend, as they battled bumper-to-bumber for championship supremacy.

After two races around the beach-side streets of Newcastle, on the New South Wales coast, McLaughlin eventually prevailed over countryman Shane van Gisbergen.

Even before the chequered flag had dropped, the 25-year-old had been wrestling with his emotions.

And not just because he was on the brink of achieving what he had been so cruelly denied in last year's thrilling final race.

"The last two laps got really emotional. I was thinking about what mum and dad were doing, what Karly was doing, my fiancé.

"I was just thinking, like, what we were going to do at the end. Then I was like 'come on, you've gotta keep working hard and [get] your head together'.

"It was just so surreal."

Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin with the Supercars championship trophy after his 2018 title triumph.

Kiwi driver Scott McLaughlin with the Supercars championship trophy after his 2018 title triumph. Photo: Mark Horsburgh/Edge Photographics/Photosport

Soaking in the feeling of becoming just the fourth New Zealander to win the Australian Touring Car title , McLaughlin's mind wandered to those who hadn't been able to be at the track.

At the end of 2015, he lost one of the most important people in his life when his grandmother died.

McLaughlin said, as much as anyone, the victory had been for her.

"We were very close. It was one of those things, she was my biggest fan and we promised each other we'd do this.

"She was a massive attention seeker, so I promised her I'd thank her in my speech.

"I did, so hopefully she was all happy."

Happy didn't begin to describe how McLaughlin himself was feeling.

So it was hardly a surprise to hear how he and the entire DJR Team Penske crew celebrated their triumph.

"Yea we certainly had a couple of sherbets here and there, and the trophy was filled up with beer and spirits and chicken mcnuggets.

"You can actually fit 40 mcnuggets in the trophy which is interesting.

"But yea I had an amazing night, some really cool speeches and it was a very emotional night, so very cool."

In the garage next door, it would have likely been an emotional night of a different kind.

By winning his first Supercars title, McLaughlin had denied fellow New Zealand driver Shane van Gisbergen his second.

The Red Bull Racing star had trailed the championship leader by just two points after winning Saturday's race ahead of McLaughlin in dramatic style.

But a subsequent pit-lane refuelling penalty stripped van Gisbergen of that victory.

While quick to congratulate his countryman, he said it was a shame the decision denied the two drivers a winner-takes-all scenario in Sunday's final race.

"Yea, it's a tough one.

"I'm still happy, it's still cool but yea I dunno, I just feel a bit gutted the series [officials] did what they did.

"I would have loved to fight on equal points, then we would have had a bit more motivation than we did ... we were all a bit dejected.

"But yea, still proud."

As for McLaughlin, you sensed the celebrating wasn't over yet.

And when it finally was, he said getting that winning feeling back would be the only thing on his mind.

"For me, I guess in some ways the monkey is off the back.

"It's such a relief that I've finally done it. That's one goal ticked, and now I've got a couple more things I want to do."

Joining Jim Richards as the only Kiwi to win back-to-back Australian Touring Car titles seemed a pretty good place to start.