Friday, August 12, 2022

Back home again: McLaughlin family reunited after 31 months

Indianapolis ( Associated Press) — Wayne McLaughlin saw his son for the first time in 31 months to see how much weight he had lost.

Scott McLaughlin moved to the United States in late 2020 to become an IndyCar driver, and pandemic restrictions in Australia and New Zealand have prevented him from saying goodbye to his family. Finally able to travel outside New Zealand, his parents began their 14th trip to the United States to drive their son to the Indianapolis 500.

Wayne and Diane McLaughlin’s overdue reunion took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was weird, I was a little nervous seeing them,” Scott McLaughlin told the Associated Press. “It was all energy and excitement and I was weirdly nervous.”

FaceTime had kept the family engaged, but those calls had not prepared his parents about how they would find their 28-year-old son. McLaughlin lost weight when he left Australia, where he won three consecutive V8 supercar championships, but then had to build up the muscle to handle cars that lacked power steering and traveled more than 200 mph. Used to do

“We knew he had lost a lot of weight,” Wayne McLaughlin told the Associated Press. “He was always a very fat guy, he was already solid enough, and I was shocked to see him.”

There was more to come.

McLaughlin’s parents watched qualifying from the Team Penske pit stall and his mother could not pick up the pace, which topped 230 mph (370.15 kph).

“I was looking for a bucket,” laughed Diane McLaughlin.

Wayne and Diane enjoyed racing as a couple before the birth of their two children. He bought his son a go-kart for his seventh birthday as a hobby, but didn’t let him run for the first six months.

When they finally made their entry into the competitions, the kid turned out great. Wayne McLaughlin decided to move the family from New Zealand to Australia – partly for the trucking business owned by Wayne – but also to advance his son’s career.

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“Wayne said, ‘If he’s going to be good at racing, if he wants to get into V8s, we really need to be in Australia,'” Diane McLaughlin said. “And I’m going, ‘The kid is only nine!

“Diane kept saying ‘This is pie-in-the-sky stuff!'” recalled Wayne McLaughlin. “So when he won his first championship I said, ‘Pie-in-the-sky stuff, eh?'”

It didn’t take long for Wayne McLaughlin to realize it wasn’t “father and son racing anymore” and got some help with one rule: absolutely no open-wheel racing.

But then McLaughlin made it to the V8 supercar, and then Roger Penske was bought into the team with McLaughlin and the Kiwis becoming a full-blown star in Australia.

“Things were great before Roger Penske, but Roger took everything to a completely different level. He took Scotty’s career to a completely different level,” said Wayne McLaughlin.

The team wanted to take McLaughlin to America to race Penske. McLaughlin believed this would be a NASCAR opportunity; Instead Penske took him to an IndyCar – an open-wheel series.

“But he’s grown up now, what shall we say?” asked Wayne McLaughlin.

It was terrifying for his parents, but conversations with Penske and team president Tim Sindrick “assured us that they would look after our boy,” said Wayne McLaughlin.

When the pandemic began, McLaughlin was finishing his final supercar season in Australia while his parents were in New Zealand. The travel lockdown prevented them from seeing each other before McLaughlin and his wife went abroad.

For the first time in his career his parents were not a part of it. McLaughlin was racing more than 8,000 miles away in a series he felt uncomfortable with and knew little about.

The rims around Wayne McLaughlin’s eyes turned pink and tears went down several times as he spoke about the 31 months he last saw his son and the trip he made without him.

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“We were heartbroken,” says Wayne McLaughlin.

“We didn’t get to say goodbye,” Diane said.

“And now he’s going to America and going into a category that’s the best in the world and we can’t be there and we’ve been with him since he was just a boy,” Wayne continued.

It required waking up at 4 a.m. to watch his son compete in his IndyCar rookie season, relying on McLaughlin’s wife, Carly, to keep him informed during race weekend, and a lot of yelling at the television. Wayne McLaughlin went viral when his son posted a video of his “number one fan”.

When McLaughlin’s sister arrives this week, it will be the first time the whole family will be together since McLaughlin’s wedding in 2019. Her parents’ visa is good for 12 weeks and they will travel to nine IndyCar races and spend time at Scott and Carly. North Carolina home.

They’re ardent fans of America – this week marks the McLaughlins’ 14th trip to America, their parents visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway years ago, and Wayne McLaughlin has a picture of the American flag covering the back window of his Chevrolet Silverado. Decl is.

The opportunity for his son to move to his favorite country and drive for Roger Penske, who promised McLaughlin, was in good hands, was too good to pass up.

“They knew we were very worried and they pushed security, Roger invited us after the wedding to see the shop in Charlotte and meet everyone, and it made us feel better,” Wayne McLaughlin said. “It’s a new race for us. But we’re here now and we can’t wait to see Scotty at the Indy 500.”

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More Associated Press Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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