McLaughlin wins the 1st IndyCar race at St. Pete in the season opener

Scott McLaughlin won his first IndyCar race and fell off his winning car at the celebration.

McLaughlin wins the 1st IndyCar race at St. Pete in the season opener

He was out of breath and sat down on the car to recover. He jumped again because his exhaust was burning through his firesuit.

He then sat down on the ground and video-called his parents in New Zealand. They listened to the race via the IndyCar App. McLaughlin has been away from his family for over two years due to the pandemic. They have yet to see McLaughlin race in his new home or new series.

McLaughlin finally called for cold beer. But when he saw Australians celebrating in victory lane, McLaughlin turned up the heat. McLaughlin took off his racing boots and poured the beer inside to make a Shoey -- Aussie style. His favorite racing shoes were destroyed by this move.

McLaughlin finally made it official by proving his decision to leave Australia following three consecutive V8 Supercars Championships and join IndyCar. McLaughlin, 28, had a tough first year but he won Sunday's IndyCar race through St. Petersburg's downtown streets.

McLaughlin stated, "I knew that I was a rookie, and I didn't think I was kidding myself." "I don’t work like that. I'm a competitive bloke. I want to win. I want poles. I want to be the dominant racer and not worry about anything. After doing that for four years, I came here. It just mucks up with my head. You have to be realistic about everything.

"I put a lot pressure on myself, such as, "Why isn’t this happening?" Why is it that I am failing to qualify when I'm good at it? I've done it before and I can prove that. It's a mental game and you have to master it. It's important to believe in yourself.

The New Zealander will now have to see where his first win takes him. IndyCar's season opener winner has been the champion the last three years.

"Oh, mate. I don't know. McLaughlin stated that his chances of winning the title were low-key. "Let's not be afraid to be the underdog for a while."

McLaughlin made IndyCar's debut at St. Pete in 2020's season finale. He called it "far out" and "the most memorable day of my life, apart from my wedding." Even though he was forced to leave early due to a crash. McLaughlin made qualifying his priority on his third return trip and received his first career pole.

Although he led 49 of the 100 laps, he had to finish ahead of Alex Palou, reigning IndyCar champion over the final laps in order to win the race. McLaughlin was stopped by Devlin DeFrancesco (the rookie on the lead lap), on the final lap around the track. Palou was able to see a pass for the lead once more, but couldn't make it close enough. McLaughlin then followed DeFrancesco over the finish line to win another victory for Team Penske.

It was close. Palou stated that it was close but not at the same pace as he did. He was on rails, and he knew exactly where to go fast and also where to save fuel. "I was there to put some pressure on him so I hope he didn't make any mistakes."

McLaughlin was standing on top of his car in victory Lane to celebrate, but then he fell to the ground in excitement.

He said, "I couldn’t believe it, my legs wouldn’t move, they were jelly like." "And I was done when I hit the ground. I tried to be as delicate as possible, but I looked like a wombat.

Roger Penske, the team owner, gave him a hug and greeted him with a smile. Roger Penske celebrated his 85th birthday just a week ago with Austin Cindric winning in Daytona 500.

McLaughlin sighed as he sat in his car, trying to catch his breath. He was the one who calmed my nerves last year. He said, "Hey, it’s a long tale, not a quick one." It was a proud moment to pay back his faith and show the trust he placed in me.

Under a clear sky, temperatures of near 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) at the checkered flag, it was a relief to sit in the car.

"My butt's getting burned. He said, "Oh, that hurt, from the exhaust." "Oh my god, I just -- love Australia, New Zealand. Miss you guys. Thinking of all those affected by the Queensland floods. But oh, I can't believe it."

Team Penske's wins by McLaughlin and Cindric are a significant turn. Last season, Penske didn't manage to get an IndyCar driver in victory lane until the 10th round. The team has come a long way in 2022. Joey Logano won NASCAR’s exhibition Busch Clash at Los Angeles, and Penske has now won three consecutive races to begin the year. Cindric began from the pole in the NASCAR race at California later Sunday.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Palou was second, followed by Honda's Honda teammate, Will Power. Will Power started on the front row alongside Penske teammate McLaughlin. Will Power was third to place a pair of Chevrolets onto the podium.

Colton Herta was the race winner and favourite and was followed by Romain Grosjean, his teammate, in his debut with the team. Ed Carpenter Racing's Rinus VeeKay placed sixth, while Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Graham Rahal placed seventh.

Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson, Ganassi drivers, were eighth and ninth respectively. Takuma Sato was in his debut with Dale Coyne racing to complete the top 10.

Next Up: IndyCar will race at Texas Motor Speedway on March 20, which will mark Jimmie Johnson's IndyCar oval debut. Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Champion, won seven times at Texas.