McLaughlin’s pledge to avenge 2017 loss
SCOTT McLaughlin says he is prepared to "get some elbows out" to protect his championship lead as the Supercars title goes on the line at Newcastle this weekend.
Just 14 points separates McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen ahead of the season-ending Newcastle 500, where 12 months ago the Ford star suffered a dramatic collapse to gift the series to Jamie Whincup.
And it won't just be van Gisbergen he has to watch out for on the streets of Newcastle.
In the last round in Auckland, McLaughlin saw off the challenge of Whincup to charge to victory, only for the Red Bull driver to then slow down and allow teammate van Gisbergen to overtake him into second place to limit the championship points he lost.
Last year McLaughlin was flooring his way to his first ever title when he squandered a 78-point series lead and pole position after three penalties during Sunday's 250km race.
"It obviously didn't go to plan 12 month ago,'' McLaughlin said.
"But I feel like I am a different driver now. I am a lot more calm now and I am ready to take this opportunity.''
Knowing he may have to face the threat of van Gisbergen, Whincup and Holden's Craig Lowndes, McLaughlin said "If I have to get some elbows out then I will."
"If not I am also happy to race Shane hard and fair as we always do."
The DJR Team Penske pilot has promised not to repeat his past mistakes, admitting the pressure got to him.
"I was a little bit under the pump last year,'' McLaughlin said.
"And I was a bit shy of the situation. I didn't really know what to expect. But I am heading in with a bit more experience.
"It is big for me but I know my car is fast because we have had a win and two poles there. It didn't go to plan but we were still fast."
And McLaughlin is backing that quickness, his stronger mentality and love for the Newcastle circuit will help him secure a maiden championship.
"I really enjoy the track so it always helps,'' McLaughlin said.
"I will do what I need to do to win this championship and I will work hard.
"There is no stress on that part and I think we proved we can pull off some good passes by
almost coming back through the field last year to be where we needed to be. I am excited and it is going to be an awesome showdown for Supercars. It will be also very special for NZ to have a kiwi one-two.''
McLaughlin said he will not change his approach heading into the do-or-die showdown.
"I feel good in my preparation,'' McLaughlin said.
"I am not changing anything or doing anything differently. I think I am as ready as I am ever going to be.
"I head into Newcastle with the championship lead and it is obviously a massive achievement by everyone in the team to be able to get to this position. There is a reason why we are here and that is because we have been really good. We have worked hard as a team and for me mentality wise we don't need to change a thing.''
The Newcastle 500 begins with practice on Friday.