Supercars champ’s secret ‘freak out’
SUPERCARS champion Scott McLaughlin has revealed the post-race penalty handed down to title rival Shane van Gisbergen left him "freaking out" ahead of the series' final race in Newcastle on Sunday.
After 2016 champion van Gisbergen was hit with a 25-second penalty for a pit-lane breach in Saturday's race - stripping him of a dramatic win and relegating him to fifth - McLaughlin has revealed he then realised he had no excuse not to charge through to win his maiden Supercars crown on the Sunday.
McLaughlin sealed the 2018 title with second place in the season finale, ensuring he finished 71 points clear of Holden rival Shane van Gisbergen in the closest season finish in a decade.
While van Gisbergen's penalty denied fans the epic final race shootout for the championship, McLaughlin was just one mistake away from branding himself as an iconic choker if van Gisbergen had have been able to steal the crown in the final race of the season - just as teammate Jamie Whincup did the previous year.
McLaughlin admitted he had a bad case of deja vu before winning DJR Team Penske's first drivers' title on Sunday.
McLaughlin should have been happy after his series lead over van Gisbergen was boosted from just two points to 53 before the final race after his Holden rival was penalised for a pit-lane breach during his Saturday win. It ensured McLaughlin only had to finish in the top six on Sunday to claim a maiden championship.
Instead of receiving a confidence boost by the points bump, McLaughlin was reminded of his nightmare 2017 season finale when he let a 78 point lead slip to finish second behind Jamie Whincup.
"If anything it put more pressure on myself. I had more to lose," McLaughlin said.
"I put more pressure on myself after that. I started freaking out a little bit.
"It was kind of similar to where we were last year.
"I was like 'oh my God, is this deja vu?
"As a driver it was pretty pressure-cooker the entire year, I think that's why the emotion at the end, it was just such a relief for everyone at the end."
No. 17 driver McLaughlin's victory gave a fitting send-off for the Ford Falcon with all Ford teams to use Mustangs next year.
The Supercars championship win capped a remarkable year for US motorsport legend Roger Penske, in which his Team Penske claimed the Supercars title, NASCAR title, sealed the Indianapolis 500 for a record 17th time and celebrated their 500th victory across all categories.
- with AAP