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McLaughlin set for Kiwi Supercars showdown

NZN 3/11/2016 Ben McKay

Scott McLaughlin is used to being in demand but, during the Supercars meet at Pukekohe this weekend, his popularity will be off the charts.

Among fans, along the grid and pit lane, McLaughlin is well liked.

His appeal extends to team owners.

Current boss Garry Rogers tried hard to keep the 23-year-old for another year but McLaughlin accepted a multi-million-dollar deal to join Roger Penske's emerging powerhouse garage.

And there's plenty of love for the Volvo driver in the stands and on the hills - and nowhere more so than his native New Zealand, and perhaps no time more than this weekend.

McLaughlin is the chief threat to Triple Eight's dominance of the series, sitting in fourth place behind championship leader Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes.

"I can really upset their party - their 1-2-3," he laughed.

In truth, the happy-go-lucky Christchurch native is too much of a nice guy to ruin anyone's day.

Van Gisbergen will enjoy huge support of his own, too, given he's a chance - albeit a slim one this weekend on home soil - to become the first New Zealander to win the Supercars championship in 25 years.

With a maximum of 600 points left to win at Pukekohe and Homebush in Sydney, the Aucklander is in a commanding position, 148 points ahead of Whincup and 385 clear of Lowndes.

McLaughlin said it added up to a win-win for the local crowds.

"I'm not out to spoil Shane. He's got his own thing to worry about and I've got my own thing," he said.

"Everything's good for New Zealanders; they've got plenty to pick from.

"They can cheer for me or someone else - Shane, Fabian (Coulthard), whoever - any time they can get a New Zealander to win, it's pretty good."

McLaughlin is 461 points off the mark, meaning his best hope would be to make ground on Lowndes to cement the best overall finish of his career and for his team.

"We've got on top of the car as the season's gone on," he said.

"We've been pretty consistent and still been running top six or seven which isn't too bad at all.

"But the competition is tough. We hit a really good spot at Surfers Paradise and, if we keep it in that range, we can go well at Pukekohe."

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