With the imminent retirement of Craig Lowndes at end the end of the 2018 Supercars season the category will have a large hole to fill when it comes to fan engagement.

Lowndes has been the poster boy for decades and still is the face of fan engagement.

Just key into the google machine "Craig Lowndes meets fans" and you'll note the smile and genuine warmth on his face beaming with enough wattage to power a small village. I am by no means suggesting that the rest of the drivers in the category don't engage with the fans — I've seen it first hand on many occasions — it's just that Lowndes has some sort of X-factor the fans, young and old, seem to gravitate towards.

Wandering around the pit area at this weekend's 10th round of the series at Sydney Motorsport Park, I couldn't help but notice a whole bunch of folk hovering around Scott McLaughlin like bees around a honey pot. The Kiwi was trying to make his way to his pit garage and despite being mobbed, he made a bit of time for everyone including the inevitable plethora of selfies with people from the age of five to 65.


I reckon Supercars may have the Lowndes' fan magnet heir apparent in the New Zealander. I say this not as a biased New Zealander myself, but based on the simple fact of having watched him live at race meetings since his debut in the main game in 2012.

The bloke has not only matured as a young man, but also as a race driver and his natural way with fans shows he genuinely invested in the people who turn up to watch the racing and are the corner stone of the sport.

"I've always enjoyed that part [meeting the fans] of a race weekend," McLaughlin told the Herald. "It's just one of those things, you know, they are the backbone of the sport.

"It's great they want to see me and it's better than being thought of as a flog [Someone who is disliked by someone, or the public, because they lack any credibility. Basically a d**k]. It's also nice to have some support.

"Some people say you've got to have a race head and head for the fans. I don't think so, for me that's all bull sh*t. It's not hard to switch of and I enjoy being myself."

With an attitude like that, and the understanding that the fans are at the top of the list when it comes to making a sport successful, McLaughlin might just be next fan beacon. It also helps that he's young, engaging, stays true to himself, has a down at home sense of humour and can be self effacing along the way. Oh! And being consistently quick and an exciting racer who just happens to be leading the championship probably helps as well.