Scott McLaughlin drives Team Penske's No. 3 XPEL Chevrolet during the 2023 Hy-Vee Iowa IndyCar weekend

Photo: James Black / Penske Entertainment

If you’ve used social media in racing circles before, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the phrase “Penske Perfect.” Basically, it refers to the absolutely meticulous way Roger Penske manages his racing teams: everything from crews outfitted in pressed polos to the cleanliness of the golf carts used by the team to shuttle personnel around. But at the 2023 Hy-Vee IndyCar race weekend at Iowa Speedway, I learned that the Penske Perfect extends even as far as its sponsors. In this case, that sponsor is XPEL.

Full Disclosure: XPEL hosted me at the Hy-Vee IndyCar weekend at Iowa, where they put me up in a gorgeous hotel and let me loose to terrorize the race track.

XPEL offers protective films and coatings for everything from your cars to your house’s windows, and at the moment, the company is the primary sponsor of Team Penske No. 3 driver Scott McLaughlin for a handful of races. Part of that deal actually includes utilizing XPEL’s protective film on McLaughlin’s race car.

Racing is a sport where the most minute margins are the difference between success and failure— so it was a little surprising for me to learn that a team would willingly apply an additional layer of film, knowing that the extra grams of weight it would add could be the difference between a win and finishing outside of the top five. In fact, I had an opportunity to tour Dale Coyne Racing’s garage during the Indy 500 weekend, where I learned that every one of its cars is actually hand painted, since a thin coat of paint actually weighs less than a wrap. Those are the kind of margins we’re talking about. A clear protective film seems antithetical to the entire Penske mission.

I should have known better. Over the weekend, I learned that the protective coating has a legitimate, well-considered purpose.

The protective coating only remains on McLaughlin’s car during practice sessions; it’s removed immediately afterward for qualifying and the race. See, that unofficial “Penske Perfect” motto also pertains to the No. 3’s livery; by using the protective coating in practice, Penske can guarantee that the livery will be in pristine condition come the most important parts of the weekend — the parts of the weekend where marginal differences weight matters the most.

During the Iowa weekend, drivers only had one practice session — and yes, XPEL’s protective films were in use during that single session. Even if it’s only for a moment, presentation matters. 

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