The 20-lap final, which was split into two segments, saw McLaughlin as the main challenger to Alex Palouwho had been a standout throughout a weekend that included nine hours of testing on Friday and Saturday.

Even though the 30-year-old New Zealander displayed strong pace, he was left watching the rear wing of Palou’s No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda sail off into the distance and claim victory by 5.7929s.

Although McLaughlin sported a smile during the post-race media availability, mostly for the $350,000 prize money that he shared will go towards his mortgage, he reflected at the beginning of the contest.

The beginning of his heat race, where he started and finished second, his mirrors caught the melee that retired Romain Grosjean (Hollinger Racing Juncos) after following contact from six-time series champion Scott Dixon.

“I was lucky not to get caught up with the kerfuffle with Grosjean, him going backwards,” McLaughlin said.

“I could see it in my mirror. Me and Felix [Rosenqvist] both went wide. Interesting to get your thoughts on it. I saw him. I’m sure he did… This is not going to be good.

“Obviously, [Grosjean] hit Rinus [VeeKay] behind us. I got away with that.

“Settled into a rhythm. Felt like we had a good speed in the heat race.”

Felix Rosenqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, leads Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevy

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Then, in the final, the first segment saw the field settle into a rhythm with minimal passes made in an effort to conserve tires, which could not be changed at the halftime break.

“In the final race, we were pretty conserving, looking after our tires at the start, being smart, knowing there’s guys that were going crazy slow, almost too slow I feel like, from a racing perspective,” McLaughlin said.

“[At] the start of race two [second segment of final], I tried to have a go at Alex, but ultimately he was just a little bit faster with that clean air. It was always going to be clean air was going to be king this weekend. I settled in, tried to maximize what I had. That was second today.”

Uniquely, the second half of the final was not a double-file restart. Instead, the field was lined up in a single file.

Despite that, though, McLaughlin was still able to press briefly but Palou built up enough spacing with his initial launch.

“I had a really good run actually,” McLaughlin said. “I sort of felt that’s where Alex was going to go.

“Felix actually went at that same point the run before. I sort of pre-empted it, hoping he would go to the same spot. That’s exactly where I would go at the start of the restart as well.

“Got a decent start but couldn’t get close enough to make a move. But I was proud of the day. Thought we maximized what he we could. “We’re happy.”

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