Scott McLaughlin was dejected but cracking smiles despite losing to teammate Josef Newgarden by just .0669s in the Xpel 375.
The 28-year-old New Zealander led a race-high 186 laps but an encounter with lapped traffic allowed Newgarden to snatch the win in the final corner of the race.
“Yeah, look, I’m gutted. I’ll reevaluate everything over the next few days. But it’s funny, like last year I was fist-pumping and jumping out of the car finishing second. I’m like today, It sucks. That’s how it is. That’s how we’re growing. I’ll learn from this, get better.
“Yeah, I probably just need to expand, maybe risk a little bit more when I need, to try different lines. I’ll learn for the big one coming up in May.”
The former Supercars Championship champion turned a near-flawless drive – nearly mirroring his win on the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He saw little challenge up front much of the day and traded the lead with Newgarden, Rinus VeeKay and teammate Will Power in the penultimate stint.
The final stint resulted in his No. 3 Xpel Chevrolet losing grip in lapped traffic which allowed Newgarden to overtake him in the final corner.
“Looking back at it, if I would have thought about it in my head, which I already have done a million times, my car was tightening up, especially in traffic,” he said. “It probably wasn’t handling exactly how it had at the start earlier in the race. I was sort of maxed out on my tools. I was trying to control the traffic, couldn’t catch the traffic too much. At the end the traffic checked up into me.
“I knew there were going to be dramas in three and four. I struggled with my turns at three and four. I guess I wasn’t prepared to take the risk on the outside at 3-4, which looking back at it I should have. My teammate Josef, obviously Josef chose to. Once he was on the outside of me, I can’t do anything.”
The result bolstered McLaughlin’s lead in the NTT IndyCar Series championship to 28 over teammate Will Power. The win also gave Team Penske their 600th win as an organization. Losing to his teammate gave him some solace along with the team scoring a milestone 600th win.
“One thing is great, 600 wins for the captain,” he said. “Literally if anyone else beat me, I would be pissed. I’m kind of pissed now, but you know what I mean. 600 wins for the team. We led a lot of laps, extended the championship lead.
“Yeah, I’m a race driver. I want to win. It definitely hurts.”