Down about a quarter of a second from pole, McLaughlin clawed his way back to qualify just .0097 seconds slower than Felix Rosenqvist's pole position-winning lap and the Kiwi will start second in Sunday's Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey to close the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season.
“I dropped wheels in the dirt, nearly all four in the dirt, at Turn 10,” McLaughlin said. “Basically held it flat and it stuck. Yeah, after that it was just an ultimate send everywhere.”
McLaughlin started his qualifying journey by setting the second-fastest time in the second group of the first round of qualifying at 1:06.8761. The three-time Supercars champion was also second-fastest in the second round of qualifying with a lap of 1:06.5662 to advance to the Firestone Fast Six.
The final round of qualifying started with McLaughlin setting the fastest initial lap of 1:07.0886. Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden and Christian Lundgaard all reset fastest lap in the six-minute session before Felix Rosenqvist grabbed hold of the top spot to win pole position.
While McLaughlin could not overcome the Turn 10 error, his final lap was good enough to secure his seventh front row starting position of the season when not including the pole position at Gateway that an engine penalty negated.
“We were on the limit,” McLaughlin said. “We were just saying in the trailer, it's so hard to put it together, as you can see by all the red flags and stuff this weekend. The limit is so small, but you have to be on it. I said to Tim Cindric yesterday, ‘This is why you come IndyCar racing. This is why everybody is talking about it. It's why it's so cool. You're so close to the limit. There's nothing left in the car. The downforce, you're right on the maximum of everything.”
IndyCar's Sunday morning warmup session will be at 9:00 a.m. local time, or 2:00 a.m. Monday AEST. The broadcast for the 95-lap race will start at 11:30 a.m. local time, or 4:30 a.m. Monday AEST.