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On Saturday when he was looking likely for a grid 15 start in the 33-car line-up for the upcoming Indianapolis 500, his team gambled by withdrawing his qualifying speed of 231.543 miles per hour to try to improve his starting spot with a second attempt.
This proved costly, as shortly before making that attempt the track was temporarily closed due to rain.
On the resumption of qualifying McLaughlin, who was first on, dropped further down the grid with a qualifying average speed from his four-lap stint of 230.154mph.
That will now see him start from grid 26, beside last year's winner Helio Castroneves (Brazil).
The other New Zealand entrant, Scott Dixon, is to contest the Pole Shootout, with the 12 fastest drivers racing the clock to earn pole position.
The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be raced on Sunday, May 29 (local time), with drivers competing for a $US10 million ($NZ15.6 million) prize pool.
- By Allan Batt