By and large, the Frenchman dominated the Grand Prix of Alabama. He qualified on pole position and led a large portion of the race only to cede the top spot in the final stanza.
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Grosjean, who opted to make two pit stops, held a comfortable lead until a safety car intervention bunched up the field and gave McLaughlin a free kick.
The Andretti Autosport driver was a sitting duck in the dying stages of the race, losing the lead to McLaughlin after a costly mistake before going on the defensive to save second spot.
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It's the fifth time in Grosjean's short IndyCar career that he has finished second, and the second in a row.
"Hurt, I'm going to be honest," said Grosjean when asked how he felt after finishing runner-up again.
"The three-stop never wins in Barber – but today.
"The pits stayed open, that gave McLaughlin the edge on that three-stop.
"I mean, look at the two-stop behind us, 20 seconds behind.
"We had an incredible car, drove really well, gave it 100 per cent, but we just got unlucky with that yellow.
"Michael (Andretti, team owner) came and said 'Don't get your head down' that was one of the best drives he's ever seen.
"So what do you want to say? I gave it all. It was good with Scott, congrats to him, he deserves the win."
Although a hard-charging Will Power threatened to take second spot, Grosjean wasn't worried he might slip to third by the chequered flag.
The Team Penske driver had superior speed but dirty air caused by driving in Grosjean's wake scuppered Power's hopes.
"They were better on fuel but I knew his reds would be at the end of their life," said Grosjean.
"I wasn't too worried about it. I was really more worried about the fuel number and the tyres getting cold and making a mistake."
Grosjean's quest for a win nearly came to pass at the season-opener when he also took pole position and led for the lion's share.
In that instance, it was McLaughlin who made a mistake and took Grosjean out of the race after he ended up buried in the tyre barrier.
"Our day will come," he said.
"Today was like St Petersburg. Anyway, onto the next one."
The IndyCar Series continues in two weeks' time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 14.
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