Scott McLaughlin torched the timesheets in an eventful second practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that was plagued by crashes and red flags.
Piloting the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet, the second-year driver surged to the top with a stunning flying lap at 59.7342 seconds around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. The lap, which came on a set of alternate (red sidewall) tires, was set just prior to the third and final red flag on the session (more on that in a moment) with just over eight minutes remaining. Additionally, the stunning performance put him as the only driver to hit a lap under a minute, with defending race winner Colton Herta finishing 0.3509 of a second behind to claim his second runner-up outing in as many sessions this weekend.
“The DEX Imaging Chevy feels really great,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve worked really hard with my engineer, Ben Bretzman, to fine-tune what I want from this car, and I’m very proud of this team.
“But at the end of the day, it’s only practice, and there’s no such thing as a perfect lap, so I’ll work on it and get better. We know we’re going to have to come back stronger because, man, it’s going to be tight.”
Simon Pagenaud ended up a narrow 0.0002 behind Herta in third, with Alexander Rossi and Will Power completing the rest of the top five.
Rinus VeeKay, Alex Palou, rookie Kyle Kirkwood, Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist cleaned out the rest of the top 10.
There were several incidents in the 45-minute session, each of which brought out red flags. The first came virtue of Jack Harvey, who clipped the inside wall of Turn 9 before making heavy contact with the outside wall upon exit.
The second incident involved Romain Grosjean, who plowed into the back of Takuma Sato coming into Turn 10, lifting the rear of Sato’s No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda and forcing an early retirement for both drivers.
Then, reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou crashed hard into the outside wall at the exit of Turn 9 in similar fashion to Harvey’s earlier incident.
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Qualifying begins later today at 12:30-1:45 p.m. ET, which will be streamed live on Peacock and the IndyCar Radio Network.