MONTEREY, Calif. – Team Penske rookie driver Scott McLaughlin proved to be a fast learner at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The three-time Australian Supercars champion had the fastest lap in Saturday’s practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
McLaughlin’s No. 3 PPG Chevrolet turned a fast time of 1:10.8755 around the 11-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course located in the picturesque hills of the Central California Coast.
It’s the first time McLaughlin has finished an NTT IndyCar Series session first on the timing list.
Andretti/Curb-Agajanian driver Colton Herta was second at 1:11.0224 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. He was followed by NTT IndyCar Series points leader Alex Palou, who ran a fast time of 1:11.0312 in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was fourth in the No. 22 Chevrolet at 1:11.3381 and teammate Will Power rounded out the top five at 1:11.3936 in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.
Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden needs to make up a 34-point deficit with two races remaining in the battle for the series championship. Newgarden was 10th fastest in Saturday’s session at 1:11.6116.
NTT IndyCar Series points leader Palou holds a 25-point lead over Pato O’Ward with two races left. O’Ward was 20th at 1:12.1348 in an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Dalton Kellett crashed into the turn four tire barrier early in the session to bring out the red flag. Later in the session, Takuma Sato slid off the track and took out a few signs, but was able to get back on the race course. With 10 minutes and five seconds left in the session, Rinus VeeKay wrecked in turn four for another caution flag.
The clicked ticked down to 3 minutes and 35 second left before the track went back to green flag conditions.
Herta went to the top before McLaughlin was able to take the top spot away at the end of the practice session.
Knockout qualifications culminating in the Firestone Fast Six are set for Saturday at 5:05 p.m. Eastern Time.