Pato O'Ward

Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) led Saturday morning’s competitive 45-minute practice for The Honda Indy 200 presented by the HPD Ridgeline, setting the stage for NTT P1 Award qualifying today at noon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

O’Ward’s lap of 1 minute, 06.091 seconds was just slightly better than that of Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (No. 2 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet) at 1:06.099 and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) at 1:06.184. Newgarden had the fastest lap in Friday’s first practice.

Said O’Ward: “The top three are all within a tenth (of a second). I think (going for) pole is going to be a shootout.”

By the Numbers: Practice Results

Winning the pole is worth a bonus point toward the championship, which is important for O’Ward as he trails Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) by 28 points. Palou was 12th in the practice session but Chip Ganassi's organization has won 11 of the past 23 races at Mid-Ohio.

Also in the second practice, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) had an exciting ride exiting Turn 4, cresting the hill wide to the left as Santino Ferrucci did in last year’s second race. Like Ferrucci, Rossi went across the track and into the grass at Turn 5, but he avoided the tire barriers without further incident. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda) also went off the track at that location, although not as dramatically.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) also had a breath-holding moment, drifting wide in Turn 1 and driving through the sand trap and grass before missing the tire barrier to his right. Carlin’s Max Chilton (No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet) went off the track there, too, after another car kicked up dust. None of the cars suffered significant damage.

The NTT P1 Award session, which includes three dramatic rounds of knockout qualifying, is at noon (ET) today with live coverage on Peacock, NBC Sports’ streaming service. The NBC Sports Network will air a replay at 8 p.m.

Sunday’s 80-lap race rolls off at noon Sunday. NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network will have the action.