Colton Herta

Stats: Practice Results

Colton Herta hit the concrete wall early in practice this morning for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach but returned to the street circuit to lead the session.

It’s been that kind of California magic carpet ride the last two weekends for Herta.

Herta was quickest at 1 minute, 7.9783 seconds in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda and is the favorite to win the NTT P1 Award in qualifying, which starts at 3 p.m. (ET) today, live on NBCSN, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

California native Herta has led both 45-minute practices at this event, topping the time charts Friday at 1:09.2680. He also won the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey last Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Northern California from the pole.

The quick lap this morning came after Herta clipped the wall with his left front tire early in the session. He gingerly drove to the pits, where the Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian crew checked the bent toe link on his car, with Herta returning to the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit and becoming the first driver in the 1:07 range this weekend despite a slightly crooked steering wheel.

“I’m just trying to find the limit and having a fun time doing it,” Herta said. “I’m trying to find the happy medium of comfort and drivability. It seems like we’re pretty close to it.”

2014 series champion Will Power was second quickest this morning at 1:08.1277 in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, leading all four Team Penske drivers in the top six. James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport was third at 1:08.2250 in the No. 29 #ShiftToGreen Honda.

Championship contender Josef Newgarden was fourth at 1:08.2922 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Two-time series champion Newgarden is third in the standings, trailing leader Alex Palou by 48 points, and needs to win from the pole with a calamitous weekend for Palou to pull off a miracle third title.

2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud continued the Penske power play by ending up fifth at 1:08.4297 in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet. Scott McLaughlin, trying to clinch Team Penske’s first INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year award, was sixth at 1:08.4771 in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.

Title contender Pato O’Ward ended up eighth at 1:08.5105 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. It was a dramatic improvement from Friday’s session, in which O’Ward was 16th at 1:10.2451.

Palou ended the session 16th at 1:08.8234 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He must finish 11th or better Sunday to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.

The session this morning was filled with fraught moments. The number of drivers who either hit, brushed or narrowly escaped contact with the unforgiving concrete walls lining the Southern California circuit almost outnumbered the drivers in the 28-car field who stayed clean.

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network.