Scott McLaughlin

Scott McLaughlin dipped under the one-minute barrier – and below the official track record – to lead practice Saturday morning for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

McLaughlin’s top lap was 59.7342 seconds in the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit on the streets of St. Petersburg. It was a big improvement over his best time of 1:01.5354 Friday, good for eighth on the speed charts in the opening practice of this 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener.

This is the third time McLaughlin has raced at St. Petersburg, as he made his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut at this event in October 2020 before embarking on a full rookie season with Team Penske in 2021. This is McLaughlin’s first race with engineer Ben Bretzman, as his 2021 engineer, Jonathan Diuguid, moved to Penske’s Porsche sports car program.

SEE: Practice Results

“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.”

NTT P1 Award qualifying starts at 12:30 p.m. (ET) today, with live coverage on Peacock Premium. The official track record of 1 minute, .0476 of a second, set by Jordan King in qualifying in 2018, looks to be in jeopardy.

Colton Herta ended up second on the speed charts for the second straight session, turning a top lap of 1:00.0851 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Simon Pagenaud, fourth Friday, continued his strong weekend with the third-quickest time Saturday morning, 1:00.0853, in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.

Alexander Rossi was fourth at 1:00.1075 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda, and Will Power rounded out the top five at 1:00.1600 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Drivers had trouble finding rhythm and extended runs in the 45-minute session due to three red flags.

The first red flag period came 17 minutes into the session when the right side of Jack Harvey’s No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda brushed the right-side wall at the apex of Turn 9 and then plowed into the barrier at the exit of Turn 9, inflicting heavy damage to the left front of the car. Harvey was unhurt.

Romain Grosjean, who led practice Friday, triggered the second red flag 26 minutes into the session when he drove his No. 28 DHL Honda into the back of the No. 51 NURTEC ODT Honda driven by two-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Takuma Sato at the entrance of Turn 10. Sato was in the back of a line of cars moving slowly, trying to create gaps for flying runs on the next lap.

There was moderate damage to the front of Grosjean’s car and to the back of Sato’s car. Both drivers were unhurt.

Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou created the third and final red flag with six minutes remaining when his No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda speared nose-first into the barrier in Turn 9, suffering heavy damage. Palou was unhurt.