Alex Palou

Alex Palou’s reign as NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion will end this weekend, but he still is showing plenty of speed by leading the pre-qualifying practice Saturday for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Palou, who was eliminated from title contention last weekend at Portland, was quickest under cloudy skies at 1 minute, 11.3847 seconds in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. That’s the quickest lap so far this weekend on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit.

SEE: Practice Results

Alexander Rossi was second quickest at 1:11.6920 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda as he aims for his second pole of the season in NTT P1 Award qualifying at 5:05 p.m. ET this afternoon (live, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network).

Championship contenders and teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden ended up third and fourth, respectively.

Power, who leads the standings by 20 points over Newgarden and Scott Dixon, posted a top lap of 1:11.7183 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Power must finish third or better in the 95-lap race Sunday (2:40 p.m. ET, NBC; 3 p.m. ET, INDYCAR Radio Network) to win the Astor Challenge Cup for the second time.

Newgarden, who was quickest Friday in practice, recorded a best lap of 1:11.7973 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Among the other three title contenders, Scott Dixon (-20 behind in points) was sixth overall at 1:11.9192 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Scott McLaughlin (-41) was 18th at 1:12.6457 in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet, and Marcus Ericsson (-39) was 20th at 1:12.7757 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

There were two red flags in the 45-minute session. Graham Rahal spun in the famous “Corkscrew” corner nine minutes into the practice in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, while Pato O’Ward went off track in Turn 10 and nudged the tire barrier in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet 23 minutes into the session. O’Ward was unhurt.