Scott McLaughlin worked through a bit of road rage and found the fast lane during a late-afternoon traffic jam Friday at Barber Motorsports Park, leading the opening practice for the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix.
McLaughlin turned the best lap late in the session, 1 minute, 6.6610 seconds, in the No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet. Like most of the 27 drivers in the field, he struggled to find a gap and clean air to let it rip on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course in the closing minutes, experiencing the same frustration as many motorists in freeway rush hour traffic.
SEE: Practice Results
“The car feels really good on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and blacks (Firestone primary tires),” New Zealand native McLaughlin said. “It was fixing up a storm out there in the last little bit on the reds. We’re trying to get some laps in, and I was yelling expletives – what do you call it, y’all swearing? – and I was cursing, and I managed to get a lap there. I think we’re in a really good spot, but there’s a lot of racing left to do.
“I was just a bit hot under the collar,” McLaughlin said with a laugh. “I shouldn’t do that!”
Up next is a second practice at noon ET Saturday, followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 3 p.m. (both sessions live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). McLaughlin will try to become the first Team Penske driver to win the pole for this race since Josef Newgarden in 2018.
Colton Herta was the second-quickest driver in the 75-minute session at 1:06.8193 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power jumped to third at 1:06.8985 on his final lap in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, a strong recovery from an off-track excursion that saw his car nose into the barriers outside Turn 3 with just 13 minutes left in practice.
Six-time series champion Scott Dixon was fourth at 1:06.9345 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. His teammate and series points leader Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top five at 1:06.9994.
It should be a tightrope walk without a net to earn a spot in the Firestone Fast Six during NTT P1 Award qualifying Saturday, as just .5038 of a second separated the top 10 on the practice time sheets.
A handful of drivers already tested the limits of grip during practice on this rollercoaster of a circuit, with its 80 feet of elevation change per lap. Power, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, defending race winner Pato O’Ward and Jack Harvey all took wild rides through the grass or gravel. Power and Castroneves were the only two to make barrier contact, with mild impact for both.
Long Beach runner-up Romain Grosjean’s session ended after 40 minutes when white smoke poured from the right exhaust pipe of his No. 28 DHL Honda.