Colton Herta

Colton Herta put down a marker on fast, familiar turf by leading pre-qualifying practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Herta, racing in his home state at a track where he won in 2019 and 2021, was quickest at 1 minute, 8.2300 seconds in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian. Herta was second in practice Friday on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit that includes the famous “Corkscrew” turn.

SEE: Practice Results

“It feels really nice,” Herta said of his car. “It felt really nice yesterday on reds (Firestone alternate tires). Felt good on blacks (Firestone primary tires) today, so I think we’re in a good spot. We don’t need to do much, and I think we should be good.”

Up next is NTT P1 Award qualifying at 5:15 p.m. ET Saturday, live on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Herta converted poles into victories here in 2019 and 2021.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship leader Will Power was second at 1:08.4261 in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet, followed by reigning and two-time series champion Alex Palou at 1:08.4387 in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Scott McLaughlin, who led Friday practice, was fourth in this session at 1:08.4602 in the No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet. Pato O’Ward rounded out the top five at 1:08.4679 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

While Herta enjoyed a gap of nearly two-tenths of a second over closest pursuer Power, the margin between Power and eighth-place Alexander Rossi in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet was less than two-tenths.

There were three red flags in the session for incidents.

Sting Ray Robb and rookie Kyffin Simpson slid off track in separate incidents and continued. Rookie Christian Rasmussen hopped off track in Turn 10 four minutes into the session and hit the barriers in the No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing, which incurred moderate damage. Rasmussen was unhurt.

Live coverage of the 95-lap race starts at 6 p.m. ET Sunday on the USA Network, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.