Colton Herta carried his strong Friday pace into Saturday morning at Mid-Ohio to top the times in the third NTT IndyCar Series practice session.
Herta popped up in the final seconds with a 1m.05.7048s, set while running on the black Firestones – the fastest overall lap of the weekend so far, and 0.02s quicker than he’d gone on the softer compound reds yesterday.
“That car on blacks seemed to come together,” he said. “We didn’t really have the car on blacks yesterday. The obvious reason for the faster lap is grip coming up, not the tire. I think we’ve got a good balance; going to try to loosen it up a little bit more and make it a bit slower on blacks but better on reds [for qualifying].”
The Harding Steinbrenner driver’s late jump to P1 came at the expense of ECR’s Spencer Pigot, who’d been the benchmark for the second half of the session. He ended up just 0.05s down on Herta, and similarly happy with how his weekend is unfolding.
“So far, so good,” he said. “The car has felt really good in every session – red and black [tires]; we feel confident on both. So, looking forward to qualifying. We didn’t get a run on reds yesterday, but it was feeling good until the red flag came out. I guess we’re going a little bit blind into qualifying compared to some guys, but we’ll see what happens.”
Alexander Rossi made good use of a late run on fresh rubber to vault up to third-fastest ahead of James Hinchcliffe.
Keeping up the strong showing from Honda, Santino Ferrucci rounded out the top five, but it was a tricky session for some of the other rookies. RC Enerson triggered a red flag when the No.31 Carlin entry ran into trouble with 13 minutes left on the clock, and Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist did a pretty impressive job of avoiding the same fate when the No.10 clattered deep into the gravel at the end of the back straight. He kept his foot in it, pointed the car uphill, and managed to maneuver himself back onto the relative comfort of the grass.
Problem was, he was now facing against the traffic and was completely blind to what might be approaching. A lengthy back-and-forth with his pitwall followed as they worked to find a safe gap for him to rejoin before the Swede finally threw a 180, planted the throttle, dived off the racing line to avoid an oncoming car, and pressed on to complete the session 16th-fastest.
Elsewhere, Marcus Ericsson provided Simon Pagenaud with a moment of excitement that the Frenchman would probably have rather done without when he had a massive moment in the Arrow SPM car and almost collected the Penske while trying to recover.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, Saturday, 2:35 p.m. ET