Pato O’Ward topped a tight second NTT IndyCar Series practice session at Mid-Ohio on Saturday, earning himself and the Arrow McLaren SP a little confidence boost ahead of qualifying.
O’Ward’s 1m06.0911 came relatively soon after the bulk of the field switched to the softer-compound alternate tires, besting the initial red-tire benchmark set by Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden by a couple of tenths. But while the drivers behind O’Ward all improved, his time remained unbeaten when the checkered flag waved 10 minutes later.
Newgarden remained best of the rest, coming in just 0.0082s shy of O’Ward’s lap, with Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta 0.09s further back to claim third fastest.
“It was good,” O’Ward said. “We rolled off the truck yesterday and I was happy with the car; made a few changes for today and we’re right where we started yesterday. It’s going to be tight. The top three are all within a tenth, so I think pole is going to be a good shootout, but I’m pretty happy with my car going into qualifying.”
The story of the morning was mostly one of grip. While the full session ran under green, the absence of any significant incidents was not for a lack of trying. Cool conditions most drivers scrambling to find traction, and the morning was peppered with the sight of cars dropped wheels off or taking harmless excursions through the grass.
One of the more hair-raising moments came courtesy of Simon Pagenaud, who ran wide at the exit of Turn 1, echoing Felix Rosenqvist’s spin at the same spot yesterday. Rosenqvist’s incident resulted in a red flag, and had Pagenaud’s car been a few inches further to the right, the outcome might have been similar. As it was though, the Frenchman narrowly missed the tire barrier and was able to continue on unscathed.
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Team Penske teammate Will Power also took it upon himself to replicate a moment from yesterday when he ran wide at Turn 9. His subsequent ride was less hair-raising than the one endured by Herta yesterday, but he did a similarly stellar job to keep the car off the wall and finished the session sixth-fastest.
Graham Rahal was a couple of tenths shy of the top three and finished fourth-fastest ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, giving Andretti Autosport two cars in the top five.
Elsewhere of note, Scott McLaughlin’s rising comfort level with a track he’d not previously visited was reflected in his finishing just behind Power to claim seventh fastest, while points leader Alex Palou wound up 12th fastest, a couple of tenths down on Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon in ninth.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 12:00 p,m, ET, Peacock