Colton Herta remained the benchmark in Long Beach on Saturday morning, the Andretti Autosport driver following up his field-topping performance on Friday by again going fastest in the second NTT IndyCar Series practice session.
Herta laid down his 1m07.9783s run with five minutes still left on the clock, and it remained unbeaten. Team Penske’s Will Power came closest, finishing the morning with a best lap 0.1494s down on Herta’s time, while Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe secured third. Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Scott McLaughlin completed a Team Penske 4-5-6.
“We’re trying to find the happy medium of comfort and driveability, and it seems like we’re pretty close to it,” Herta said. “I feel pretty good. Still some work to be done to make the car a little better, but I feel really confident. The car has been amazing on street courses this year, and this just reiterates it.”
Herta had already used up one of his lives for the weekend yon Friday when he survived a lurid slide that almost put him into the wall at the exit of Turn 8, and he burned through another one this morning when he tagged the wall on the inside of Turn 2 and managed to escape without any apparent harm done.
“I definitely knocked the toes out on the left front, so the steering was a little left-hand down,” he said. “I was just trying to find the limit, and having a fun time doing it.”
He was far from the only driver who found the limit by overstepping it, but how much fun the others were having in the process is a matter of debate. Romain Grosjean managed to go off four times at Turn 8 during the session, clipping both the inside and outside walls for good measure on the last one. Despite spending half of the morning retrieving himself from the runoff, he still posted the ninth-fastest lap.
As was the case yesterday, the barriers were a magnet for near-disaster. Alex Palou came within a hair of sliding into the wall, but just as Herta did yesterday, he was able to gather it up just in time to spare his crew from a pile of additional work ahead of qualifying. Instead, he faces a few hours in the engineering room after leaving it late to change to reds, having his run cut short by a late stoppage, and ending up 16th fastest.
There were also harmless spins or wall taps by Hinchcliffe, title contender Pato O’Ward (who finished eighth fastest, just behind AMSP teammate Felix Rosenqvist), Max Chilton, Helio Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais, but a couple of other incidents were more consequential. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s morning was cut short immediately after he switched to reds when he pinballed from the inside wall to the outside barrier at Turn 8 and damaged his suspension. And then in the final seconds, Scott Dixon carried too much speed into Turn 6 and spun nose-first into the tire barrier, bringing out the only red flag of the morning.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 3:05 p.m. ET, NBCSN