It was a messy morning of spins and big crashes during the second practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Between the red flags, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin rocketed to the top spot in the No. 3 Chevy as the New Zealander became the only driver to dip below the one-minute mark (59.7342s).
McLaughlin was well clear of the field as the majority of the drivers went out late to do qualifying simulation runs on Firestone’s faster red-banded tires. Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta was second (+0.3509s) in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Simon Pagenaud continued his quick start to the weekend with his new Meyer Shank Racing No. 60 Honda in third (+0.3511s) and he was followed by Andretti’s Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 Honda (+0.3733s), Penske’s Will Power in the No. 12 Chevy (+0.4258s). Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay closed the top six in his No. 21 Chevy (+0.4762s).
Behind VeeKay, the first of the unfortunate drivers was found in seventh with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who clipped the wall at Turn 9 and slammed hard — almost nose-first — which destroyed the left-front corner of the No. 10 Honda. The CGR team was thrashing to strip the corner and assess whether chassis damage was incurred as qualifying approaches just over two hours after the practice session came to end.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Jack Harvey had the same issue at the same corner and also suffered damage to the No. 45 Honda, but it wasn’t as bad as Palou’s impact. To open the session, CGR’s Jimmie Johnson executed a half-spin at Turn 1 and rolled across the infield grass, and later with a cluster of drivers slowing and stacked up on entry to Turn 10 to try and get a clear qualifying sim lap, Andretti’s Romain Grosjean came charging around Turn 9 and — apparently unaware of the traffic jam — slammed into the back of Takuma Sato’s Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda, which was lifted off the ground due to the speed and force it received.
“I don’t know what he was thinking.”@TakumaSatoRacer is checked, released and frustrated after contact with @RGrosjean that ended his practice session.#INDYCAR // #FirestoneGP // @GPSTPETE pic.twitter.com/HlM3lrSPJD
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) February 26, 2022
Sato and Grosjean were done after the crash, with Sato’s rear wing and other parts in disrepair while Grosjean limped to pit lane, parked, and climbed from the car as his crew removed the broken nose and front wing assembly and the bent left-front steering arm before taking the car to their transporter to make repairs. All drivers were uninjured.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 12:30 p.m. ET