Colton Herta was able to continue his impressive run late in the season, clocking the fastest time of the opening practice session on the streets of a hot and humid St. Petersburg, Florida.
The 20-year-old was able to put down a time of 1:01.131 around the 1.8-mile temporary circuit, with an average speed just topping 106 mph.
James Hinchcliffe and Alex Palou finished the session in second and third respectively, followed by Takuma Sato in his RLL Racing Honda.
Championship leader Scott Dixon showed pace early, but as the speeds rose throughout the session the Kiwi fell down the order. He finished with the 16th fastest time, but The Iceman always seems to improve when qualifying and the race come around.
Josef Newgarden, however, finished with the eighth quickest time, and will look use his good pace to do what he can to get a win this weekend and reel in Dixon.
McLaughlin held his own remarkably well in his first ever IndyCar driving on a race weekend. At one point the recently-signed Supercars champion had the second fastest time after he got a feel for the temporary street course in his Team Penske Chevy.
The talented Kiwi put in the most laps of anyone and, even with a couple lock-ups, ended the day in 10th with a fastest time of 1:01.677.
The entire field had to deal with a blazing sun and temperatures that climbed to 85°F, making for hot and slick conditions on the public roads turned race course.
A few drivers overshot their braking zones, but none hit the wall except for Oliver Askew, who slid into the tire barrier at the final hairpin. The session was only stopped for a few minutes as time expired, and the field of drivers were able to use most of the 90-minute session to dial in their setups.
This was critical to everyone’s plans, as this was the only practice session available before the all-important qualifying session gets underway this afternoon.
Qualifying from St. Petersburg starts in a few hours’ time at 3:00 PM EDT.