The second IndyCar practice session took place midday Saturday from the streets of Nashville, and it was Team Penske that was the class of the field.
Scott McLaughlin set the fastest time overall, with a lap of 1:15.4609 as time expired. He was followed closely by his team-mates Josef Newgarden and Will Power in the top three positions, as the historic team looked on point.
The team’s radically different setup approach this weekend appears to be paying dividends, and all three drivers have had to make minimal setup changes to dial in the performance.
Alexander Rossi and Kyle Kirkwood rounded out the fastest five laps of the session, with each able to keep their machines away from the looming concrete barriers.
Conditions were very hot and, more importantly, humid. Even during the short practice runs, drivers were climbing from their cars exhausted as the hot air built up around the driver.
Any thoughts of having a clean session were dashed less than a minute into the session, as Rinus VeeKay stuffed his nose in the concrete barriers on his outlap.
Less than five minutes later, Graham Rahal also found the wall and damaged his front wing as well, although his mistake did not cause a stoppage on track.
The session stayed green for the remainder of the 45 minutes, but Felix Rosenqvist had his Arrow McLaren SP Chevy step out under power and he smacked the barriers. Devlin DeFrancesco also ended the day with a damaged car after pushing a bit too hard.
The bumpy nature of the street circuit, which has multiple sections that upset the car in critical braking zones, tests driver skill and bravery to maintain control while pushing the envelope.
The real test will come later in the day, when all 26 drivers take the course for a knockout qualifying session amid exceedingly hot and humid conditions.
There is a chance of rain showers popping up just as qualifying gets underway, but the heat will be a factor even if the rain is not.