Scott McLaughlin has an unfinished business with Texas Motor Speedway, and he got off to a strong start on Saturday morning.
On the 1.5-mile oval, McLaughlin set the fastest time during the opening practice for the PPG 375, clocking in at 223.747 mph in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevy.
All 28 drivers completed laps under the warm sun and cool air temperatures in the mid-fifties as soon as the track was rubbered in. McLaughlin was over seven tenths of a mile per hour faster today in the ideal conditions than Simon Pagenaud, who set the pace in Texas’ first practice last year at 223.087 mph.
In the beginning of the run, I was a little confused, McLaughlin admitted. On the outside of Turn 1, she was much slipperier than a pocketful of pudding. But, we managed to get through everything, and the XPEL Chevrolet now feels fantastic. We’re at a great place, in my opinion.
— Flyin18T Motorsports (@Flyin18T) April 1, 2023
Despite having led 186 of the 248 laps in this race last year, McLaughlin came in second. Teammate Josef Newgarden overtook him as the race entered its final turn to take the lead and win.
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Pato O’Ward, driving the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, finished second in practice with a peak speed of 223.518. Mexican O’Ward, who attended high school in San Antonio, is running in his hometown.
As he finished third in the team’s No. 7 Chevy with a 223.468 rating, Alexander Rossi contributed to the placement of two Arrow McLaren vehicles in the top three. With a 223.318 score, Colton Herta finished fourth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
The second member of the Andretti Autosport top five was Devlin DeFrancesco, who finished fifth in the No. 29 Capstone Honda with a time of 223.225. Another sign of the ideal circumstances is that the top five drivers today were all faster than Pagenaud’s top speed to lead the opening practice last year.
NTT P1 Award qualification will follow at 12:15 p.m. ET, INDYCAR LIVE on Peacock! along with the INDYCAR Radio Network. Helio Castroneves, a four-time Indianapolis 500 champion, said following practice that because of the cooler conditions, drivers early in the qualifying sequence will have an advantage.
DeFrancesco will start qualifying, which has an aggregate, two-lap format, as the fourth driver on the track, making him the only one of the top five drivers on this morning’s time sheets to have an early position. McLaughlin will start the race as the 18th of 28 drivers.
Everybody experiences it the same way, and all it is is an automobile, McLaughlin added. Just get going and keep the car flat, and let’s hope there isn’t too much understeer.
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