McLaughlin leads Herta, Palou in first IndyCar practice at Laguna Seca

Scott McLaughlin led opening practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, the eighth round of the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season, at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Linus Lundqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s rookie who took his first IndyCar pole position at Road America, was the early session pacesetter, turning a 1m09.2218s lap of the 2.238-mile course. Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda ran wide into the Corkscrew, while Agustin Canapino – back in the No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing-Chevrolet after a one-race layoff – had a bizarre spin through Turn 7.

Finally, Graham Rahal, sporting a smart gold-’n’-black Mobil 1 livery, displaced Lundqvist and put RLL on top with a 1m09.0374s.


There was a red flag as David Malukas spun the No. 66 Meyer Shank Racing-Honda at Turn 2 – the Andretti hairpin – on his eighth lap. Malukas will be making his first start of the season, after breaking his wrist in a training accident pre-season and subsequently being released by Arrow McLaren-Chevy before he had even driven for the squad.

The big guns came out past the 20-minute mark, and Ganassi’s two-time champion Alex Palou delivered a 1m08.5664s, just 0.0393s ahead of Kyle Kirkwood’s Andretti Autosport-Honda. Behind this pair was the impressive Juncos Hollinger car of Romain Grosjean, but even more impressive was McLaren’s newest recruit Nolan Siegel saving a huge smoky moment exiting the Corkscrew.

Santino Ferrucci didn’t save a moment, but he maybe prevented a crash, after spinning through the Corkscrew just beyond the blind crest. The AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy driver dipped the clutch to roll backward out of harm’s way as rapidly as possible before spinning the car back around the right way and proceeding to pitlane.

Canapino had a second venture into the dust, this time at the Corkscrew while McLaughlin ran his Team Penske-Chevy through the dust on the exit of Turn 10. Rinus VeeKay held fourth for Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevy.

Pato O’Ward spun off at Turn 5 and caused the second red flag of the session, and that enforced break with 20 minutess left to run prompted some drivers to switch to their alternate Firestones. One such was Marcus Ericsson (Andretti) who jumped to seventh, then hit the top on his second lap – a 1m08.2347s – with Kirkwood, also using the softer tire, displacing Palou to take second. Ericsson then trimmed a further tenth off his time, 1m08.1763 on his third lap before pitting.

Ericsson’s position of prominence lasted only until Josef Newgarden’s first flyer, which trimmed a couple of hundredths off the Swede’s best. He then ripped a 1m07.8805s, but that wasn’t enough to prevent two-time Laguna Seca winner Colton Herta eclipsing him by around 0.15s, an average of 118.952mph.

While Rahal and Christian Lundgaard were struggling with their RLL cars, their teammate Pietro Fittipaldi went third, 0.2709s off Newgarden. McLaren, too, found some pace to go fourth and fifth with O’Ward and Alexander Rossi, until split by McLaughlin.

Once Palou had a set of reds on, he got into the 1m07s, leaping into third, but then McLaughlin went fastest – 1m07.6325s, the first 119mph lap of the weekend – ahead of Herta, Palou, Newgarden and the excellent Fittipaldi.

Malukas finished his first session for Meyer Shank down in 25th but only a tenth slower than team leader Felix Rosenqvist, who survived a huge late spin out of Turn 3 without touching the wall. Siegel, meanwhile, played himself in gently with his new team, finishing the session about two seconds off teammate O’Ward.

Second practice begins on Saturday at 10am local (Pacific) time.


Story originally appeared on Racer