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O’Ward tops second Mid-Ohio practice

Saturday morning’s dry and warm 45-minute practice session for the NTT IndyCar Series featured more off-track adventures than any in recent memory as the 27 drivers tried to get a handle on their heavier hybrid cars. Only one of the incidents led to contact.

Due to the rain that prevented teams from making use of the Firestone alternate tires in Friday’s practice session, the series made an exception and allowed the faster rubber to be used in the second session as teams prepared for Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, and with those red-banded alternates installed, Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward led the field with a 1m05.9862s run in his No. 5 Chevy.

Home state product Graham Rahal was right behind O’Ward with a 1m06.0439s lap in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and the rest of the top six was completed by Andretti Global’s Colton Herta (1m06.1639s), Meyer Shank Racing’s David Malukas (1m06.2076s), Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (1m06.2189s), and Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi (1m06.2517s).

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Linus Lundqvist was the first driver to dip below the 1m06s barrier, logging a 1m06.9882s after 10 minutes of running. He’d have Ganassi teammate Marcus Armstrong improve it and take the lead after 15 minutes with a 1m06.7007s lap. After 20 minutes, it was Pato O’Ward who took over the top spot with a 1m06.5819s run, and Marcus Ericsson stepped ahead with a 1m06.5774s.

Moments later, his teammate Colton Herta slid into the tire barriers at Turn 13, stalled his car, was unable to refire with the energy recovery system, and saw a red flag thrown to have the AMR Safety Team resolve the situation. Herta broke his front wing and also threw the left-front suspension out of alignment in the contact.

With 25 minutes left when the track went green, drivers headed out to complete their running on Firestone’s primary tires before switching over the perform qualifying simulations on the alternates. Kyffin Simpson drew the next red flag with just under 20 minutes to go after spinning and stalling his car.

Returning to green, the last 19 minutes saw a slow flurry of tire changeovers, and before times started to drop, Alex Palou went to first on primaries at a 1m06.4925s with 11 minutes to go. O’Ward shot to a 1m06.1415s on alternates as the clock counted down to eight minutes and improved it to a 1m05.9862 on his next lap which stood for the remainder of the session.

UP NEXT: Qualifying, 3pm ET, on Peacock.

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Story originally appeared on Racer