Saturday afternoon’s 45-minute practice session on the streets of Nashville opened with Rinus VeeKay stuffing his car into the barriers midway through his first lap and closed with Team Penske and Team Chevy taking complete ownership of qualifying preparations.
Run in oppressively hot and humid conditions, Penske’s Scott McLaughlin led a 1-2-3 for Penske with a lap of 1m15.4609s in the No. 3 Chevy and was well clear of Josef Newgarden’s No. 2 Chevy (+0. 0.2945s) and Will Power’s No. 12 Chevy (+0.3806s). Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, hot off his win last weekend in Indianapolis, was the hop Honda performer in fourth with the No. 27 entries (+0.3848s) and had AJ Foyt Racing’s rookie Kyle Kirkwood — his replacement next season in the No. 27 — rise to fifth late in the session with the No. 14 Chevy (+0.5363s).
Closing out the top six was another Chevy-powered driver with Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP car (+ 0.5636s), but his session was cut short after joining the long list of drivers who made contact with the concrete barriers.
“The car feels really good,” McLaughlin said. “Love the track. I feel really comfortable. Head down, boom up, and just focus on qualifying now.”
A few minutes after VeeKay’s incident, Graham Rahal mirrored the crash by nosing his car into the wall and breaking the front wings.
Colton Herta followed soon after with a big slide and stall, but he was fortunate to avoid contact; both incidents escaped the need for caution flags. The list of drivers to spend time in the runoffs or needing time to gather themselves and continue motoring included Callum Ilott, Marcus Ericsson and Newgarden.
Amid the various incidents and flick-spins that came at a steady clip during the first half of the session, Romain Grosjean moved to the top of the speed chart with a 1m16.2754s lap. Close behind as the clock wound down towards 20 minutes remaining was McLaughlin (+0.0212s) and Graham Rahal jumped in to take third (0.3077s) ahead of Felix Rosenqvist (0.3845s).
Nearing 15 minutes to go, Power took over the lead with a 1m15.9596s lap and Rosenqvist improved to second (+0.1830s) as Friday pace-setter Christian Lundgaard improved to fifth (0.5493s). Scott Dixon made his presence felt by jumping to third as qualifying simulations started throughout the field (+0.3896s).
Dipping below the 10-minute mark, Newgarden went to first with a 1m15.7554s tour around the street circuit, giving Team Penske a 1-2 and Team Chevy a 1-2-3. Herta went to fourth and was quickly demoted to fifth as McLaughlin’s qualifying sim shot him to first at 1m15.4609s, giving Team Penske a lockout of the top three and Chevy a 1-2-3-4. Rosenqvist met the wall with about five minutes left and bent his left-front suspension. Devlin DeFrancesco smacked the wall as well, bending his right-front suspension.
More movement towards the front took place as the checkered flag neared as Rossi went to fourth (+0.3848s) and Kirkwood slotted in behind him (+0.5363s).
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 4:30 pm ET, on Peacock.