LAGUNA SECA - INDYCAR SEASON FINALE
RACE: FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND
DATE: SEPTEMBER 9, 2023
No. 2 HITACHI DALLARA/CHEVROLET
FINAL PRACTICE - 21ST
QUALIFYING - 4TH
No. 3 XPEL DALLARA/CHEVROLET
FINAL PRACTICE - 9TH
QUALIFYING - 2ND
No. 12 VERIZON 5G DALLARA/CHEVROLET
FINAL PRACTICE - 10TH
QUALIFYING - 9TH
Early morning rain soaked the hillsides of Salinas, California, setting the tone for an eventful day that forced drivers to navigate even slicker conditions at Laguna Seca for the second day of on-track activities.
Saturday's schedule included an afternoon final practice and qualifying session that would determine the running order for the finale race of the 2023 INDYCAR season; the last opportunity for Team Penske to take advantage of valuable points in the overall season standings as they currently sit third (Newgarden), fifth (McLaughlin) and seventh (Power).
Sunshine pushed through the clouds for the final practice session, but the surface remained slippery as drivers continued to come to grips with the new pavement. Power and Newgarden both encountered rocky terrain at some point during the one-hour session, still they avoided damage and continued forth in finding their best pace. The final results showed McLaughlin and Power in the top 10, with Newgarden 21st.
Qualifying provided one last opportunity to get acquainted with the track before race time, and marked an important occasion considering that for the last 20 of 25 races at Laguna Seca, the race winner has started in the top three positions. All three Team Penske cars showed great promise, all shooting to the top of the boards to secure their spot in the fast 12. A tightly packed second round kept drivers fighting by hundredths of a second, with McLaughlin and Newgarden ultimately advancing to the Firestone Fast Six, and 2022 Champion and Laguna Seca pole sitter Will Power narrowly missing the final position in ninth. The Fast Six proved to be another tight race, with the name sitting atop the speed charts changing frantically throughout the session, including the likes of Newgarden then McLaughlin -- who had the pole won in the final seconds before being overcome by a lap one thousandth of a second faster from Felix Rosenqvist. The No. 3 XPEL Dallara/Chevrolet will line up on the outside front row tomorrow.
WHAT THEY SAID - "Really good day for the XPEL Chevrolet. That's another front row for us. We're killing those. Just barely missing the poles which is unfortunate. We've had a few where we've been barely close. Bummed for this one because this XPEL Chevrolet was really fast. We'll just try to make the right decisions tomorrow and make good strategy choices, and hopefully find ourselves at the end of the race in Victory Lane." -Scott McLaughlin
WHAT'S NEXT - Coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins tomorrow (Sunday) at 2:30 pm ET on NBC, Universo, Peacock, Sirius XM Channel 209 and INDYCAR Radio.