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Open Test valuable measuring stick for 2009
The first of two IndyCar Series pre-season Open Tests concluded Feb. 25, providing teams and drivers the opportunity to see how offseason developments made in the teams’ shops translated to performance on the racetrack.

The 10 hours of testing on the 1.5-mile, variably banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway allowed teams to prepare for the 10 oval races on the 2009 schedule and provided a measuring stick of the competition. The verdict: 2009 promises some of the closest on-track action in the history of the series.

The field of 21 cars was separated by just 0.7196 of a second after 4,698 incident-free laps. Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe, who finished fifth in the championship last year, recorded the fastest lap at 25.1984 seconds, 212.156 mph, while reigning champion Scott Dixon was second, just 0.0394 of a second behind (25.2378, 211.825 mph).

“I'm really happy with the way our only pre-season oval test went this week,” said Briscoe, who earned two victories last season, including on the 1-mile oval at Milwaukee. “We were able to work on a lot of different things and I'm satisfied with what we were able to accomplish. I think that what we learned here at Homestead will help us on all the 1.5-mile ovals this season starting with Kansas and moving forward. I think we're in great shape, and now we're one step closer to the beginning of the season.”

Andretti Green Racing drivers Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, respectively, on the time chart, showing that the team that won three of the last five championships will once again be a contender.

“I’m really happy,” Andretti said. “We were able to test different setups that are going to benefit the Meijer car and the entire AGR team. It definitely has been a productive couple of days. I’m so confident in the setup we found that I wish we were racing tonight or tomorrow. We had a decent time, but that aside, I think we are strong overall.”

Dario Franchitti, returning to the IndyCar Series as Dixon’s teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing after a year absence, was fifth, while 20-year-old Mario Moraes, who earned three top-10 finishes as a rookie in 2008, was sixth in his first test since moving to KV Racing Technology.

“Both days we were not worrying about speed,” Moraes said. “We were concentrating on finding a good setup on the No. 5 KV Racing Technology–Votorantim car for the races. It was great to be back in a race car after five months and to be with KV Racing Technology. I felt very comfortable with the team, and it was fantastic to work with such an experienced group. From the engineering to the preparation of the car to the pit stops, I could not have asked for anything more. I learned a lot and I am pleased with what we achieved.”

Four rookies participated in the test, paced by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Mike Conway, who was ninth-fastest overall.

“It's all about learning each time I go out - learning about running with traffic, how the tires come in, just things with setup like aero changes, mechanical changes,” Conway said. “They all feel quite different. I've really got a feel as to what the car is doing and how it's reacting to each change. I've been learning how to run in different lines and how to react in traffic.

“Each day was another positive step. I have to thank the Dreyer & Reinbold guys for the hard work and great job they've done in getting me acclimated to everything. I can't wait to get back on the track again.”

After analyzing data from the test at Homestead-Miami, teams will begin preparing for the road course Open Test March 22-23 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. That test will help teams prepare for the seven road and street events on the 2009 schedule including the season-opening races at St. Petersburg April 5 and Long Beach April 19.

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