Castroneves tops final day of IndyCar testing at Barber

Helio Castroneves

Even a spin and trip through the gravel couldn't slow down Helio Castroneves. The Team Penske driver bettered his best lap time by more than a half-second in the final session to top the two-day IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park course.

Castroneves' best lap (his 48th of 52) of 1 minute, 11.943 seconds in the No. 3 Team Penske car was the quickest of the 24 cars to participate in the lone Open Test before the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg next week.

Will Power, who led Day 1 of the test, was second-quickest with a lap of 1:11.9636 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car during the first of the day's two practice sessions. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Newman/Haas Racing's Oriol Servia rounded out the top five.

Nearly all series regulars turned up for the Barber test, the only "Open Test" prior to the season opening March 27 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Power led the field from the first practice on Monday morning up until the final hour on Tuesday afternoon, when teammate Castroneves nosed ahead by just two one-hundredths of a second for overall honors.

Competition among the 24 drivers taking part at Barber was fierce, with half the field covered by less than one second, and just two seconds separating first and 23rd. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon finished the test third overall, followed by Ryan Briscoe in the third Team Penske entry and series returnee Oriol Servia, driving for Newman Haas Racing.

Carrying "Pray for Japan" graphics on the side of his KV Racing Technology Honda Dallara, in honor of his homeland following last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami, Takuma Sato rounded out the top six at the test.

The IZOD IndyCar Series will open the 2011 season on March 27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The series returns to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 11.

Full Field Combined Practice Results:

Rank Car Driver Name Session Time Behind Total Laps
1 3 Castroneves, Helio Practice 5 71.9434 0.0000s 126
2 12 Power, Will Practice 4 71.9636 0.0202 105
3 9 Dixon, Scott Practice 5 72.2815 0.3179 95
4 6 Briscoe, Ryan Practice 5 72.2954 0.0139 134
5 2 Servia, Oriol Practice 5 72.3594 0.0640 147
6 5 Sato, Takuma Practice 5 72.4742 0.1148 129
7 6 Hinchcliffe, James (R) Practice 5 72.5200 0.0458 133
8 26 Andretti, Marco Practice 5 72.5255 0.0055 121
9 22 Wilson, Justin Practice 2 72.6791 0.1536 114
10 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan Practice 5 72.7749 0.0958 121
11 10 Franchitti, Dario Practice 5 72.8447 0.0698 74
12 77 Tagliani, Alex Practice 5 72.8533 0.0086 124
13 7 Patrick, Danica Practice 5 72.9638 0.1105 119
14 38 Rahal, Graham Practice 5 72.9804 0.0166 122
15 8 Viso, EJ Practice 2 73.0170 0.0366 131
16 27 Conway, Mike Practice 1 73.0338 0.0168 79
17 14 Meira, Vitor Practice 5 73.1151 0.0813 105
18 78 de Silvestro, Simona Practice 5 73.2671 0.1520 117
19 18 Bourdais, Sebastien Practice 2 73.2904 0.0233 130
20 83 Kimball, Charlie (R) Practice 5 73.3351 0.0447 142
21 19 Jakes, James (R) Practice 5 73.4323 0.0972 145
22 34 Saavedra, Sebastian (R) Practice 5 73.6503 0.2180 124
23 24 Beatriz, Ana (R) Practice 5 73.9431 0.2928 133
24 4 Hildebrand, JR (R) Practice 2 74.5534 0.6103 41


HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fastest of the day): "I was expecting something different from the car because it kept changing throughout the day based on the track. I was expecting the car was going to push but it went the opposite way. The good news is that nothing was damaged. The field is so competitive; we have some new teams up at the top giving us a hard time. Also my teammates, they are two great talents – Ryan (Briscoe) and Will (Power) – pushing each other but I'm glad we were able to put the No. 3 up at the top at the end of the day."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske): "This was a really good couple of days of testing and our Verizon car was very good. We did a lot of work and learned tons of valuable information about our car here at Barber. Today we practiced pit stops, which are every bit as important as speed on the track with how tight the competition is in this series. I am definitely ready to get this season started."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "Team Target had a good couple of days with lots of big and good changes. The No. 9 Target Honda has been decent, remaining in the top-3 both days. We're just going through the motions and making necessary adjustments before we start the season in St. Pete."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 IZOD Team Penske): "It was a really good couple of days here at Barber for the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske car. We are very happy with the car we finished with today. We even did a long run, which compromised our chance to do a sticker tire run for time, but we did a lot of great race prep and we should be in good shape for the race here in a few weeks. This is an exciting track and I'm very happy to be back in an IndyCar."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 02 Newman/Haas Racing): "I'm so happy! Obviously it's great to be in the top-five, but I'm just so happy. When you are running in the top-five, there is a reason. I felt good in the car, with the team. I was a blast when I looked at the scoring board an hour before the end and we were one and two. That's the way Newman/Haas has always been, and that's the way it has to be and it just felt great that we got there with two days of testing. There is still a lot to come from myself and the car. We progressed big stages to get where we are and there is still more. I feel very happy; everybody is super motivated. James was super helpful all day yesterday and today with him knowing the track and I really hope we can be teammates. The two cars worked together really well and we made a lot of progress together. I'm very happy with the team and myself. When you are a year out of the car, of course you still think you can drive but it is just so great knowing it is true."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Newman/Haas Racing): "We made more progress today which was great. I was personally a little surprised with the pace we had yesterday; I wasn't quite expecting it. I woke up this morning hoping it wasn't some sort of flash in the pan. Luckily, we ran quick this morning; I think we were fourth quick behind the Penske boys and this afternoon the focus was going to be a little more on some longer runs. We did one new tire run which was good and put us right at the top for that time of day. And then I had a little moment on track again which ruined another set of tires, so it compromised the strategy a little bit for the rest of the day. That was it for new tire runs. We went back out to get some long runs in for the first race. We know we can run quick on a set of sticker tires so we need to see what we can do over a stint."

MARCO ANDRETTI, #26 TEAM VENOM "I think we improved the Venom car today – we found a couple positive changes, but others are making bigger jumps than us. This is IndyCar racing and it's competitive so we'll keep reviewing our notes and be as ready as we can for St. Pete in a couple weeks."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 Z-Line Designs): "It was an up and down couple of days. We had times when we were quick and times where we struggled a little bit. I think that we need to go back and analyze all of those changes. We got lots of information and we need to make sure that we pick out the good ones. It's just part of testing, you can't always be quick at the right time. We were pretty good on old tires so that's encouraging and we found some things there. We just need to go and continue to work hard."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop): "We've got some questions we need answered in the data. We're not happy with it yet. We made some gains, but right now the car is just a little too loose. The sweet spot for getting the lap time we want is just a little too small for us right now. We just need to look at some things and we will, and we will come back prepared. I'm just really looking forward to getting to the street circuit in St. Pete."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Team Andretti Autosport): "I was braking into turns 14 and 15; the rear got very, very loose. I corrected it once, corrected in twice, but the second time the rear just kissed the grass and that was it. With the wet grass, it just went straight off. It's disappointing because we had a lot to get through today. I feel sorry for the guys; it's a shame. But, I think we got through some good stuff here yesterday, so hopefully we'll come back here strong."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team "Another good test day for the car. We were able to build on the data that we collected from yesterday's sessions and found some more speed today. We still have work to do, but I believe we have a solid starting point. As I said yesterday, any amount of track time we can get is beneficial."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 HVM Racing): "We didn't end the day like we wanted to, but we made a couple changes near the end of the day and we're definitely starting to figure it out. We'll make the right changes and be good for the first race in St. Pete."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "I think we struggled from the moment we got here. Scott has been fine and we need to work on our setup. It's up to myself and the engineers on the Target team to get this figured out. We'll go back to the drawing board. They put a lot of tires in the right places since last time I crashed here so I'm thankful they took our advice from a safety standpoint. Thanks to Mr. Barber and everyone here and I look forward to coming back for the race."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing): "Overall, really good day for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing. The No. 38 Service Central Honda ran great, we just didn't get to have a new tire run there at the end. We're looking forward to starting the season."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and Novolog FlexPen): "Today was another productive day for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. We ran a lot of miles, made a lot of changes today and continued to make progress in the No. 83 Levemir FlexPen and NovoLog Honda. We're ready to head to St. Pete."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 B&W Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "It was a good test for us, overall, and I think we learned a lot this afternoon. There were some pretty interesting things that came out of it for us that are going to be really valuable for St. Petersburg. This morning, we tried something and we were obviously pretty out to lunch. But we recovered this afternoon with a much faster car. I went quicker right away on old tires, which was a good sign. It was an indication that our afternoon was going to be good. After that, we did some more trials on some different things. Some worked, some didn't. And by the end, when we decided to do our new tire run, we did a 12.8 on old tires, I thought we could end up in the top-five or the top-six, but things got crazy out there with a couple of yellows, and we ran out of time without the chance to lay down that lap that I felt we had in the car. It's a shame because it's always good to put a good lap time on the board. But we come out of this test with a lot of information and good knowledge about what to do and what not to do. I think we learned what kind of a car we're going to need when we come back here and our weekend will be more about fine-tuning rather than changing the car a lot. And, I feel we're a lot more ready for St. Pete."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Ipiranga): "I think it was a very productive two days for me to understand the circuit, it's a very hard track for me. We improved a lot from yesterday and I think we could have gone a little bit faster, but it can always be like that. The most important thing is that we improved a lot and I think that is very good."

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