Sebring test deemed a success

IndyCar Series drivers completed almost 3,000 laps in four days of testing at Sebring International Raceway March 3-6 in their final tune-up before the start of the 2008 season.

The test on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn course afforded drivers and teams an opportunity to prepare for the road and street courses on the 2008 schedule as well as familiarize themselves with the new paddle-shift system and variable assist steering rack.

"It's good to see the cars run consistently as they did, as flawlessly as they did," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations of the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series. "Once again, that's a reflection of our strong partners in all areas of suppliers and manufacturers – engines, gearboxes. The new paddle shift seems to be as flawless as anyone could hope for. The drivers and teams got a good opportunity to learn a lot of information for the road and street courses as we approach the 2008 season."

Team Penske drivers Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves recorded the fastest laps of the test, which broke the drivers into two groups with each group getting a day and a half on track. Briscoe and Castroneves, who tested in the second group, were the only drivers to top 114 mph.

"The Sebring test gave us a chance to be on the track with a few more cars than when we were here during the offseason," said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance, Inc. "Ryan continues to get more and more acclimated with the team. I think we've proved that we have two pretty equal drivers going into the St. Pete race, so overall, it was certainly a productive test for us.

"These Open Tests help us get basic information. Obviously we've been to St. Pete before and we have some experience in what we're looking for, so its a combination of taking what we've learned here and what we know from past experience and hopefully coming up with a winning combination."

Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Hideki Mutoh, who tested in the first group, were third and fourth fastest overall.

"After Homestead, where I had a rough test, it's good to come out of here knowing that we got the job done," Kanaan said. "I have a lot of responsibility on my back right now with this team. I don't mind, but it's definitely a relief. Everything that was on the list, we got it done."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon were fifth and sixth, respectively. Overall, 18 drivers participated in the test. An additional group of drivers, representing teams transitioning from Champ Car, will have the opportunity to test at Sebring March 19-20.

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