The IZOD IndyCar Series concluded a two-day test at the Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, Ala with Team Penske drivers topping the speed charts on both days. Penske drivers swept the top three positions on the test's final day with Will Power fastest overall at 69.87 seconds.
Of the drivers who tested both days, most were faster on Thursday with Power shaving nearly a full second from his best lap on Wednesday. "It was a good day" said Power."We certainly found some good things. We went through a lot of things during the two days. Today, towards the end of the day, we focused on getting outright speed."
Helio Castroneves was second fastest both days. Castroneves stopped the clocks at 70.00 seconds, seven-tenths quicker than he went on Wednesday. "It was a good test for Team Penske. We came here to get back in the groove and get our rhythm going again. We learned some things that will be useful for the race in St. Petersburg and for when we come back here to Barber."
Ryan Briscoe, who was fastest on the first day (70.50 seconds), went a half second faster on Thursday. "We had a real good couple of days testing," Briscoe said. "We found some set-up information that will be helpful in Brazil, St. Pete and for when we return here, to Barber. The test went very smooth. It is real nice to see the Team Penske cars 1-2-3 at the end of the test."
Scott Dixon made huge improvements with the Target Ganassi No. 9, ending the test fifth fastest with a lap at 70.05 seconds. "It was alright," Dixon reported. "I think we definitely made drastic improvements on the car today for this course. Overall, the car is pretty decent and we're in the hunt which is nice because the last time we came away from this test we were struggling and were four or five tenths (of a second) off. So it's nice to know that we've made some gains to the car and we've got some development items on our test list checked off."
Dixon's teammate Dario Franchitti was involved in a single car incident when his car slid off the track in Turn12 before making hard contact with the barrier. The test was halted for nearly an hour while repairs were made to the guardrail. Franchitti, who was uninjured in the incident, stood on his best lap from Wednesday, placing him 16th fastest.
Justin Wilson turned a total of 78 laps, setting the 5th fastest time in his Dreyer and Reinbold No. 22. "The test went quite well," said Wilson, who was third quickest on Wednesday. "We were quick early on and we just continued to work through a few changes. Right at the end of the day we set our quickest lap, which was on the end lap, and finally I got what I was looking for."
Seat time paid off for IndyCar Series newcomer Takuma Sato in the KV Racing No. 5. Sato turned 141 laps, the most of any driver, with his best at 70.20 seconds. "It was a very successful day for the KV Racing Technology team considering the weather. It was extremely cold this morning so we were unable to run, but once the temperature had improved, we were out on track. I was able to learn a lot again from how the car reacted to the different setups we tried, which was good preparation for the Brazil race."
Sato, a veteran of five seasons in Formula One, said, "Nothing is ever perfect and I am never satisfied, but I am very positive that I have a good feeling of how the car handles and look forward to going racing in a few weeks time."
Dreyer and Reinbold's Mike Conway was seventh quick (70.24) with Marco Andretti leading the four car team of Andretti Autosport with a lap at 70.39 seconds. Andretti's former teammate Hideki Mutoh moves to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing for 2010, setting the ninth quickest lap of the test.
Indy Lights graduate Mario Romancini rounded out the top ten at the test with a lap at 70.54 seconds in his debut with Conquest Racing. "I'm very happy to finish in the top ten today considering it was our first time at this track. Yesterday I spent the day just trying to learn the new car. I felt pretty comfortable in the car today so I was able to work with the engineers on a few different setups. We obviously still have some work to do, but I think these two days show that we have potential to be competitive and I'm really looking forward to the Brazil."
Twenty-one driver/car combinations totaled 2,009 laps in the three sessions with the top 14 cars separated by 0.8399 of a second.
Dan Wheldon and Alex Tagliani participated in the media activities that preceded the test on Monday but did not get on track. Tagliani's FAZZT Racing team decided to skip the Barber test due to concerns about the weather. The team cited their recent successful test at Homestead, noting that their time would be better spent preparing the cars for the warm weather races in Brazil, Florida and Southern California.
Dan Wheldon flew from Barber Motorsports Park to Washington, DC where he was a guest at a Tuesday night fund raising dinner for the National Guard's Youth Challenge. Team owner John Barnes was in attendance as well as NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Wheldon spent Wednesday in Washington at the Dirksen Senate Office Building where he attended a National Guard Youth Challenge luncheon.
Wheldon and Panther Racing will test this week at Sebring.