Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden led after the first three hours of IndyCar's test day at Barber Motorsports Park, but it was teammate Helio Castroneves who caused a stir by going third quickest in his first test with the 2018 aerokit.
Newgarden lapped the 2.38-mile course in Birmingham, AL, in 1min07.9793sec, 0.1743sec faster than teammate Will Power.
But it was Castroneves, rather than third fulltimer Simon Pagenaud, who completed a Penske-Chevrolet 1-2-3. The Brazilian veteran, preparing for his ‘two-off’ return to an IndyCar cockpit in May when he will take part in the Grand Prix of Indy as well as the Indy 500, was only 0.3362sec off the pace.
Dale Coyne Racing-Honda’s Sebastien Bourdais and Zachary Claman De Melo were a praiseworthy fourth and fifth, 0.4 and 0.58sec slower than Newgarden respectively in a full 24-car test.
Takuma Sato was sixth for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda, with Ryan Hunter-Reay heading the Andretti Autosport quartet in seventh, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing in eighth and Pagenaud ninth.
Zach Veach, the rookie who made his debut at Barber last year as a late sub for the injured JR Hildebrand at Ed Carpenter Racing, was an impressive 10th fastest, just two-tenths off Hunter-Reay.
Both AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy drivers Matheus Leist and Tony Kanaan caused red flags, the rookie backing his car in at Turn 1. They finished the three-hour session in 13th and 16th.
Gabby Chaves completed only four laps but that was enough to be quicker than Rene Binder in the Juncos Racing-Chevy, who is currently 4.2sec from top spot, despite completing 29 laps.