Power leads IndyCar test

Updated: March 25, 2009, 10:55 AM ET
By John Oreovicz | Special to

LEEDS, Ala. -- The driver in the No. 3 Team Penske car was different, but the result was pretty similar to what IndyCar fans and competitors are accustomed to:


[+] EnlargeWill Power
AP Photo/Mark BakerThere was no hiding how fast substitute driver Will Power was in Alabama.

Will Power, who is driving Penske's No. 3 Dallara-Honda until regular driver Helio Castroneves' tax evasion case is settled, was fastest overall in the IndyCar Series' two-day open test at Barber Motorsport Park. The 28-year-old Australian cranked out a series of spectacular laps on the 2.38-mile road course near Birmingham, topped by a 1 minute, 9.4557 second effort that bested Target Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti by more than three-tenths of a second.

Power's next-best lap of 1:09.6171 also would have comfortably paced the field.

"It was good," said Power, who knows he probably will have to step aside and face an uncertain future if Castroneves is cleared of the federal charges for which he is on trial. "I haven't spent much time with this team, so I spent the two days jelling with my engineer. We're really working well together now. We found some good things in the car, and we found a car that suits me."

Franchitti was the leader for most of the second day of action at Barber; at midafternoon, he topped a group of five drivers all clustered within a tenth of a second of one another in the 1:09.8 bracket. The Scotsman later improved his best time to 1:09.7776 but had no answer for Penske's substitute pilot.

"We accomplished a lot," Franchitti said. "It's been a really good couple of days, getting to know the team better. Each week, we are just learning more.

"It's been a long week, though. We were at Sebring from Monday right through to Saturday night, and then I didn't get here until about 11:30 [Saturday] night. And before that we were testing at Phoenix. So I feel like I've been working a lot for the past week."

Third through seventh places were separated by just two-tenths of a second, led by Power's Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe. Defending series champion Scott Dixon was fourth, suggesting that the Penske and Ganassi teams will again dominate IndyCar Series road course events in 2009.

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos took the next two spots, with Rahal the last driver to come in faster than 1:10.

"The car is pretty good," Rahal said. "We're learning quite a lot, which is important. We've got a lot more knowledge and understanding than we did before, and that's what we need. We're trying things that we hope we can adapt to other tracks. That's been our focus."

Andretti Green Racing was led by Marco Andretti, who ran seventh with a lap of 1:10.0908. Teammate Tony Kanaan was the last of 10 drivers on Monday who went faster than the 1:10.5005 benchmark Dixon had established Sunday.

"The great thing about a test is not having the pressure of lap times and who is the fastest," Kanaan said. "We are only concerned about figuring out what to do to make the 7-Eleven car better overall."

Sixteen cars participated in the Barber test sessions, as HVM Racing, Conquest Racing, Foyt Racing and 3G Racing elected to utilize the allotted time for private testing instead. HVM and Conquest plan to test at Sebring International Raceway this week, with HVM running Ryan Hunter-Reay in a second car. However, Hunter-Reay has not yet been confirmed for a race seat.

Milka Duno, who twice tested for Newman/Haas/Lanigan in recent weeks, was absent from the activity at Barber because of delays in putting together her sponsorship package.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and