Castroneves Tops Final Barber Test Day

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Helio Castroneves put the No. 3 Penske Racing Dallara Honda on top of the speed charts during the final day of the IZOD IndyCar Series open test at Alabama's Barber Motorsports Park. (Dan Helrigel/IndyCar Photo)
Helio Castroneves put the No. 3 Penske Racing Dallara Honda on top of the speed charts during the final day of the IZOD IndyCar Series open test at Alabama's Barber Motorsports Park. (Dan Helrigel/IndyCar Photo)

LEEDS, Ala. — Penske Racing finished the two-day IZOD IndyCar Series open test at Barber Motorsports Park exactly how the team started it, on top.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves beat his best lap time by more than half a second in the final session Tuesday, clocking in at 1:11.943 in the No. 3 Penske Dallara Honda at the 2.38-mile road course.

Castroneves set fast time Tuesday despite an excursion through a gravel pit earlier in the day.

“I was expecting something different from the car because it kept changing throughout the day based on the track,” said Castroneves. “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.”

Power, who led day one of the test, was second fastest with a lap of 1:11.964 in the No. 12 Dallara Honda for Penske Racing. Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, Team Penske’s Briscoe and Newman-Haas Racing’s Oriol Servia completed the top five.

“This was a really good couple of days of testing and our Verizon car was very good,” said Power. “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.”

The biggest surprise in the top five had to be Servia, who at this point does not have a contract to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series this year.

“I’m so happy! Obviously it’s great to be in the top-five, but I’m just so happy,” said the Spaniard. “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 [Hinchcliffe] was super helpful all day yesterday and today with him knowing the track and I really hope we can be teammates,” Servia added.

Mike Conway’s test came to an early end when he stuffed his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara Honda into the tire barriers in the morning session. Conway and his team had been practicing live pit stops when he lost control of his car after the team put on a new set of tires to begin the day.

“The car handled a little differently than it did yesterday, and it just caught me out,” Conway said. “I got on the grass coming out of [Turn] 15 and it was so wet, it took me straight into the barrier. It’s a shame, but fortunately, it’s just a test day.”

Panther Racing rookie J.R. Hildebrand missed the full day of testing after crashing Monday. His team was unable to repair the car at the track.