Power leads IndyCar test

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:


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 ESPN.com.