Team Penske lead the way at Barber open test, Castroneves returns to the cockpit

by Jordan Groves

The Verizon IndyCar Series were in action yesterday at Barber Motorsports Park for an in-season test. Twenty-four drivers took to the track in Alabama, with all the teams having their sights set on preparing for the fourth round of the championship that will take place there on April 22.

A total of 510 laps were run over the course of the day, which was split into two sessions; one in the morning, one in the afternoon. 502 laps of the 510 total were run in the morning session. This was due to rain hitting the circuit for the second session, thus confining much of the field to the pit-lane due to the risk of spinning or crashing.

By the end of the day, reigning series champion Josef Newgarden was on the top of the time-sheets. His best lap time of 1:07.9793 was just over a second off of the pole position time set by Will Power for last year’s Grand Prix of Alabama. Newgarden led a trio of Team Penske Chevrolets, with Power following him in second place ahead of the returning Helio Castroneves.

The test yesterday was Castroneves’ first running in a 2018-spec IndyCar. The Brazilian series veteran was granted the opportunity to run in the test by team boss Roger Penske so that he could prepare for his race return to the series for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May. Helio completed the most running of any driver during the day with forty-one laps on the board. He was also the only driver to venture out in the wet second session.

“I’m so thankful to Roger [Penske] for letting me have this test to learn about the new car,” said Castroneves, who was moved from Penske’s IndyCar team to compete in the IMSA SportsCar Championship for this year, “The new car is really edgy on entry to the corners, but at the end of day, it’s faster, which makes it fun. Now I’m starting to sort it out and understand the tires but the whole scenario.”

“In some of the corners, you feel the rear [of the car] moving around. My first impression was, ‘Whoa, this is going to be tough.’ But as you get comfortable, you start to make changes.

“I forgot how a small change in an Indy car is a big change on the racetrack. In sports cars, the change isn’t so big. Also, the sports car has traction control, which this car doesn’t, so you have to take it easy. There are still a few details that I have to work out, but muscle memory kicks in and we’re getting there.”

 Dale Coyne Racing team-mates Sebastien Bourdais and Zachary Claman De Melo took the fourth and fifth fastest lap-times of the session. De Melo was the fastest rookie of the day, with the Canadian lapping within six-tenths of Newgarden’s time.

Takuma Sato took his #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda to sixth place at the end of the test, with Ryan Hunter-Reay less than half a tenth of a second behind in the #28 Andretti Autosport car. Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud were eighth and ninth respectively, with American rookie Zach Veach rounding out the top ten for Andretti.

British team Carlin continued to get laps under their belts as they prepare for the next few races of their debut IndyCar season. British driver Max Chilton was fourteenth fastest, with team-mate Charlie Kimball further back in twentieth. Between them, the pair completed fifty-eight laps of the Alabama circuit.

Additionally, the three rookies that made the most headlines in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. PetersburgMatheus LeistRobert Wickens and Jordan King, were further down the time-sheets. They all completed twenty or more laps during the day and wound up finishing in thirteenth, nineteenth and twenty-first respectively.

Following the test, the teams and drivers will continue to prepare for the second round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The 2018 Phoenix Grand Prix will take place at ISM Raceway on April 7.

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Barber Open Test – Results:

11Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:07.9793
212Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:08.1536
33Helio CastronevesBRATeam Penske1:08.3155
418Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan1:08.3820
519Zachary Claman De Melo (R)CANDale Coyne Racing1:08.5613
630Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:08.6335
728Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:08.6367
89Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:08.6870
922Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:08.7043
1026Zach Veach (R)USAAndretti Autosport1:08.8388
1115Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:08.9008
1227Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:08.9116
134Matheus Leist (R)BRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises1:09.1066
1459Max ChiltonGBRCarlin1:09.2126
1510Ed JonesUAEChip Ganassi Racing1:09.2330
1614Tony KanaanBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises1:09.3859
1798Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Autosport1:09.4359
185James HinchcliffeCANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports1:09.4366
196Robert Wickens (R)CANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports1:09.5237
2023Charlie KimballUSACarlin1:09.6123
2120Jordan King (R)GBREd Carpenter Racing1:09.6901
2221Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:10.0997
2388Gabby ChavesCOLHarding Racing1:12.1430
2432Rene Binder (R)AUTJuncos Racing1:12.1778

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