BIRMINGHAM, AL - MARCH 15: Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology Dallara Honda poses with his car and the decal 'Pray for Japan' during IZOD IndyCar Series Spring Training at Barber Motorsports Park on March 15, 2011 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
LEEDS, Ala. - Perhaps IndyCar should permanently place Will Power's no. 12 on top of every road course-scoring tower.
Power's Team Penske Verizon Dallara/Honda paced the field in all but one session this week during the IZOD IndyCar Series pre-season open test at Barber Motorsports Park. Team Penske teammate Hélio Castroneves topped Power in the event's final session but the 2010 championship runner-up was the dominant car of the event.
"This was a really good couple of days of testing," Power said. "We're really good. We did a lot of work and learned a lot of things about our car and this track. I'm ready to get the season started."
Castroneves, driving the no. 3 Guidepoint Systems Dallara/Honda, turned a time of 1:11.9434 to just beat out Power's morning session mark by 0.0202 seconds.
But just laps after setting his fast time, the defending Barber race-winner spun out in Turn 4.
Find out why after the fold!
"I was expecting the car to push but it went the opposite way," Castroneves said. "The good news is that nothing was damaged. I have two very fast teammates and we all pushed each other. I just pushed too hard there at the end."
It was an overall productive session for the teams who participated. While ovals continued to be dominated by Penske and Ganassi, road and street courses remain the great equalizer. Twelve drivers were within one second of Castroneves' best lap in the fifth session and only two seconds separated the top 23.
Defending IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti clocked a best time of 11th (1:12.8447) but was carried away on a wrecker for the second-straight open test after losing the car at the entrance of pit road.
"I pushed it a little too hard and that's the result, Franchitti said. "We've struggled from the moment we've got here. We tried some things and they didn't work so it's back to the drawing board.
Target Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon finished the test in third overall with a time of 1:12.2815 but was the lone Ganassi car in the top 10. Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball finished 14th and 20th respectively with times of 1:12.9804 and 1:13.3351.
While Penske and Dixon's success was not a surprise, Oriol Servia, Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe turned several fast laps.
Servia hasn't driven in the IndyCar Series since 2009 or full-time since 2008. Hinchcliff is a rookie and Sato struggled in 2010. Barber could mark the start of new opportunities for three different drivers.
The IZOD IndyCar Series will open the 2011 season on March 27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The series will return to Birmingham for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 11.