Last year's IZOD IndyCar Series runner-up Will Power got his 2011 title bid off to a good start with the fastest time on the opening day of the official preseason test at Barber Motorsports Park. The Verizon Team Penske driver was quickest in both the morning and afternoon sessions at the Alabama road course, his 1m12.5056sec beating second-placed Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) by half a tenth of a second.
"We definitely found some things today that will help us here," Power said. "The track conditions really improved late in the day before we decided to stop a bit early because of the rain. It felt really good out there and I hope it's dry tomorrow so we can get back out and do some more laps in the Verizon car.”
There were encouraging signs of challenges to the usual Penske/Ganassi dominance at the head of the order, with Justin Wilson taking Dreyer & Reinbold to third place, ahead of Penske's Helio Castroneves. But the star of the day was potential rookie James Hinchcliffe, testing for Newman/Haas again as he continues to work toward a deal with the squad. The Canadian took second place in the morning and was fifth overall.
Ryan Briscoe was sixth for Penske, having caused a stoppage with a minor off in the morning. KV's Takuma Sato – who was driving with "Pray for Japan" logos on his car following the natural disaster in his homeland – and Panther's J.R. Hildebrand also had minor incidents during the day.
"Overall, I think today's practice sessions were successful," said Danica Patrick, who finished up 19th overall. "We made a lot of changes to the car – some worked, some didn't, but that's what testing is about. I think we will be able to fine-tune some of the things that worked well, and put them to test again tomorrow. The time that we have spent on track is going to be useful when we are back here in a few weeks."
EJ Viso put the lead KV car in seventh, with returnee Mike Conway the fastest of Andretti Autosport's quartet in eighth, just ahead of teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Alex Tagliani completed the top 10 in his now Sam Schmidt Motorsports-run car, while reigning champion Dario Franchitti was back in 12th for Ganassi.
Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, who looks increasingly likely to do a part-season deal with Dale Coyne Racing, was 16th. Coyne also gave a surprise IndyCar debut to GP2 driver James Jakes, the Briton taking 23rd in the team's No. 19 car.
Testing concludes for the IndyCars with another five hours of running tomorrow.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske 1m12.5056s
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m12.5538s + 0.0482s
3. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 1m12.6791s + 0.1735s
4. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m12.7764s + 0.2708s
5. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 1m12.8729s + 0.3673s
6. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m12.9715s + 0.4659s
7. EJ Viso KV 1m13.0170s + 0.5114s
8. Mike Conway Andretti 1m13.0338s + 0.5282s
9. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m13.1048s + 0.5992s
10. Alex Tagliani Schmidt 1m13.1187s + 0.6131s
11. Graham Rahal Ganassi 1m13.1366s + 0.6310s
12. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m13.1524s + 0.6468s
13. Takuma Sato KV 1m13.1913s + 0.6857s
14. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 1m13.2537s + 0.7481s
15. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m13.2586s + 0.7530s
16. Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne 1m13.2904s + 0.7848s
17. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m13.4546s + 0.9490s
18. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 1m13.4830s + 0.9774s
19. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m13.7102s + 1.2046s
20. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m13.7737s + 1.2681s
21. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 1m13.8020s + 1.2964s
22. JR Hildebrand Panther 1m14.5534s + 2.0478s
23. James Jakes Dale Coyne 1m14.7775s + 2.2719s
24. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 1m15.0777s + 2.5721s