Power and Hinchcliffe discuss their fast laps. (LAT photo)
Will Power finished the IndyCar open test at Barber Motorsports Park on top after once again setting the best lap in Wednesday's afternoon session.
Penske driver Power, who was quickest across both days of the test, secured his place on top with a best lap of 1m07.1329s, 0.2 second faster than nearest rival James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport.
"Good start for the spring training. I think we got some good stuff to come back here for the race," said Power. "It's just phenomenal how tight it is up front all the way through the field, and also just how fast these cars are around here, it's just unbelievable."
Hinchcliffe also was pleased with his team's progress, despite Penske man Power's stranglehold on the top times.
"We had a lot of things to test -- with a long off season it give the engineers a lot of time to dream up new fixes and magic pieces so we had to test a lot of those," said the Canadian. "I think having four cars really helped us get through the things we wanted to.
"The Go Daddy car ran well both days and it was good to be up near the sharp end of the grid, but ultimately it's just testing the track conditions will be a bit different when we come here for the race. But hopefully what we learn here translates and we can be competitive when we roll off the trailer in a couple weeks."
Justin Wilson delivered the third-quickest time in the Honda-powered Dale Coyne car, while Tony Kanaan's 1m07.5478s lap in his KV racing entry -- which will now be referred to as the KV Racing Technology-SH entry following KV's alliance with SH Racing -- from the morning session was enough to keep him fourth overall in the combined times.
Reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, Charlie Kimball, Helio Castroneves (RIGHT) and Simon Pagenaud completed the top 10, with all but Hunter-Reay setting their best times in the afternoon.
"We need to close the gap, but we have some things to work on," said Hunter-Reay. "We definitely didn't optimize our quickest run of the day on new tires. We know what's in the car -- we need to close the gap to whittle on the Penske boys but all in all the team did a good job over the test and I'm looking forward to the season with the DHL car."
The session was punctuated by a late incident when Ed Carpenter went off and hit the barriers. The series' only owner-driver was unhurt and managed to get his car back to the pits. Oriol Servia also triggered a red flag with a spin in the Panther-DRR car.
"The last 30 minutes were a bit of a mess, obviously Ed (Carpenter) spinning and Oriol (Servia) spinning, causing two reds," noted Dixon. "The last run we put in our last new set of tires and changed ECUs, so I had no overtake for the end. I think we should have ended up a lot better than where we were.
"We worked on some development things from the winter and generally I think the car is handling pretty good, but there's some areas I think we're struggling. Kind of got to go to St. Pete with a bit of an open mind and see how that track goes."
AJ Allmendinger, driving the third Penske car that he will race at the Alabama circuit and the Indianapolis 500, finished up 18th overall.
"We still have a long ways to go in the learning process, but I was pleased with some of the steps we were able to make today," said Allmendinger. "Obviously, these Chevy engines are fast when you look at the best two times, now it is my job to start getting in front of the car and learn how to turn that speed into better lap times."
It was another troubled day for Dragon Racing, with a disgruntled Sebastien Bourdais settling for 23rd overall after what he termed "a long day. We did a lot of laps trying different things and just couldn't figure it out. We will go back to the shop and take a look at things, so we can be back to where we need to be." Teammate Sebastian Saavedra was even worse off, his day ending after just 17 laps following a minor damage-inducing off-track run.
Stefan Wilson registered the 28th-best time in the second Coyne car after taking over from Ana Beatriz for the afternoon session.
"It's great to have a taste of an Indy car," said Justin's younger brother. "Unfortunately today, we missed an hour and a half after lunch so it was just a brief taste, but hopefully we'll be able to get another test in.
"There was a lot to adjust to, getting use to gearing, coming into pit stops and leaving the pits as well. It was a lot to take in on the first day. It's good to just kind of shake the cobwebs off and get back in a racecar on the road course."
Practice 4 times