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Power closes 2-day test atop the chart

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Will Power topped the speed charts for a second consecutive day of IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports Park.

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The Penske Racing driver turned a lap at 1:07.1329, which was more than 3 seconds faster than last year's pole winning time set by teammate Helio Castroneves.

``Good start for the spring training,'' Power said. ``I think we got some good stuff to come back here for the race. 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.''

The IndyCar season opens March 24 in St. Pete, and Power said he's got very little planned between now and the opener.

``Just rest up, get ready and start the season,'' he said.

The fourth and final session Wednesday afternoon saw 14 of the 28 driver-car combinations post their best lap times. James Hinchcliffe was right behind Power at 1:07.3839, followed by Justin Wilson and Scott Dixon.

But Tony Kanaan's time of 1:07.5478 in Wednesday morning's session stood as fourth best overall.

``It's a good feeling to go into the first race of the season after a productive test like this,'' Kanaan said. ``Being here for two days gave us the ability to sort out the small bugs that we had on the first outing and work through our full test schedule. We made some good progress with the car, the new Firestone tires are working great and our Chevy engine was flawless. I'm ready for the green flag in St. Pete.''

Defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was fifth fastest overall with a lap turned Wednesday morning but felt the Andretti Autosport group is a long way off from the Penske cars of Power and Castroneves right now.

``We need to close the gap, but we have some things to work on,'' Hunter-Reay said. ``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.''

It wasn't as smooth for Marco Andretti, who was 22nd overall and lagged far behind teammates Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay. The fourth Andretti driver, newcomer E.J. Viso, was 20th.

``We got a lot done, but just not a lot of forward progress for No. 25 car today,'' Andretti said. ``It was a disappointing day, but obviously our teammates were quick, so we can look at what they are doing and be ready to come back in a couple weeks.''

James Jakes tested Wednesday for the first time with new team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was ninth quickest in the afternoon and 11th overall.

Ana Beatriz ran 41 laps Wednesday morning for Dale Coyne Racing - bringing her two-day total to 72 laps - before turning the car over to Stefan Wilson. Justin Wilson's younger brother completed 42 laps.

Both Beatriz and Stefan Wilson are trying to put together deals to drive a limited schedule in the second Coyne car.

``It's great to have a taste of IndyCar,'' said Stefan Wilson, who has two Indy Lights victories. ``Unfortunately, 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 race car on the road course.''

NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger, who is making a limited return to open-wheel by driving in the Indianapolis 500 and at Barber for Penske Racing, wound up 18th overall. He said he's still got some learning to do to get reacquainted with an Indy car.

``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,'' Allmendinger said. ``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.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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