Castroneves Leads Second Practice at Barber

April 6, 2013

LEEDS, Ala. (April 5, 2013) – Team Penske extended its record of strong performances at Barber Motorsport Park on Friday as the team recorded three of the eight fastest lap times during the first day of practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Helio Castroneves posted the fastest lap of the day, needing only 68.5540 seconds to navigate the 2.38-mile road course in his No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

Teammates Will Power and AJ Allmendinger were not far behind as Power recorded the fifth-fastest time among the 26 drivers on track with a lap of 68.8066 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon machine and Allmendinger’s 68.9119-second lap in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet earned him eighth place on the practice rundown.

“The AAA team felt really strong but sometimes I think it’s better to be lucky than good,” said Castroneves, who will look to defend his 2012 pole position at Barber during Saturday’s qualifying. “Obviously with the yellow (flag) in the end (of practice) a lot of guys probably put on tires, but the car felt pretty good. In the morning, unfortunately, it was a little bit difficult because seeing that the track has lots of grip and when you have an extra set of tires certainly it helps a little bit. In the end of the day, with AJ and Will, we’ve been actually doing a lot of different stuff out there and it seems to be working.”

Power, who is the two-time defending champion at Barber, had a consistent day running the Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet near his usual place on the top of the scoring pylon as he finished fifth in both practice sessions. Power knows his team will need to keep improving on Saturday and Sunday in order to secure a third victory on the technical road course.

"We definitely have a bit of work to do with the Verizon car because we're just off the pace a bit,” said Power, who recorded the fastest time during IndyCar Spring Training at Barber in March. “We were running top five all day, but we really had to push to get there. We'll get together tonight and work to figure out how to improve for qualifying tomorrow."

For Allmendinger, it was a successful and productive day as he prepares for his first IndyCar race in seven years after several productive seasons in NASCAR.

“I am just trying to learn how these weekends go and try to keep up with the race track as it changes,” said Allmendinger, who tested previously at Barber to build his experience level at the circuit. “Here, obviously the whole time you’re working on speed, but there’s not a lot of time to work on race set up. So far it felt like the first day was good, I think we were ninth and eighth, so there’s still a lot of cars to beat.”

However with the strength of the team that has dominated the three previous races at Barber behind him, Allmendinger is excited about what tomorrow’s qualifying holds.

“The cars are going to be fast, that’s the good thing about the Penske organization around this place because I know the IZOD car is going to be fast and the setup is going to be very close. It’s just going to be me going out there and figuring it out, what I need in a race car, how I get the speed out of it. Going out there for the first time and not having any practice and you just gotta go get that fast lap.”

Qualifying will begin Saturday at 11:25 ET and can be seen at 5:00 pm ET on NBC Sports Network.

Sunday’s Grand Prix of Alabama will be also be televised on NBC Sports Network with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

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