Team Penske Foursome Runs Well at Phoenix INDYCAR Test

February 28, 2016

AVONDALE, Ariz. (February 27, 2016) – Team Penske enjoyed a strong unofficial start to the 2016 Verizon IndyCar season during a two-day test session at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday and Saturday. With 12 hours of testing on the one-mile oval in preparation for the series’ return to Phoenix this year, all four Team Penske cars posted top-10 lap times of the combined sessions.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves recorded the fastest lap among all 21 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers at the test. After running only a handful of laps in the early afternoon session on Saturday due to mechanical issues, Castroneves returned to the track in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet in the evening session showing impressive speed. The veteran Brazilian racer clocked a fast lap of 190.894 mph to lead the final session on track with the fastest time of the two-day test.

“We had a little issue with the Hitachi car in the first session, but were able to take full advantage of the second one,” said Castroneves.. “The car seemed to be very solid in qualifying trim and we were able to jump into race mode. (The race in April) is going to be fast and non-stop. The Phoenix fans are going to have a heck of a race.”

Debuting the new look of the No. 22 HP Enterprises Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet at the test, Simon Pagenaud wound up with the second fastest overall lap of the “Test in the West.” Beginning his second season with Team Penske in 2016, Pagenaud was clocked at 190.747 mph to lead the third session – Saturday’s early afternoon practice.

"We've been working on the Hewlett Packard Enterprise car pretty well,” said Pagenaud during the afternoon break between sessions. “We've been doing race stuff all day and the times have improved, so I feel very comfortable in every condition now. We managed to get a snapshot of what qualifying would be like this time of the day. The car was fast. So far so good. Chevrolet has done a great job with the aero package and the engine, so we are just scratching the surface."

Former series champion Will Power also enjoyed a strong test as he returns to the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet this season  Power owned a best lap of 190.081 mph in Saturday’s early session to finish with the seventh-fastest time overall.

“The Verizon Chevy has been good and we got a chance to work on a lot of things,” said Power, the 2014 champion. “We worked on pit stops, did some qualifying runs and we wanted to run in traffic as much as possible so we’ll be ready for the race.”

Juan Pablo Montoya produced the 10th-fastest overall lap of the test as he recorded a top speed of 189.284 mph in the third practice earlier in the day Saturday while driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

“The Verizon Chevy’s been good,” said Montoya, the defending Indy 500 winner who finished second in the championship in 2015. “Today we had a couple… did a little bit of qualifying simulations, nothing too extreme. Just figured out an idea of what we need to do. Here, I think the big thing is who's going to be best in traffic. That's always -- it's a tough place to pass. Everybody seems to be really close together, very competitive. I think if you look at both aero kits, it seems like the cars are really close together again, so it's just going to -- qualifying is going to be harder, racing is going to be harder, because everybody is going to be a lot closer together.”

Over the course of the two days, Team Penske led three of the four individual sessions with Castroneves pacing the first and the final three-hour practices and Pagenaud topping the third practice charts.

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Phoenix with a night race on Saturday, April 2 (live at 8:30 pm ET on NBC Sports Network). The 2016 season will take the green flag at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 13 (live at 12:30 pm ET on ABC-TV).