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Power Paces Day 1 Of Barber Open Test

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BIRMINGHAM, March 15, 2011: A day earlier, Will Power was among numerous IZOD IndyCar Series drivers who relayed their predictions of the "tightest race in series history." He, of course, was speaking in season-long terms, though individual races definitely are included.

The first of a two-day Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park provided a preview. Seven different teams were represented in the top 10 of the combined time sheet for the two sessions (five hours total track time), and the top 18 of the 24 cars participating were separated by one second.

Power, who won five road/street races on the way to a runner-up finish in the 2010 championship, topped the field with a quick lap of 1 minute, 12.5056 seconds (114.198 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car on the 2.38-mile natural-terrain course. Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was second (1:12.5538) and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Justin Wilson was third (1:12.6791).

Five more hours of track time are scheduled for March 15 in preparation for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg next week. Barber Motorsports Park will play host to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 10.


Selected quotes from Chip Ganassi's media availability:

"You have to remember that motorsports is one of those businesses that as great a year that 2010 was, and it was an unbelievable year and one that any car owner dreams about, that was last year and this is this year. It's a zero-based game. We're starting back at zero and the points are all tied for all the championships. It's a new year and no one is going to forget about last year faster than our competitors that want to beat us. It's going to be a lot of hard work and to accomplish anything close to what we did last year, but that's why we are back here. That's the kind of challenge that we like and what attracts us to the sport, the challenge."

Is that why you've started the effort for Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball?: "Yeah. It's something where we can develop some people and develop our team and bring people along for the not only our team, but also the sport. We're not just developing drivers, we bringing along crew members, sponsors, team members."

About returning to Barber Motorsports Park: "I just like coming to this place. It's a great place. It's nice to come to a facility that you can tell somebody put a lot of passion into it. It's always a pleasure to come here. You feel vindicated in coming to a place where the support is alive and well."

About the changes INDYCAR has announced for the 2011 season: "I was in favor of (double-file restarts). I think it's a good thing. We have to attract some fans and when you visually watch a race on television, it needs to look like other races. Let's face it; most of the people who watch racing on television are watching NASCAR. When they turn on an INDYCAR race, they should be able to see what's happening and it should look similar. If you're watching the NFL or college football game, the rules are pretty much the same and the look is the same and the field is the same. There are small differences, but they are basically the same."

About free pass concept: "I think it's a good thing. It's part and parcel of keeping cars on the lead lap and keeping cars in the race. I've heard the argument that we don't have as many cars and don't pass them as early, it's 26 vs. 43. I'd have to say I'm in favor of it. If you're going to do it, go the whole way. If you're more concerned about yellows, there's going to be more guys who are a lap down, so they're going to need help to get a lap back."

How do you add cars without diluting your other two cars: "We've approached this as if it were two two-car teams. They have separate buildings, separate management. About the only thing that crosses over is some engineering that works back and forth. I've said it's like the Hendrick model in NASCAR. For us, I don't see how four cars under one roof would work."

About Scott Dixon/Jamie McMurray ride swap: "They scheduled it on a day that I can't be there, but I'd sure like to be. It was my idea, so I can't believe I'm not going to be here. I'm happy to do it for our guys. I always like our drivers to experience other things. They know each other from the 24 Hours of Daytona, so it's nice that they can get into each other's cars. Often times you hear those guys talking about each other's cars. It's kind of interesting and nice that they can get a taste of it firsthand. I don't think you need to worry about Jamie coming to INDYCAR or Scott switching to NASCAR, but I think it's really going to be fun. And more importantly, I think it's going to make them both better race car drivers." Scott says he's not worried about Talladega. He's more worried about Jamie wrecking his car. "Tell Scott, it's my car."

About Firestone's return: "The thing I took away from it is that it's more than everyone being unanimous in keeping Firestone. I think it was more that Firestone set the bar high for any tire company to come it. They started in Indy Lights and they were in Indy Lights for a year, then they tested for a year at all the circuits with a real team and driver and then they came in the series. You just don't go look for a tire company on short notice. It's a tall order, so we wanted see what we could do to help their decision making process."