With nearly four months having passed since the final chequered flag of the 2008 season, those with confirmed or anticipated drives in this year's IndyCar Series are counting the days to the time they can get back behind the wheel.

None appear more anxious to get back behind the wheel than the new Team Penske pairing of Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, thrown together by the uncertainty over Helio Castroneves' participation, and eager for the first open test of the season, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, next week.

For Briscoe, 2009 will be a second season with Team Penske, and he looks to continue the success he found in 2008 and build upon the momentum he established at the end of the season. The 27-year old Australian earned his first IndyCar Series victory at Milwaukee, and added to it with wins at Mid-Ohio and the non-points race at Surfers Paradise, as well as taking three poles during the course of a campaign that, early on, seemed set to cast him aside after a string of poor results.

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In the final seven events of the season, including the exhibition at Surfers Paradise, Briscoe took two poles and started in the top five every time, before going on to claim two of his three wins amid four top three finishes. His win on home soil in Australia rounded out a resume that now boasts and IndyCar win on each type of track that the series visits, and sets Briscoe up nicely for a run at the title in 2009.

"I'm really pumped up to get the season started," he enthused, "It's been a long off-season, but the upside is that it's given us a great opportunity to spend time in the race shop to talk about how we can improve and be stronger in 2009.

"We haven't been in the car since Australia and everyone is excited to get out there. We don't get to do a lot of testing throughout the year, so I think we'll really be looking to take advantage of the track time in Miami and at the Barber test so we're ready to go racing when the season starts in St Petersburg."

Briscoe also made use of the time off to spend ten days at Formula Medicine in Viareggio, Italy. The facility, led by Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli, was founded to provide racecar drivers with an opportunity to learn about and implement successful training regimes, and Briscoe spent a significant amount of time there in the early stages of his career. This month's return was his first since moving to the United States in 2005, however.

"I wanted to return to Formula Medicine for a refresher before the 2009 season started," he admitted "I needed to make sure that I'm at the top of my game and my performance level is at its highest so we can shoot for a successful season."

Fellow Australian Power will get behind the wheel of Castroneves' familiar #3 Penske Dallara for the first time at the Homestead test in preparation for a possible race campaign should the two-time Indy 500 winner be prevented from driving by tax evasion allegations.

"I'm really looking forward to getting in the car next week," Power said, "It's a tremendous opportunity for me to be able to drive for such an accomplished organisation as Team Penske.

"I'm especially excited to test on ovals in the Team Penske car - I struggled on the ovals last year and I'm looking forward to getting some practice in as well as working with my new crew. This team has definitely proven that they know how to find success on all types of circuits and I can't wait to work with them."

Power won't be the only new member of Penske personnel when the green flag falls on practice next week, as Briscoe will be working with new race engineer Eric Cowdin, who steps into his new position for the 2009 season.

Cowdin joined the team last autumn and immediately found success with the #6 car as he and Briscoe teamed up to win in Surfers Paradise, and is keen to replicate that as the 2009 season gets underway. He brings experience of working with Forsythe Championship Racing and the Tasman Motorsports Group, before moving on to assist Tony Kanaan and Cristiano da Matta in Indy Lights, and following the former back to CART and then IndyCars, initially with Mo Nunn Racing and then at Andretti Green Racing. The pairing spent six years together, claiming 13 race wins, ten pole positions and the 2004 IndyCar Series Championship.

"The off-season has really given me a chance to settle in at Team Penske," Cowdin revealed, "You see that this is a first-class organisation when you're on the outside looking in, but it's not until you become part of the team that you realise just how truly amazing this group is.

"Ryan and I have been able to work together a couple times already, which was good to get in before the new season begins. We've been working hard at the shop during the off-season and now we'll get a chance to implement some of those things on the racetrack. Being able to test on both an oval and a road course will help us in accumulating data for the upcoming season and, just because we won't compete at Homestead until the last race of 2009, doesn't mean that we won't be able to apply the things that we're going to learn to the races proceeding it. I'm looking forward to next week and I'm happy that the 2009 season is finally here."