Scott Dixon had impressed in the Honda-powered Ganassi car during the first practice session of the season at St Petersburg with a lap of 1:03.0406s (or 102.791mph), but Will Power's efforts in the Penske-Chevrolet car in second practice sliced another full second off that seemingly without trying as he set the best lap of the day at 1:02.0077s (104.503mph).
It was an impressive first day for the new DW12 Dallara chassis and the new-specification engines, that was for sure.
"I'm enjoying it like a kid with a new toy!" said Briscoe, who finished just 0.0854s off his team mate Power's best time. "It already feels faster than the old car around here, braking later. It feels really good, especially the extra horsepower from the Chevrolet twin-turbo V6. It's definitely a different feel."
All of the drivers set their best times in the second practice session of the day, as the 1.8-mile temporary street course got more rubber laid down and grip increased as a result. Last year was similar, with the track seeing times fall from 1:04.1437s in first practice to 1:01.9625s in time for the Firestone Fast Six final round of qualifying on the Saturday, and the fastest lap of the 2011 race set by Helio Castroneves with a 1:03.8683.
"It was definitely a good first day for Team Penske," said Castroneves of his 2012 efforts so far after finishing sixth fastest for the day. "The [Penske] car was very promising. Our second session was much improved and the guys did a good job. I'm very encouraged about our chances for tomorrow and in Sunday's race."
Power's top time was set on just his third lap out in the afternoon, and he only ran seven laps in total in the session. He was quick to say that his limited running time on Friday afternoon didn't indicate any problems with his #12 Verizon car.
"We didn't do many laps in the second session, we wanted to conserve tyres until we have a better understanding of how they degrade and it puts us in a good position for tomorrow in practice," he explained.
Friday at St Petersburg was the very first time that all the cars and drivers have been out in their new chassis and with their new engines, and with a second covering the top 19 cars it proved that the new hardware had substantially increased the level of competition out on track
"It's actually very tight and very close," said Power. "It's pretty good."
Penske are obviously keeping their eyes on arch-rivals Ganassi, with Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon packing out the next three positions from third through to fifth in the day's timesheets and looking ominously strong as a result.
"We're still learning both the engine and the chassis," said Franchitti, whose best time was 1:02.2232s (104.141mph). "The Target guys are working hard on it and we have tonight and a practice session tomorrow to get it right for qualifying. You always have these things when you're developing a new car. It's a lot of work."