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Final IndyCar Series test of 2013 underway at Sebring

Eleven drivers from seven teams are getting a jump on the 2014 IndyCar Series season with a two-day test at Sebring this week.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Andretti Autosport, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing all returned to end-of-sesson testing at Sebring this week, in order to continue their preparations for next season.

"It's nice to get a couple days [of testing in], keep everyone flowing well and get the guys back out here working together," said Josef Newgarden, who enters his third season with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, "I think it keeps everyone on their toes throughout the off-season.

"I think there's a chance to get a little out of rhythm if you're off the track for too long. Even for me as a driver, it's great to be back behind the wheel for a couple of days. It keeps you fresh and keeps your brain thinking over the holidays."

Several of the Honda teams spent their time developing the twin-turbocharged engines that the manufacturer will use in 2014. Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe got his first taste of a Honda-powered car since the team announced it would be switching to the supplier for the 2014 season. In fact, the outing was his first in an IndyCar since the series finale at Auto Club Speedway in mid-October.

“It seems like Fontana was forever ago," Hinchcliffe said, "To get to run in the car is great and especially to get a first taste of the Honda power. It's an exciting new chapter for us, getting to work with [the Honda Performance Development] guys and building some new relationships and learning as much as we can about this new engine."

Also testing throughout the day was series newcomer Mikhail Aleshin, who took the wheel of the #55 SMP Racing entry. The 26-year old Russian ran many laps alongside team-mate Simon Pagenaud in the #77 car.

"It's very important through the winter season to be able to use the test days to experience things we wouldn't do during the race weekend," Pagenaud explained, "There are a lot of items, a lot of experimental things we want to try and hopefully understand what direction they could take us and apply it to the race car in the future."

Takuma Sato tested his AJ Foyt Racing car one day after the announcement that he would return to the team for the 2014 season, while 2012 Pro Mazda champion and 2013 Indy Lights race winner Jack Hawksworth participated in his second IndyCar test, this time with Dale Coyne Racing.

"To me, it's almost like the beginning of 2014 preparations,” Sato noted, “It's good to be back in the car. After Fontana, it's really a long break. I had a lot of events back in Japan, but it's nice to be back in the IndyCar. Today, for me and for AJ Foyt Racing, it's our first day with the new Honda twin turbo engine. I've only done a few laps with it in the morning, but I had a good, positive taste of it. Hopefully, this afternoon we can get more miles on it and get prepared for 2014."

Mike Conway, who will compete with Ed Carpenter Racing on road and street courses next season, tested the #20 Fuzzy's Vodka entry, with team owner/driver Ed Carpenter in attendance as well.

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James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing [credit: Chris Jones]

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