2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves posted the fastest lap of the first day of the Indy Racing League Open Test at Nazareth Speedway, 19.4556 seconds, 172.824 mph, with less than 30 minutes remaining in the afternoon session April 4.

Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, took the top spot from Jaques Lazier, who ended up second at 19.5116, 172.328 in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Thirteen drivers turned a total of 1,932 laps in preparation for the Firestone Indy 225 on April 21, the first Indy Racing League event at Nazareth.

Castroneves, in his first full season of IRL competition, has made six prior starts on the tricky 1-mile oval at Nazareth in CART and Indy Lights. That experience helped during the first day of this two-day test, which took place in air temperatures in the 40's.

"We learned a lot over here with the new equipment," Castroneves said. "In terms of the first time here with this car, I was very happy. It was pretty much the way I was expecting. The track temperature, it's very low. On the race weekend, it may be totally different, but so far with the conditions that we had, the car seems very solid."

Lazier showed consistent speed throughout the test, which started 50 minutes late due to cold air and track temperatures. He was fastest after the first hour at 167.246 and led for two hours during the afternoon session with his fastest lap of the day before Castroneves climbed to the top. Due to Lazier's strong performance, Team Menard will not participate in the second day of the test Friday.

"We were trying to get a nice, stable car, a consistent car," Lazier said. "And we went out there right at the very end and ran 25 laps within a tenth of a second of each other. I think we have a real consistent car, and it's also pretty quick."

Indy Racing League points leader Sam Hornish Jr. was third fastest at 19.6718, 170.925 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Scott Sharp was fourth at 19.6770, 170.880 in the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, and 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. rounded out the top five at 19.7805, 169.986 in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

Jeff Ward and Laurent Redon also will not participate in the second day of testing, which starts at 9 a.m. (EST) Friday. Ward and Chip Ganassi Racing completed their test tasks in one day, and Redon's No. 34 Mi-Jack Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone was damaged during an accident in the afternoon. Redon hit the outside wall exiting Turn 4 but was unhurt.

Rookie Tomas Scheckter will test Friday for Red Bull Cheever Racing. The team brought just one car to the test, with Cheever testing today and Scheckter Friday.



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