Helio Castroneves ensured that he and Team Penske remained at the top of the testing timesheets as the Verizon IndyCar Series concluded a two-day promoter test day at the Phoenix International Raceway.

Competing en masse for the first time at the historic 1.022-mile oval since 2005, 21 drivers participated in the test, which serves as a preview for the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix on 2 April. More than 5,300 laps were completed, with 18 drivers clocking times faster than the official track record set two decades ago by IndyCar great Arie Luyendyk.

Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud led the way, with the Brazilian - who also topped day one - setting the fastest lap at 19.2735secs at the wheel of the #3 Hitachi Chevrolet during the climactic evening session.

"We had a little issue with the Hitachi car in the first session, but were able to take full advantage of the second one," said Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of the 2002 Phoenix IndyCar race, "The car seemed to be very solid in qualifying trim and we were able to jump into race mode. It's going to be fast and non-stop. The Phoenix fans are going to have a heck of a race."

Pagenaud was fastest in the afternoon session and second overall for the four sessions, with a lap of 19.2884secs. Both Penske drivers were more than three-tenths of a second under Luyendyk's 1996 record lap of 19.608secs, but won't see their marks recognised as official Indy car records can only be set during qualifying and the race.

"We've been doing race stuff all day and the times have improved, so I feel very comfortable in every condition now," Pagenaud reported, "We managed to get a snapshot of what qualifying would be like at that time of the day. The car was fast. So far, so good."

Since only four of the 21 drivers raced Indycars at PIR before, most spent the weekend becoming acclimated with the track that generates high G-forces in the turns.

"It's a very, very grippy place," said Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #11 Team Hydroxycut/KVSH Racing Chevrolet, "We're pulling over five Gs and it's a big commitment on such a place like this when you start to average speeds over 175mph. To give you an example, Milwaukee would be 3.5Gs, so it's a big commitment and big consequences if you get it wrong. It's a fun place but you've got to make sure you don't make a wrong assumption. That could be pretty costly."

Teams will now shift their attention to road/street course preparation with a private test at Sebring on Tuesday and Wednesday (1-2 March), before the season kicks off at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg over 11-13 March.

Combined timesheet - Phoenix International Raceway (26-27 February)

1. Helio CastronevesChevrolet19.2735s 190.894mph248 laps**
2. Simon PagenaudChevrolet19.2884s 190.747mph337 laps*
3. Josef NewgardenChevrolet19.2917s190.714mph295 laps*
4. Ed CarpenterChevrolet19.3316s190.321mph253 laps*
5. Marco AndrettiHonda19.3351s190.286mph267 laps**
6. Tony KanaanChevrolet19.3474s190.165mph202 laps*
7. Will PowerChevrolet19.3560s190.081mph117 laps*
8. Ryan Hunter-ReayHonda19.3986s189.663mph253 laps**
9. Scott DixonChevrolet19.4259s189.397mph252 laps*
10. Juan Pablo MontoyaChevrolet19.4375s189.284mph238 laps*
11. Graham Rahal
Honda19.4492s189.170mph240 laps*
12. Charlie KimballChevrolet19.4915s188.759mph234 laps*
13. Takuma SatoHonda19.4998s188.679mph249 laps**
14. Sebastien BourdaisChevrolet19.5228s188.457mph262 laps*
15. Carlos MunozHonda19.5478188.216mph284 laps*
16. James HinchcliffeHonda19.5614s188.085mph310 laps*
17. Gabby ChavesHonda19.5629s188.070mph328 laps*
18. Max ChiltonChevrolet19.5699s188.003mph307 laps*
19. Luca FilippiHonda19.6833s186.920mph233 laps**
20. Conor DalyHonda19.7490s186.298mph255 laps**
21. Jack HawksworthHonda19.9946s184.010mph194 laps*

* denotes time set in session 3; ** denotes time set in session 4



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