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Dixon tops first IndyCar test of 2009

Scott Dixon, Ganassi, Homestead testing February 2009Scott Dixon led the way in the IndyCar Series' first test session of the 2009 season at Homestead on Tuesday night, ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, while Mario Moraes, Will Power and Robert Doornbos impressed with strong performances in their wake.

Defending champion Dixon (Ganassi) had the fastest lap of the six-hour session, a 25.2919-second (211.372 mph) effort, ahead of his likely title rival Briscoe (Penske) and his Ganassi teammate Franchitti, the 2007 champion who has returned from NASCAR for 2009.

But it was Moraes, a 20-year-old who moved from Dale Coyne Racing to KV Racing Technology during the off-season, who raised eyebrows with his lap of 210.151 mph in fourth place.

"It wasn't about speed but to try to get a good set-up for races," Moraes said. "It think it went well, and I felt comfortable with the car. We will come back tomorrow and try out other set-ups and try to learn more about the car."

Power, who raced for KVRT last year but landed with Team Penske as a temporary or possible long-term substitute for Helio Castroneves, had the fifth-fastest lap of the session.

"The day went well," Power said. "I was just getting back into the groove. I haven't been on an oval in a while, so we went through a number of things and we were able to get the car better.

"I'm really just trying to learn the car and the team as quickly as I can. We're not trying to set the world on fire in practice, we just want to learn and get better."

Castroneves, who did not attend Tuesday's events, is scheduled to face a lengthy trial on tax evasion charges beginning on March 2 in Miami.

Meanwhile, Doorbos, the former Champ Car and Formula One racer, followed Andretti Green's Marco Andretti with the seventh-fastest lap among the 20-car field in his first effort for Newman/Haas/Lanigan.

Briscoe got acquainted with Eric Cowdin, Tony Kanaan's long-time engineer who joined Penske late last season, by first running a set-up lap for Power in the No.3 car that stood as the eighth-fastest lap of the day, then recording the second-best lap in the No.6 car.

"We had a lot of time to test several things, and the session also gave me the perfect opportunity to work with my new race engineer," Briscoe said. "Today was a lot about learning to understand each other. All in all I'm happy with how the day went, and I think we were able to make a lot of gains."

Kanaan (Andretti Green) and Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas/Lanigan) rounded out the top 10. The two-day test resumes at 4pm local time today.

Pos  Driver            Team                 Speed
 1.  Scott Dixon       Ganassi              211.372
 2.  Ryan Briscoe      Penske               210.793
 3.  Dario Franchitti  Ganassi              210.603
 4.  Mario Moraes      KV                   210.151
 5.  Will Power        Penske               210.138
 6.  Marco Andretti    Andretti Green       209.696
 7.  Robert Doornbos   Newman/Haas/Lanigan  209.584
 8.  Tony Kanaan       Andretti Green       209.067
 9.  Graham Rahal      Newman/Haas/Lanigan  208.802
10.  Danica Patrick    Andretti Green       208.720
11.  Raphael Matos     Luczo Dragon         208.694
12.  Ed Carpenter      Vision               208.672
13.  EJ Viso           HVM                  208.637
14.  Mike Conway       Dreyer & Reinbold    208.568
15.  Hideki Mutoh      Andretti Green       208.029
16.  Milka Duno        Newman/Haas/Lanigan  207.403
17.  Jaime Camara      Conquest             207.378
18.  Vitor Meira       Foyt                 207.184
19.  Justin Wilson     Dale Coyne           206.843
20.  Stanton Barrett   3G                   205.834

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