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Power leads final IndyCar winter test

Will PowerWill Power topped his first session as a Penske driver when he set the fastest time on the final day of the Barber Motorsports Park IndyCar Series test.

The Australian's future with Penske remains unclear, as he has been signed as a substitute for Helio Castroneves while the former Indianapolis 500 winner is on trial for tax evasion charges.

Castroneves' trial began in Miami three weeks ago and Power is currently Penske's scheduled driver for the season-opener at St Petersburg on 5 April. However, the team has said that if Castroneves is acquitted and available at St Pete, he will drive the car.

"I'm focused on acting as if I'm running the season," Power said. "(The trial) is something that's out of my control. I'm just going to keep working away at it. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, if the situation presents itself."

Ganassi's Dario Franchitti also showed speed, posting the second-fastest lap of the test with a 1m09.7776s. It was Franchitti's first open test on a road course since returning to IndyCar racing after a year in NASCAR, and followed immediately after his appearance at Sebring with the Highcroft Acura American Le Mans Series team.

"It's been a really good weekend," said Franchitti, the 2007 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar champion. "I got to know the team better and Scott (Dixon), as well. Each week is just learning more.

"It's been a long week, though, with Sebring. We were at Sebring from Monday right through to Saturday night and then came right here. And before that we were testing at Phoenix. I feel like I've been working pretty hard this last week."

Following Power and Franchitti on the chart were Penske's Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi's Dixon, Newman/Haas/Lanigan's Graham Rahal and his new team-mate, Robert Doornbos.

All 16 drivers at the test improved their lap times from Sunday, with the top 10 drivers going quicker than Sunday's best time, a 1m10.5005s recorded by Dixon.

Andretti Green's Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan were seventh and eighth, ahead of Justin Wilson - running for Dale Coyne Racing again - and Hideki Mutoh (AGR).

KV Racing driver Mario Moraes slid off course and into the tyre barrier shortly before noon, but returned for the final 20 minutes of the session.

Much of the talk on Monday again focused on the possibility of a race at the facility, which has held numerous sportscar and motorcycle events since being opened in 2003. Unconfirmed rumours circulated that a deal was in the works to get a race at Barber on the 2010 IndyCar schedule, but no announcement was made.

"It's a fabulous facility - the way it's built, the way it's kept," Franchitti said. "The track is a real commitment track, a lot of really, really fast corners. I'm enjoying it a lot.

"I think if were to come back here and race, a couple of changes would need to be made to create some passing opportunities, but I don't think that would be a problem judging from what they've already done here."

Pos  Driver            Team                 Time        Gap
 1.  Will Power        Penske               1m09.4557s
 2.  Dario Franchitti  Ganassi              1m09.7776s  + 0.3219s
 3.  Ryan Briscoe      Penske               1m09.8401s  + 0.3844s
 4.  Scott Dixon       Ganassi              1m09.8904s  + 0.4347s
 5.  Graham Rahal      Newman/Haas/Lanigan  1m09.9176s  + 0.4619s
 6.  Robert Doornbos   Newman/Haas/Lanigan  1m10.0229s  + 0.5672s
 7.  Marco Andretti    Andretti Green       1m10.0908s  + 0.6351s
 8.  Tony Kanaan       Andretti Green       1m10.3072s  + 0.8515s
 9.  Justin Wilson     Dale Coyne           1m10.3177s  + 0.8620s
10.  Hideki Mutoh      Andretti Green       1m10.3573s  + 0.9017s
11.  Dan Wheldon       Panther              1m10.5267s  + 1.0710s
12.  Mike Conway       Dreyer & Reinbold    1m10.6965s  + 1.2408s
13.  Raphael Matos     Luczo Dragon         1m10.7051s  + 1.2494s
14.  Mario Moraes      KV                   1m10.7207s  + 1.2650s
15.  Danica Patrick    Andretti Green       1m10.8411s  + 1.3854s
16.  Ed Carpenter      Vision               1m11.5245s  + 2.0688s

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