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Penske thrive in IRL's new era

Team Penske opened the IRL IndyCar Series' all-Honda era by sweeping the front row for Sunday's season-opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Sam Hornish Jr. won the pole position with a record lap of 24.4625 seconds (218.539 mph), while team-mate Helio Castroneves had the second-best lap of the day at 24.5131 seconds (218.087 mph).

"We just got as little downforce as possible and went out there and tried to hold on to it," Hornish said. "After Helio's lap (in practice) this morning, I was sure that he would be the guy to beat.

"I had just enough to get him, and that's all that matters."

The sweep supported predictions that Penske would potentially benefit most from the switch to Honda power.

The team have struggled with Toyota engines for the past two seasons. While Penske was the best among Toyota teams last year, it also was the first to end its association with the manufacturer, a move that eventually led to Toyota's decision to forego the final year of its contract with the IRL.

Penske put extensive effort into aerodynamic work to compensate for their lack of horsepower last season. Many expect these endeavours to pay off now that engine parity has been established.

"We've spent a lot of time making sure we have good setups for these tracks," Hornish said.

"The guys work incredible hours to make sure our cars are super smooth and aerodynamic. I think it's going to show.

"Hopefully we'll keep our heads in the right direction all day tomorrow and we'll have a one-two Penske finish in the race, too."

"It's good that the results are showing up on the track," Castroneves added. "The last few years we'd been working very hard.

"I don't mean that in a negative way; Toyota worked hard with us. Unfortunately, Honda was always at the top of the game.

"Now things are more balanced. We're very happy that those two years paid off."

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