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Penske's Helio Castroneves begins IndyCar return in Barber test

Helio Castroneves says "muscle memory" made his return to an IndyCar seat in testing straightforward ahead of his two 2018 Indianapolis races

Castroneves was switched to the IMSA SportsCar Championship as part of Penske's new Acura programme ahead of the 2018 season, bringing a close to 20 years in IndyCar.

But Penske will still run Castroneves at the Indianapolis road course and the Indy 500 as he seeks a fourth win at IndyCar's flagship race.

He sampled the 2018 IndyCar package for the first time at this week's Barber open test and was third fastest in a Penske 1-2-3 at the top of the times.

"I've missed it, it was great fun," Castroneves told Autosport.

"It was about using muscle memory. So, sure, I am a sportscar driver now, but you cannot take away the open-wheel roots. I have an IndyCar mentality.

"The first run was about learning the new car. It's very different from the last Indycar I drove, and it's very quick. I had to adjust a little bit of my driving style compared with last year.

"I had a few moments out there, to be honest, but I was able to catch it and because of less weight in the back, you can correct and catch it.

"It's very slippery on corner entry, but we made some good adjustments and towards the end of the day, we were getting better."

The Barber test was interrupted by rain in the afternoon, when Castroneves - who covered eight laps - was the only driver to do any running.

"Those few laps in the wet were fun, too. Chevrolet has made good changes in the software, so it has good driveability," he said.

"It's a shame I didn't get more time out there, but that's how it is. The rain came, but I know there was more time on the table which we didn't get a chance to find.

"Independent of the track, it was good to understand the new car's characteristics, especially when making changes to it.

"I wish the test had been longer for us, but still it was a big day, a useful day for me."

Newgarden fastest at Barber

Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was fastest at the Barber open test, leading team-mates Will Power and Castroneves.

Newgarden's best lap of 1m07.9793s was set in the morning running and was 0.1743 seconds faster than Power.

Dale Coyne Racing ended up a surprise fourth and fifth with Sebastien Bourdais and Zachary Claman de Melo, while Takuma Sato was sixth for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the quickest Andretti driver in seventh ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon in eighth and Simon Pagenaud ninth for Penske.

Andretti rookie Zach Veach was 10th fastest as all 24 cars completed running at Barber.

Barber test times

Pos Driver Team Car Time Gap Laps
1 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 1m07.9793s - 18
2 Will Power Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 1m08.1536s 0.1743s 19
3 Helio Castroneves Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 1m08.3155s 0.3362s 33
4 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda 1m08.3820s 0.4027s 22
5 Zachary Claman Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda 1m08.5613s 0.5820s 21
6 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara/Honda 1m08.6335s 0.6542s 11
7 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda 1m08.6367s 0.6574s 13
8 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda 1m08.6870s 0.7077s 23
9 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet 1m08.7043s 0.7250s 25
10 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda 1m08.8388s 0.8595s 25
11 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara/Honda 1m08.9008s 0.9215s 12
12 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Dallara/Honda 1m08.9116s 0.9323s 20
13 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Chevrolet 1m09.1066s 1.1273s 25
14 Max Chilton Carlin Dallara/Chevrolet 1m09.2126s 1.2333s 36
15 Ed Jones Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda 1m09.2330s 1.2537s 24
16 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Chevrolet 1m09.3859s 1.4066s 13
17 Marco Andretti Andretti Herta Dallara/Honda 1m09.4359s 1.4566s 17
18 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda 1m09.4366s 1.4573s 29
19 Robert Wickens Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda 1m09.5237s 1.5444s 27
20 Charlie Kimball Carlin Dallara/Chevrolet 1m09.6123s 1.6330s 22
21 Jordan King Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 1m09.6901s 1.7108s 20
22 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 1m10.0997s 2.1204s 14
23 Gabby Chaves Harding Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 1m12.1430s 4.1637s 4
24 Rene Binder Juncos Racing Dallara/Chevrolet 1m12.1778s 4.1985s 29

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