It wasn't only the result, advancing eight positions to finish 16th, that impressed Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart during the 2010 season finale weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I could see the potential the way he drove through the whole race," said Bachelart in announcing that Saavedra will compete in the full IZOD IndyCar Series season in the No. 34 Conquest Racing car. "I was really impressed with that; he drove like a veteran by using the tools in the car at the proper times and driving the high line.

"He's 20 years old but very mature. I'm impressed with the level of information he gives us and his focus. He drives in a consistent way; he's not going to try to do crazy things in the car if it's not handling the way he likes it. I believe he has a really bright future."

Saavedra was 21st of the 24 cars (combined time sheet for two sessions) on the 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park circuit with a quick lap of 1 minute, 13.8020 seconds during the first day of the Open Test. Two more sessions are scheduled for March 15.

"I'm excited to be entering my first full season of IndyCar competition,” said Saavedra, of Bogota, Colombia. “I’ve been working a long time towards this and for it to finally happen is fantastic. I can’t wait for the season to start. I know it won’t always be easy but I am up for the challenge.”

Saavedra made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 (started 32nd, finished 23rd). In Firestone Indy Lights, he recorded one victory (Iowa Speedway) and four other top-five finishes in 11 starts. He was the ’09 Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year, finishing third in the championship.

“I think we can expect some good things from him this season," Bachelart added. "We’re also happy to be keeping up our tradition of giving young up-and-coming drivers the chance to take their career to the next level.”

‘Free pass’ decision due this week

INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said a decision regarding implementation of the “free pass” to complement its restart procedures would be announced this week.  The feature gives the first car a lap down a free pass to regain its lap before restarts.

Alterations to the restart procedures, including cars side-by-side heading to the green flag, were announced late last week.

“As much as I want to do everything the team owners want, I want to make sure we first and foremost take care of our fans,” Bernard said. “I’ve heard from a lot of them that don’t want it, that it’s too gimmicky.”

Team owner Chip Ganassi favors adopting it.

“I was in favor of (double-file restarts),” he said. “We have to attract some fans, and when you visually watch a race on television it needs to look like other races. If you’re watching the NFL or a college football game, the rules are pretty much the same and the look is the same and the field is the same. There are small differences, but they are basically the same.

“(The free pass concept) is part and parcel of keeping cars on the lead lap and keeping cars in the race. If you’re going to do it, go the whole way. If you’re more concerned about yellows, there’s going to be more guys who are a lap down so they’re going to need help to get a lap back.”

Ticket sales brisk for race on April 10

ZOOM Motorsports, promoter and event manager for Barber Motorsports Park, expects a sellout for the second IZOD IndyCar Series race at the scenic facility.

"It gives me chills," Bernard said of the prospects of the hillsides covered with spectators on blankets for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy on April 10.