So, Helio Castroneves, what was discerned from the IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park encompassing 2,811 laps, five sessions, two days and 24 cars?

“The field is so competitive; we have some new teams up at the top giving us a hard time,” he said. “These two days have been great motivation for competitors.”

That was displayed on the scoring pylon. What else?

“My teammates, they are two great talents – Ryan (Briscoe) and Will (Power) – pushing each other but I’m glad we were able to put the No. 3 up at the top at the end of the day. Our goal as a team is to finish 1-2-3 every race. We want to accomplish what we’ve failed to do the last three years: win the championship.”

Castroneves, who wowed the crowd with his fence climb after winning the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race in Alabama last April, topped the combined time chart with a best lap of 1 minute, 11.9434 seconds on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn course.

Back to the first point. Twelve drivers were within one second of Castroneves’ best lap (48th of 52 on the day) in the fifth (afternoon) session and over the course of the nine hours of practice in preparation for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg next week. Two seconds separated the top 23. 

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (third overall; 1:12.2815) and Briscoe (fourth; 1:12.2954) weren’t surprises, but Oriol Servia (fifth) in the No. 02 Newman/Haas Racing entry, rookie teammate James Hinchcliffe (seventh) and KV Racing Technology-Lotus second-year driver Takuma Sato (sixth) caught everyone’s attention.

“When you are running in the top five there is a reason,” said Servia, who didn’t don an IZOD IndyCar Series firesuit last season. “I felt good in the car, with the team.  There is still a lot to come from myself and the car.  Everybody is super motivated.  James was super helpful all day yesterday and today with him knowing the track. When you are a year out of the car, of course you still think you can drive but it is just so great knowing it is true.”

Marco Andretti (eighth overall) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (10th) led the four Andretti Autosport cars, and Justin Wilson was ninth overall for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Not to be overlooked was Power, who started from the pole at Barber last year and won five road/street course races on the way to a runner-up finish in the championship.

“We did a lot of work and learned tons of valuable information about our car here at Barber,” said Power, who was second overall in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car (1:11.9636 in session 4). "Today we practiced pit stops, which are every bit as important as speed on the track with how tight the competition is in this series.

“I am definitely ready to get this season started."

Count in everyone else who participated, and drivers/teams that didn’t get in on the action but plan to compete for a starting spot in the opener.