March 06, 2012  |   By Marshall Pruett - SPEED

Monday Sebring Spring Training Report

Courtesy of Speed.com

Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay saved the best for the end of the day, dropping the fastest lap from the morning by almost a half-second just before the day's activities came to an end at 5 p.m. ET.

The American's 52.58-second lap in his Chevrolet-powered Dallara DW12 led fellow Chevy user Helio Castroneves, who topped the morning session with a 52.94-second lap and improved it to a 52.70 in the final 30 minutes of of the afternoon.

"We just kept working through some pretty big changes," RHR told SPEED.com. "We found speed in some and not in others, but that's what testing is all about. It's just great to be out here with all these DW12s painted up. It feels like we're starting the season already."

Simon Pagenaud led the Honda runners in third with a 52.73-second lap, followed by Andretti's James Hinchcliffe in fourth whose 52.91-second lap was set just before he ran out of fuel.

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe set the fifth-fastest time with a 52.92-second lap, while his teammate, Will Power, was an uncharacteristic sixth on the speed charts...but for good reason.

The Aussie was sidelined just as the rest of the teams were posting fast laps due to a small fire that broke out in the engine bay.

With the local corner marshal taking longer to appear with a fire extinguisher than Power wanted, he took it upon himself to solve the problem.

"I got out of the car--I could see it was burning, and the guy was taking his time getting across the track, so I ran, ripped the fire extinguisher off him and put the fire out," Power told SPEED.com. "I didn't want to see my Verizon car get burned to the ground..."

Power's mechanics and members of Ilmor, the firm that builds the Chevrolet engines, are working late into the night on his Dallara DW12-Chevrolet with the goal of being back on track when Tuesday morning's activities begin at 9 a.m. ET.

Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson ended the day in seventh with a 53.17-second lap, Marco Andretti went eighth with a 53.28 and Wilson's teammate, James Jakes, ran ninth with a 53.92.

Simona de Silvestro was slowest with a 54.56, but the time was not representative as her car suffered a misfire shortly after the afternoon session began.

With the Lotus running on five cylinders, the team opted to take the car back to its hauler, where it spent the rest of the day.

HVM Racing team informed SPEED.com the root of the problem was found in the wiring system, and like Power, de Silvestro should be on track in the morning.

Dragon Racing spent the afternoon sending its cars through tech as it waited on engines. Between observing the on-track activities, Dragon's Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge worked on the fitment of their respective steering wheels.

Team Penske's Helio Castroneves led the 10 drivers participating in Monday's IndyCar Spring Training session at Sebring's short course, turning a 52.94-second lap just before the lunch break to top Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who sat out for the first half of the morning. Once on track, Hunter-Reay quickly registered a 53.10-second tour around the 1.8-mile, 10-turn circuit.

"I'm focused on the car and just feeling everything," Castroneves told SPEED.com. "I'm not even focused on the times right now. At the end of the day, when we go to the tracks that we race on, you have to learn what you need for those places, not just to be fast here, so we're encouraged but not looking at the times."

Team Penske's Will Power had multiple offs Monday morning on the way to setting the third-fastest lap at 53.11, followed by Ryan Briscoe, the final member of the Penske trio in fourth with a 53.33-second lap.

Briscoe executed a harmless spin which brought out a brief red flag, but had no other issues.

Andretti's James Hinchcliffe managed a 53.64-second lap which was good enough for fifth, but the Canadian's body language indicated he thought a lot more speed could be found in the afternoon.

Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson followed Hinch with a 53.78-second lap, Marco Andretti, like RHR, waited out the first half of the morning and went seventh-fastest with a 53.88-second run.

Coyne's James Jakes, making his second pre-season outing, turned a 54.51-second lap and Simona de Silvestro, driving the lone Lotus-powered car, closed out the running order in her HVM Racing entry with a 54.56-second lap.

An 11th car was listed for the Monday-Tuesday portion of the test, with Dragon Racing's Katherine Legge expected to appear on Tuesday, but at present, the team's cars are in the paddock without engines.

Her teammate, Sebastien Bourdais, is scheduled to test during the Thursday-Friday segment of the event, while reported contract issues between the team and the British marque continue to be discussed.

Times were down significantly to the high 51-second laps turned two weeks ago, but much of that can be attributed to tires.

While most tests prior to Spring Training were conducted using a wide variety of Firestone compounds, a representative told SPEED.com that all cars will use just one spec this week--the harder primary tires that will be employed for at least the first five street races of 2012.