UPDATE: Power completes Barber test sweep

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The day is new at Barber Motorsports Park, but the driver atop the IndyCar timing sheets on day two of testing isn’t. Will Power led the morning session for Team Penske, now down to a 1:07.4981. It was four tenths quicker than his fastest lap on Tuesday.

Chevrolet entrants swept the top five, with Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simona de Silvestro next up. Scott Dixon was the top Honda runner in sixth.

Ana Beatriz, rather than Stefan Wilson as had been anticipated, was still behind the wheel of Dale Coyne’s second car. James Jakes took over from Mike Conway in RLL Racing’s second car, and clocked in 21st of 26 drivers to take time.

This post will be updated after the conclusion of the afternoon session.

UPDATE: 8:30 p.m. EST:  The final session of IndyCar’s two-day test at Barber confirmed two things: another new unofficial track record, and Will Power’s permanent presence atop the leaderboard.

The Australian led all four sessions, two apiece on Tuesday and Wednesday, and got down to a best time of 1:07.1329 in the last session.

“A good start for the spring training,” said Power. “I think we got some good stuff to come back here for the race. It’s just phenomenal how tight it is up front all the way through the field, and also just how fast these cars are around here, it’s just unbelievable.”

As was the case in the other sessions, Chevrolet teams nearly locked out the top five positions. James Hinchcliffe ended the final session second with Tony Kanaan fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth. The latter two posted their best times in the Wednesday morning session.

Justin Wilson interrupted the Chevrolet sweep, as top Honda on the day in P3 at 1:07.4996 for Dale Coyne Racing. Overall, the top 16 times were all within one second of Power’s best at Barber.

James Jakes had his first run for RLL and wound up a respectable eleventh overall. Also at Coyne, Wilson’s younger brother Stefan Wilson made his IndyCar testing debut. His best time was 1:09.9513, and he only turned 42 laps before encountering some gearbox gremlins early in the day. All told, it was a promising debut.

See also: Power leads both Tuesday Barber test sessions

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).