ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Three-time and defending Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg champion Helio Castroneves said early in the morning that he wanted to "make sure to get in some good laps" on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.

Twenty-five cars did just that in the initial practice session of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. In fact, eight cars recorded a lap quicker than the record race lap set in 2006 by Castroneves. Reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay led the way at 1 minute, 2.4534 seconds -- and was only 1.5 seconds off the track record.

Click it: Practice 1 results

"Whatever we tested during the offseason, see if that starts working," said Castroneves, who was 11th on the time chart. "It is a new construction of Firestone tires so we have to understand what’s going to happen with this configuration of the track. You just have to go, feel the care and hope for a good day.

Hunter-Reay's Andretti Autosport teammate, James Hinchcliffe, was second (1:02.4544) and Team Penske's Will Power -- who has earned the pole the past three seasons -- was third (1:02.5464).

The second session is scheduled for 2:40 p.m. (ET), with live Timing & Scoring and the IMS Radio Network broadcast on indycar.com. Qualifications are at 2:30 p.m. (ET) March 23 live on NBC Sports Network.