By Steve Keating
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – Tony Kanaan will start from the middle of the gird for the Indianapolis 500 but had his AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet out front on Friday, posting the top speed in final practise for the “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
Kanaan, who needed 12 years before capturing a maiden Indy 500 in 2013, flashed the type of speed that could take him to Victory Lane a second time – recording a maximum 225.517 mph around the sprawling 2.5-mile oval in the final tuneup for Sunday’s race.
Rookie Santino Ferrucci had the second best effort behind the Brazilian pacesetter, clocking 225.486, while Japan’s Takuma Sato, the 2017 winner, was third quickest under overcast skies.
It marks the second consecutive year that Kanaan has dominated what is known as “Carb Day” and will be hoping it is a better omen than in 2018 when he led for 19 laps before crashing out 13 laps from the checkered flag.
“It was a good day for us, conditions look very similar to what we are going to see on Sunday,” said Kanaan, who qualified 16th and will start inside of row six alongside Graham Rahal and 2008 champion Scott Dixon.
“I wasn’t really happy with my car on Monday and I was extremely vocal about (that), and I think my engineers heard me and made it better today.”
Frenchman Simon Pagenaud flashed little of the speed he displayed putting his Team Penske Chevrolet on pole for Sunday’s race, producing the 22nd best time.
Teammate Australian Will Power, who is bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002, was the quickest of the powerhouse Team Penske four-car entry, clocking the 10th fastest run.
Marco Andretti, who is trying to end the Andretti Curse and become the first member of his clan to win the Indy 500 since his grandfather Mario in 1969, was 23rd best.
Underscoring the ultra-competitiveness of this year’s race, every driver in the 33-car field, with the exception of rookie Ben Hanley, were within one second of each other.
“It is the most competitive field I have ever seen in my 18 years here,” said Kanaan. “Qualifying was really hard and it was extremely tight. I think it is going to be a difficult race.
“I do strongly believe that every single guy starting this race and girl, they think they can win this race.”
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)