INDIANAPOLIS - Helio Castroneves signaled he is ready to challenge for a record equalling fourth Indianapolis 500 win by setting the pace in final practice on Friday, while Fernando Alonso also fired a warning shot at the famed Brickyard.
On a hot, humid day and cars in race trim, the popular Castroneves dominated what is known as 'Carb Day' at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He posted the fastest lap of 227.377 mph ahead of Japan's Takuma Sato on 226.802.
Brazil's Tony Kanaan, the 2013 winner, had the third best effort followed by 2008 champion and pole sitter Scott Dixon of New Zealand.
It was another attention grabbing display from twice Formula One world champion Alonso.
Alonso, who was allowed to skip this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix by his McLaren Formula One team in order to chase Indy 500 glory on Sunday, had never been in an IndyCar until earlier this month but has quickly gotten up to speed.
The impressive Spaniard will start as one of the favorites after qualifying fifth fastest in the 33-car field.
"It was very smooth, the car felt the best so far," said Alonso. "I am extremely happy with the car, I was making some moves with different lines what I saw in different videos from different years.
"One hour session you have a lot of things happening, everything is very compressed.
"Simple things I am still running behind a little bit but today I think we ticked all the boxes."
After an underwhelming effort from Team Penske in qualifying, Castroneves was back at the top of the timing charts and the popular Brazilian was all smiles as he bids to become the first non-American to join the Brickyard's exclusive club of four-time winners alongside Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt.
"Qualifying did not work out the way we wanted," said Castroneves who will start well back on the grid after qualifying 19th. "We keep working, digging, obviously finding a way. We're going to fight extremely hard out there and showing a little bit of speed certainly.
"I think today it was just a great way to finish practice like this, show that we have a good car, a good balanced car, and we're going for the big one on Sunday."
Reporting by Steve Keating