INDIANAPOLIS -- It has been eight years since Helio Castroneves claimed victory at the Indianapolis 500, but the Brazilian made his case for a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 win by setting the fastest lap of Miller Lite Carb Day practice today in final preparations for Sunday's 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Castroneves (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet) ran a best lap of 227.377 mph in the session, followed by Takuma Sato (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, 226.802 mph) and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 226.757 mph).
101st INDIANAPOLIS 500: Miller Lite Carb Day practice; Combined session practice results
For Castroneves, the result adds a morale boost to his team heading into the biggest race of the year. The Team Penske driver, vying to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four-time champions of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," compared his added confidence to when he hard former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy address the team prior to winning the Super Bowl in early 2007.
"I remember Tony Dungy just before the Super Bowl a couple of years ago," said Castroneves. "When I was there, he finished the practice, everybody was really pumped. 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."
Castroneves will start 19th in search of his fourth win, looking to be the first winner to start outside of the top 15 since 2014. That year, Ryan Hunter-Reay also started from 19th and beat Castroneves by 0.0600 of a seconds in the second-closest finish in the history of the race.
Kanaan's teammate and Sunday's pole sitter, Scott Dixon (No. 9 Camping World Honda, 226.685 mph), and heralded rookie Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, 226.608 mph) rounded out the top five in the hour-long session.
"It was great. I mean, it was very smooth," said Alonso, who will start fifth in Sunday's race. "The car felt the best so far in the last two weeks, so extremely happy with the car."
With the Spaniard's first Indy car race on the horizon, Alonso used the final practice to continue sharpening his oval racing abilities, mimicking approaches and techniques he observed in watching previous Indy 500s.
"I was there making some moves," said the two-time Formula One world champion, "some different lines, just to try what I saw in the last three or four days in different medias from different years, so I was practicing that."
All 33 drivers took to the 2.5-mile oval for the final time ahead of Sunday's race, as teams looked to fine-tune their machines. The session was interrupted multiple times for cautions, though no serious incidents occurred on track. After a pair of track-inspection yellows, Conor Daly's No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet made slight contact with the inside wall on the front straightaway, bringing out a third caution. Shortly after resumption of the session, James Hinchcliffe's No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda began smoking on the back straightaway, prompting another interruption. Hinchcliffe's incident led INDYCAR to add five minutes to the practice.
The 33 cars are now idle until Sunday's 200-lap race, the sixth of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Coverage of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins at 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.