Tony Kanaan leads final practice for 98th Indy 500

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Under a sunny Hoosier sky and in front of a healthy Carb Day crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, defending Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan topped the final practice for Sunday’s 98th Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The Brazilian threw down a lap of 227.838 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to lead the session, which is usually treated more as a dress rehearsal than anything else.

However, with rain washing out a noticeable amount of track time this month at IMS, some teams were looking to make last-minute progress on their race set-up, too.

Kanaan’s teammate and 2008 ‘500’ winner Scott Dixon was close behind with a lap at 227.773 mph in the No. 9 TCGR Chevy. He will start 11th (middle, Row 4) on Sunday’s grid, while Kanaan will start 16th (inside, Row 6).

“We feel good about [the race],” said Kanaan, who is looking to become the first repeat ‘500’ winner since Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002). “I think we worked pretty hard together to make up for our Saturday qualifying.

“We have great people back in the engineering office at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and I think we already showed that a little bit on Monday after qualifying and now today.”

Also breaking the 227-mph mark on Carb Day was NBCSN’s own Townsend Bell in the No. 6 KV Racing Technology Chevy. His best lap of 227.221 mph was third-fastest in the hour-long session.

Three-time ‘500’ winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was fourth at 226.187 mph, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin was fifth-fastest (226.045) to lead the rookies.

Kurt Busch, in his final IndyCar tuneup before he embarks on the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 ‘Double’ this Sunday, was 15th-quickest at 224.684 mph in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Busch was making his first run in an IndyCar since his hard practice crash on Monday at IMS.

“This morning, I was a bit anxious to get back in the car and see how I was going to feel,” Busch said. “There’s a lot to be said about guys when they hit the wall, they lose their confidence a little bit.

“I didn’t lose my confidence, I just needed to make sure that I didn’t over-adjust the car when I got back in traffic…I need to do a better job reading the traffic and that will help our Sunday.”

The sole incident of the session took place with half an hour to go when ‘500’ rookie Sage Karam got loose on the high line and brushed the Turn 4 wall before getting his No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing Chevrolet under control.

The 19-year-old returned to the pits with minimal outside rear damage to the car, but the team opted to end their practice early. Karam logged 19 laps, with a fast lap of 222.329 mph.

1,441 laps were turned overall in the session, and rookie Carlos Huertas ran the most individually with 65.

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018