By Steve Keating
INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Tony Kanaan signaled on Friday that he will not surrender his Indianapolis 500 crown without a fight after posting the fastest time in final practise ahead of Sunday's race.
The Brazilian, looking to become the first driver to claim consecutive Indy 500 wins since Helio Castroneves accomplished the feat in 2001 and 2002, threw down a lap of 227.838 miles per hour around the 2.5 mile oval.
"Lap times don't count today, it feels good to be up there but it's not what it is all about," said Kanaan, who will start Sunday's race from the inside of Row Six. "We ran a lot in traffic and I'm pretty happy about it."
Kanaan was followed by Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon, who had a lap of 227.773 mph. American Townsend Bell, three-time winner Castroneves of Brazil and Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top five.
Local boy Ed Carpenter, who will start on pole for the second consecutive year, clocked the 13th-best speed followed by 46-year-old American Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner.
Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion who is attempting to race the 500 before flying to Charlotte to run NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 later on Sunday, turned in another strong effort landing 15th on the speed charts.
"I had to get back on the horse," said Busch. "That one hour session was an old-school happy hour thrash that we call in the NASCAR world.
"It felt good to get out there, get comfortable and I would give it a B overall."
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula One drivers champion and 1995 Indy 500 winner who is racing an IndyCar at the Brickyard for the first time in nearly two decades, finished well down the standings in 30th.
Britain's Pippa Mann, the only woman qualifying for the 33-car field, had the 25th best speed.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)