Helio Castroneves is going for a hat-trick on Pole Day, and he made his declaration of intent with an unbeatable lap of 228.611mph on the final full day of practice for the 2011 Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves has been on pole here in both 2009 and 2010 - and has been on pole for the race four times in his Indy career - and there were few who would bet against him pulling it off once more especially given his pace on Fast Friday. If he managed to clinch the hat-trick he would be the first person in Indy history to achieve it.
"It would be great," he said. "Records are made to be broke, so I'm not going to focus on that. I'm going to focus on what I need to make it work so we can put the Shell V-Power in the number one spot ... Just starting pole position would mean a lot."
Alex Tagliani continued to impress for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, coming in second on the time sheets at the end of Friday. "Our team continues to rise every weekend. When we are in the window when we roll off the truck, we have a great group of people who make it easy to fine-tune the car. Being a one-car team, when we are off the window, it's not easy, but this week, the car has been strong.
"I think we can go to bed tonight feeling we have a strong car, but the Ganassis and Penskes look tough. Hopefully when we pull everything out that we think we can, we'll be right there with them."
And sure enough, right behind Tagliani in the timing screens is Ganassi's Scott Dixon, followed by Penske's Ryan Briscoe - both lurking ominously to pounce and ruin Helio's and Alex's hopes for a big day on Saturday.
"I think we're looking good for tomorrow, and you should see the usual suspects coming to the top soon," said Dixon.
"Today was a good day," beamed Briscoe. "We completed a lot of laps [which is what] we needed after all the time we lost earlier in the week. We trimmed out the car at the end of the day and got good speed out of the car, but we haven't found the limit yet. ... We're excited about tomorrow. It should be a really good day on Saturday for Team Penske."
Bertrand Baguette was a surprise name rounding out the top five with a 228.028mph lap in the #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Ed Carpenter continued to impress for the Sarah Fisher Racing team in sixth place, the only other driver to break the 228mph barrier on Fast Friday.
"Overall, today was another productive day for us. We went in to Fast Friday with a game plan, and we stuck to it," said Carpenter. "We were able to do some mock qualifying runs early this afternoon and also worked on race setup a bit this evening. The car felt good out there; it's pretty consistent."