Sato sizzles in Indianapolis 500 practice
Two-time winner Takuma Sato ramped up anticipation for Indianapolis 500 qualifying on Friday, turning the fastest practice lap since 1996 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Japan's Sato topped the six-hour Fast Friday practice session with a lap of 38.3382sec -- 234.753 mph (377.8 Km/h).
That was the ninth-fastest practice lap ever on the 2.5-mile (4.0km) Brickyard oval.
The eight fastest were all produced in 1996, led by Arie Luyendyk's lap at 239.260 mph.
Sato's best lap came during a four-lap qualifying simulation early in the session that he had to abandon after nearly brushing the wall in turn four.
"The beginning of the run, first time today, was really too light," Sato said. "The middle run, we had more downforce, and I was getting more comfortable. By the end of the day, I think I wanted to try to find the limit again, so we went to a little bit sketchy (set-up) again, so I had to lift in turn four.
"But overall, I think we were very satisfied with our performance."
Sato, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2017 and 2020, is driving all of IndyCar's oval races for Chip Ganassi Racing this season.
His exploits on a speedy day of practice raised expectations for qualifying on Saturday and Sunday for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
Marco Andretti was second quickest Friday with a lap at 234.202 mph while Ed Carpenter Racing's Rinus VeeKay was third at 234.171.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Marcus Ericsson was fourth at 234.029 mph in his Honda-powered Ganassi car.
Mexico's Pato O'Ward rounded out the top five for Arrow McLaren Chevrolet at 233.796 mph.
Sato also posted the fastest four-lap average of 233.412 mph.
Qualifying starts Saturday, with spots 13 through 30 in the field of 33 to be decided.
The 12 fastest drivers on Saturday will return Sunday to compete for pole position and the rest of the top 12 spots.
The four slowest cars will also return on Sunday to settle the back of the grid. With 34 contenders, one will miss out.