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May 27, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tony Kanaan was so frustrated during qualifying that he was simply relieved once it was over.

Now, his attitude has turned to full-blown optimism.

Kanaan was the fastest in the final round of practice for the 100th Indianapolis 500 on Friday, posting a lap of 226.280 mph to highlight a frantic Carb Day that saw Pippa Mann slam the wall midway through the session.

Carlos Munoz spent most of the hour-long practice, later extended by 10 minutes, atop the speed charts. But the popular Kanaan bumped the Honda driver late in practice to give Chevrolet the top spot in what is shaping up to be an intriguing battle between the two engine manufacturers.

Munoz had a lap of 224.772, followed by Scott Dixon, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

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''I'm happy with my car. Obviously I have to pass 17 people before I get really happy with my car,'' said Kanaan, who will start 18th for Chip Ganassi Racing on Sunday. ''After the struggle in qualifying, we really focused on the race. Anybody who counted us out will be sorry.''

Kanaan started 12th when he won the Indy 500 three years ago.

He is hardly the only big name who will have to work his way through the field, though. Kanaan pointed out that defending winner Juan Pablo Montoya will start alongside him, and veterans such as Marco Andretti, teammate Charlie Kimball and two-time pole winner Ed Carpenter will surround him.

''There are very experienced guys back there. Sometimes that's not the case,'' Kanaan said. ''I plan to start the race, if there's a gap I'll go for it, and then I'll probably just look how the race plays out. Patience will be a big factor here because it's not as easy to pass it is was in previous years.''

There was plenty of passing during Friday's practice session, which took place under sunny skies and with temperatures soaring into the mid-80s - similar to what is in the forecast for race day.

That could give an advantage to Kanaan and the other Chevrolet drivers. Their cars have been better when the weather has been warm, the track is slick and the cars are harder to handle.

''I'd like it to be really hot,'' said IndyCar points leader Simon Pagenaud, who will start eighth for Penske Racing. ''I think it would make our car better.''

Pole sitter James Hinchcliffe, who was involved in a life-threatening wreck during practice a year ago, was 12th in practice with a top lap of 223.925 mph. But after hopping out of his car and getting a surprise hug from his brother, who had flown in from England, he professed himself ready for Sunday.

''Honestly it's the best it's been,'' he said. ''Every time I got in traffic, it's getting better and better.''

There was plenty of traffic as teams took advantage of their first chance to practice in five days, and their final opportunity to tweak anything before the historic race. Mann was fortunate to avoid catching anyone else when she got loose in Turn 4 and backed into the wall, skidding back across the track.

Montoya was just behind Hinchcliffe in practice, with Graham Rahal right behind him. The son of 1986 winner Bobby Rahal will start 26th on Sunday but believes this is his best chance to win the race.

''I'm just really pleased,'' he said. ''I feel good about our car. If we're running second, even third, I feel like we've got a good shot at winning. If it comes down to battling, we're not going to give up.''

Sounding less optimistic was Marco Andretti, who is once more trying to end his family's long dry spell in the race. He qualified 14th but was just 21st in final practice.

''Before this session we just wrote ourselves big signs that said, `Don't panic,' and that went right out the window. We didn't get going until right at the end,'' he said after a lap of 222.821 mph. ''You know, I think we need to make the right decisions for the race.''

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