Tony Kanaan laid down the gauntlet.

And if Penske and Ganassi drivers have left any sand in their proverbial bags, Kanaan's hot lap of 226.775 mph at the very least served notice that the road to the 2010 Indy 500 pole award will at least pass by a 7-11 or two. The affable Brazilian then followed with a little sandbagging of his own, as he simultaneously downplayed his own chances and challenged his Andretti Autosport team to find more speed. Worth noting is the fact that Kanaan has never started an Indy 500 lower than sixth on the grid.

"Right now, I don't see anybody else besides the three Penske and the two Ganassi guys to be on the pole, to be honest with you," Kanaan said. "Unless somebody finds something between now and Saturday; I think we're going to see that they're going to play between themselves."

Paul Tracy posted the second fastest lap of the day at 226.322 mph; while Newman-Haas driver Hideki Mutoh continued his strong showing with the third best lap of the day (226.230 mph), his second straight day in the Fast Five. Tracy cautioned that all of the track time lost to rain (Thursday's session was cut 55 minutes short after another lengthy delay in mid-afternoon) and the new Top-9 pole shootout format could have some teams peeling their cars off the wall Saturday afternoon.

"I haven't been out here as much and gotten used to the downforce levels being trimmed way off and doing the four-lap qualifying runs with the car being super trimmed out," Tracy said after the session concluded. "So asking the driver to go and stick his neck out on the line once is hard enough because the car is free and sliding and dancing to get the speed. To do that multiple times and sticking your neck out, I can predict that someone is going to step over that line."

With more rain predicted for Friday, many drivers were scrambling to complete race simulations while also churning out laps in qualifying trim. On the outside of the 33-car field timewise Thursday were Thomas Scheckter, Sebastian Saavedra, E.J. Viso (in his backup car after Tuesday's hard meeting with the Turn One wall) and the omnipresent Milka Duno. Worth noting was the fact that veteran and former pole winner Bruno Junqueira was able to squeeze some extra speed out of a stint in Saavedra's car.

The new qualifying format, a hybridization of the normal Pole Day format with the Fast Six shootout of road course qualifying (extended to nine for the 33 car field) left the usual suspects wondering how it will all play out.

"Mentally, it requires a lot more. I was playing out a couple scenarios and trying to figure out the new format. I pretty much said, "You used to go out and do the four laps while hanging on for your life, and you put it in the field sixth and think: 'That's it. I'm happy. I'm going to go home.'" Kanaan said. "Now I have the risk to actually lose that spot and start ninth. The people that are going to suffer are the guys at the edge, which you're going to have plenty of because of the tight field, they're going to wonder, 'Can I do it again?'"