Indy Pro Series/Indy Lights veteran Wade Cunningham put all his experience to good use in qualifying for the season's blue riband event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, claiming his second Freedom 100 pole.

The Kiwi recorded a two-lap qualifying time of 1min 34.6485seconds, an average of 190.177mph, in the #11 Lucas Oil-backed Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, bettering Jaime Camara's 2005 qualifying effort of 189.870mph in the process.

"We were sitting here in line, 19th to go out, and Sebastian [Saavedra] pops that 47.25 up on the board,2 cunningham recounted, "That's a good time running by yourself, and we were only running marginally quicker than that at nine o'clock this morning with the cool ambient temperatures and a cold track, so I dug deep, and the car was great.

"The changes that were made from second practice to qualifying obviously worked. We didn't do the quickest lap time, but we were more consistent on the second lap."

The 2005 series champion, who had previously started from the pole the year after his title triumph, will be making his fifth Freedom 100 start - the most of any driver in the field - and has finished first (2006), second (2005), third (2008) and 23rd (2007) in his four previous attempts. Previous Schmidt polewinners Thiago Medeiros and Camara both went on to win the race.

"It's a long race, 40 laps, and anything can happen," Cunningham continued, "In 2006, it went green for 40 laps, and that is a completely different race than what is was last year, where we had the ten-lap shoot-out at the end.

"You just have to work hard and have the best car you can and take the conditions as they come. You never have a perfect car and, when you do, you win. So it's not often that happens, and you have to battle through the day. We'll just see how tomorrow comes."

Impressive rookie Saavedra qualified second, recording his third front-row start of the season after taking pole on the street course in St Petersburg and second on the short oval at Kansas.

"It feels wonderful - the whole AFS/AGR Racing team has done an awesome job putting the car together," the Colombian enthused, "We have a very strong car for this weekend, and we'll try to do our best.

"[Racing at Indianapolis] is unbelievable. It's an historic race, an historic racetrack - and here I am. It's a lot of feelings. It's happiness and nervousness, but I am very happy to be here."

Saavedra's AFS/AGR team-mate JR Hildebrand will share row two with Ana Beatriz, while British rookie Martin Plowman will line up a career best fifth, on the inside of row three alongside countryman - and 2006 series champion - Jay Howard.

"I love this qualifying format for the ovals," F3 convert Plowman revealed, "It's just one big adrenaline rush. I felt, in that first lap-and-a-half of qualifying, I did the best I could have done, but I made a small mistake on my second lap. It's just one of those things, and we're still reasonably pleased.

"[The Speedway] is everything that everyone describes of it. It's awe-inspiring. It's what dreams are made of, and it's what everyone dreams of as a young boy. The first time I drove around this place was just indescribable. It's pretty intimidating the first time you go out there but, once you get confident in yourself and the car out there, it's just a joy to race on."

Howard, meanwhile, did not appear on the pre-race entry and appeared on course to miss out until he and Team PBIR hammered out a last-minute deal to put him back into the #37 car. Howard missed the first practice session but turned 23 laps in the second, posting the 13th-fastest speed.

Without all of his usual kit, he borrowed the helmet worn by Target Chip Ganassi's Scott Dixon on IndyCar Pole Day and scrambled to find other equipment to ensure he could complete the weekend.

"It's a bit of borrowed equipment from everywhere," he laughed, "The helmet is Scott's, the suit and HANS are mine from the truck. The fireproof underwear, shoes, gloves and balaclava belong to Anton Julian [a member of Danica Patrick's crew who races locally,/i> - and I'm just happy I didn't stay out too late last night."

The Freedom 100 takes place on Carb Day, when the IndyCar Series gets its final shakedown before Sunday's Indianapolis 500.