Scott Dixon has taken pole position for the penultimate round of the 2009 Indy Racing League at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan after his final effort was enough to displace Mario Moraes for a surprise top spot.
The Brazilian driver, who arrives at Motegi on the back of a career-best third place at Chicagoland Speedway, looked destined to come out on top around the Japanese circuit, only for Dixon, the last of 23 qualifiers, to snatch it away from him.
His first proper pole position of the season – his top spot at Kentucky coming as a result of entrant points -, the timing could not be better as he attempts to overhaul Ryan Briscoe's 32 point advantage over him in the standings.
"For me, it's definitely all out (in this race)," said Dixon. "We've got to try to gain obviously the pole point. It's only one, but it definitely helps. It's also good for the ego coming into the race, maybe confidence over some of the others.
"Championships come down to that one point. It's definitely heading in the right direction. Last year we were dominating the race and still you could not be on the right strategy and somebody else could win. So we've got to try to keep pushing, but do it I think skillfully to make sure we don't go out there, burn a bunch of fuel, get ourselves in trouble as well.
"First step is done. Hopefully, we can continue in that direction. But we've still got 32 points to catch up to Ryan. That's a lot of points, unless he has a bad day."
Nonetheless, both Briscoe and fellow title contender Dario Franchitti are well positioned for the race too, securing the second row, the Scot ahead of the Australian in third and fourth.
"I think our race car is better than our qualifying car right now," Franchitti said. "(Briscoe has) to keep an eye on what we're doing. We've got to go out there and close the points gap. We'll be doing the best we possibly can."
Graham Rahal will start fifth for NHLR, just ahead of Danica Patrick, who returns to the scene of her famous triumph in 2008 determined to win again. Rahal's team-mate Oriol Servia will start from seventh, his best effort on an oval, while Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson and Tomas Scheckter complete rows four and five.
Further back, Helio Castroneves has it all to do from 22nd on the grid after crashing out on his third qualifying lap on the exit of turn four.