It seems no one can stop Will Power at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend, with the Australian convincingly claiming the pole position for Sunday's race ahead of his Penske team mate Ryan Briscoe.
"It was very tiring but we saved it until the end and put a good lap together," said Power. "I'm happy to have the the #12 Verizon car up front again, it's really important to start from the front at this track."
Briscoe was disappointed not to claim pole, especially as "the car is feeling great this weekend," he said - but he conceded that "at least I was beaten by the guy who no one seems to be able to beat in qualifying!"
Ganassi's Scott Dixon just managed to stop Penske's driver trio from locking out all top three spots by withholding third place from Helio Castroneves, who will start alongside him on the second row of the grid for the race. Dixon's team mate, championship leader Dario Franchitti, will have to settle for a start from seventh place after failing to make it through to the the final Firestone Fast Six round. "Very disappointed," admitted Franchitti. "We gave up a tenth in the hairpin. We thought we'd have another lap but we had a little miscommunication and we didn't get another run at it. We need to figure out a way to get up to the front from seventh."
Fellow Brit Justin Wilson had an outstanding session, however, putting aside concerns about his injured wrist to get into the final six shootout and ultimately qualify in fifth place. "The Dreyer & Reinbold team did a great job with qualifying set up," he said. "The car felt pretty good this morning and then we made a few adjustments for qualifying and it was great to get into the Firestone Fast Six." But Wilson admitted that his injury was still playing on his mind:
It was also a very strong performance from Newman/Haas Racing, which saw Oriol Servia get into the final six after edging out Franchitti by 0.0016s. He will start alongside Wilson on the third row of the grid, while new signing and IndyCar rookie James Hinchcliffe will start immediately behind him alongside Franchitti on the fourth row. "It was frustrating in St. Petersburg when I was knocked out after the first round and I felt like I had only started," said Servia. "We don't quite have what it takes to make the Team Penske guys nervous yet, but we are working our way there."
It was a disappointing day for Andretti Autosports, however. Marco Andretti was their top-placed driver in ninth, but the other three drivers all failed to progress from the first elimination round. Mike Conway - who started from second place in this race in 2010 - will start from 16th, while Ryan Hunter-Reay lines up in 17th and Danica Patrick in 22nd.
Simon Pagenaud will start from 23rd place as he sits in at Dreyer & Reinbold for the injured Ana Beatriz; only James Jakes in the Dale Coyne Racing car went slower in Group 1 in the first round. The two sandwich Tony Kanaan in 24th place in the starting line-up for the race.
Full times and positions
available in the results section.