Ganassi's Scott Dixon proved unbeatable in qualifying and was delighted to finally claim a pole position in 2011.

"I'm happy for Team Target," he said as he claimed his first pole position since Motegi 2009, 29 races ago. "They've worked hard all season and we haven't had the luck that we've needed. Dario has been stealing all the fame here. It's nice to get a pole."

Dixon had topped every one of the three rounds during the afternoon and was the only driver to post a sub-68s lap time with 1:07.837 in the Round 2 Top 12 shootout.

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Penske's Ryan Briscoe found a final surge in form to displace Dixon's team mate, championship leader Dario Franchitti from the front row of the grid for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

"It was a very hard-fought battle out there," acknowledged Briscoe. "This is a very physical track and it takes its toll on you. The track kept improving during qualifying and you really needed to be out there to take advantage of it."

Franchitti will start from third place alongside Will Power, and it will be interesting to see if the two really have settled their score from Toronto when Franchitti tipped Power into a costly spin mid-race and Power engaged in a strong war of words on "princess" Dario afterwards.

Power - normally untouchable on street and road circuits this year - was clearly not enjoying the Mid-Ohio track and was struggling for grip, the rear end threatening to get away from him as he was reduced to sawing at the wheel to stop the car from going off.

"We gave it everything we had, but just didn't quite have the car for pole today," confirmed Power. "I feel pretty good about it, though. What we have to do is be smart tomorrow, stay out of trouble and it should be a good day."

He was not alone, as the circuit proved almost as slippery as a dirt track at times for many of the drivers. Despite the difficulties, and even as the thunderstorms in the area threatened to close in and make the track even more treacherous, the qualifying process proceeded without incident or interruption and even the rain stayed away just long enough to conclude the Firestone Fast Six.

While Power and Briscoe upheld Penske's honours, it was a gloomy day for their other team mate Helio Castroneves who failed to progress from Round 1. He was visibly furious with how it had gone.

"It's certainly a disappointing qualifying result. It's been tough to get a handle on the set-up," he said. "The car was really loose throughout the session and we just couldn't find the grip we needed to make it to the next round of qualifying. We will continue to work on the car and make sure we are ready for the race tomorrow."

Andretti Autosport were also left scratching their heads after three of their four cars (Mike Conway, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick) were all eliminated in the same Round 1 group as Castroneves; but in stark contrast the fourth member of the line-up, Ryan Hunter-Reay, not only topped that group's times but even went on to claim fifth place in the Fast Six battle an hour later.

"We tried to take the Venom car closer to Ryan's setup but it just didn't work for us today," admitted Marco. "Obviously 19th is not where we want to be starting tomorrow but we'll do what we can to make our way through the field."

"It was a difficult day for us today," said Conway. "We thought we had improved the car from the morning practice session, but we couldn't get the pace we needed ... We had a problem in the last couple of laps."

Martin Plowman struggled in his d?but qualifying appearance in IndyCar and finished last-but-one in his Round 1 group with 1:10.2533s, slotting in ahead of Ed Carpenter who was appearing on his first road course outing for Sarah Fisher Racing this year. Carpenter was over 2s slower than Plowman and both he and the team will have to work a lot harder to succeed on road courses if they want to run a serious full season campaign next year.

"It's been a really disappointing day. This is not how we felt it was going to go, especially after testing here," said Carpenter. "After qualifying we're further behind than we've been all weekend. This is definitely not the direction we want to be going. We're going to have to figure out a way to do better tomorrow."

But Simon Pagenaud's 1:09.3851s in the same group was much more impressive. While still three positions outside of going through to the next round, it's quite remarkable for a driver who agreed only 90 minutes before the start of the session that he would fill in for the injured Justin Wilson in the Dreyer & Reinbold #22 car. Pagenaud even had to cobble together equipment and borrow a helmet and a seat in order to make the start of the session.

Although he had tested with Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Mid-Ohio last week, it's the first time he's been in the D&R car since subbing for the injured Ana Beatrix at Barber Motorsports Park back in April, and he was still able to run faster than series regulars Oriol Servia, Sebastian Saavedra and James Jakes, not to mention three of the four Andretti Autosports cars in the other group.

Meanwhile, Justin Wilson himself was reported to have had a CAT scan at nearby Mansfield MedCentral hospital and found to have an anterior compression fracture of his fifth thoracic vertebrae. "There is talk of him flying back to Indianapolis for further evaluation," team owner Dennis Reinbold said during the afternoon.

Full qualifying times and grid positions available.