Will Power took his seventh pole position of the season for the inaugural IndyCar race on the streets of Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, but he was the first to admit that it had been a tough, close-run thing.
"The final run was absolutely everything I had in me and it was exhausting," he admitted after his final flying lap of 1:20.2447s on the 2.04 mile, 12 turn temporary street course that was just enough to see off Graham Rahal, who had been dogging him throughout the final Firestone Fast Six part of Saturday's qualifying session.
Graham Rahal had traded pole position back-and-forth with Power throughout that final ten minute part of the qualifying session but finally came up one run short of pulling it off, instead having to settle his for first front row start since he qualified second at Milwaukee in 2009.
"I had a good run going and my team told me where Will Power was on the tracker and they thought he would jump ahead of us," said Rahal. "I let the tyres cool off and tried to take a lap to get it back where we wanted it. I went into the chicane and came out and it wasn't that pretty [and] I lost some time there."
Power's main aim is to continue cutting back championship leader Dario Franchitti's lead, and with Power on pole and Franchitti stuck behind not only Rahal but also Power's Penske team mate Ryan Briscoe for the start tomorrow, he has every chance of getting back on nearly level footing in the points battle if they finish in those positions on Sunday.
"We are going to try to lead as many laps as we can and gain the points we need for the championship. We have to keep chipping away at it," he said. And pole position was crucial for that in his eyes: "Securing the pole position is an advantage here because you don't have to worry about trying to pass."
Franchitti had a rough time in qualifying, an overrun into turn 1 during the first round seemingly unsettling him when he ended up on the bubble for getting through to round 2 and very lucky to progress. Round 2 was scarcely any calmer for him with a couple of scares again throwing off his rhythm.
"I think we were quick today in the Kellogg's car but just not quick enough," he said. "Maybe didn't get everything out of it today but we'll keep at it. The crowd and the support from the city have been just incredible. It's a great atmosphere and hopefully everyone will be in for a good show tomorrow."
Franchitti's team mate Scott Dixon had a terrible time in round 2 and brushed the wall on at least two occasions, and never got a clean lap good enough to progress to the Fast Six final round pole shoot-out.