Ganassi's Scott Dixon was celebrating his second pole position of the season after a lap of 1:38.3918s proved uncatchable even for this year's master of the road courses, Penske's Will Power, who had to settle for second place.
"It feels very special to be on the pole for the last race here at Motegi," said Dixon, who started from pole here in 2009 on the speedway circuit but who now becomes the only IndyCar driver in history able to say he's started from pole on the road course as well.
Dixon was delighted with pole, but said that he feared he was going to be beaten in the final seconds of the pole shootout after he found his own attempts to improve on his time were thwarted. "I was up on my quick lap from Q1 by two or three tenths but then I kept losing it in the last section here in turns 12, 13 and 14," he explained. "It was a bit frustrating but we just got it. I think it was by a few hundredths or a few thousandths of a second. We're on the pole and that's what counts!"
Will Power was also frustrated not to have been able to find those final few hundredths of the a second that would have put him on pole for Sunday afternoon's race: "I'm really kind of disappointed that we weren't able to put that last lap together and make a good run for pole. I didn't do what I needed to do in the last few turns but it's still a good result," he said. "I'm sure Scott was the same. We're all pushing for the quickest lap and at the end it was really close so front row is pretty good."
Given that the Saturday qualifying sessions hadn't gone particularly well, Power agreed that a front row start was actually a good recovery. "We were struggling for sure in the second practice today but we were able to get back on track and to wind up qualifying second is great."
And Power is particularly pleased to have such a wide margin over his championship rival Dario Franchitti. "Dario starting ninth is good for us, although a lot can happen in a race," pointed out Power, who will be starting from the front row for the ninth time in 2011. "We always try to put ourselves in the position to stay out of trouble and give us the best chance of winning.
The big surprise of round 2 had undoubtedly been the failure of Dario Franchitti to get through to the final six pole shootout. Although initially going top of the times during the ten-minute period, Franchitti was unable to then improve sufficiently to keep up with the rest of the field as times tumbled in the final minutes, and he will start from a disappointing ninth place with potentially huge significance to the championship battle between himself and Power.
"I just didn't put a lap together to make the Fast Six. That's about it," said a frustrated Franchitti. "Couldn't put a lap together and left it until the last one and made a mistake in turn 3, then Jakes went off in turn 9 in front of me, covering the track in dirt. It was a combination of those two things we missed the tenth and a half we were needing."
With Ryan Briscoe starting on the second row and Helio Castroneves on the third, Power also has a lot of friendly faces gathered close to him - and moreover as a safety buffer between him and Franchitti. The last time the Penske crew had this sort of edge was at Sonoma, when the three drivers flew in formation to propel Power to the win and give him the biggest points boost over Dario that they possibly could.