Will Power's title hopes received a huge boost in Saturday early evening qualifying at a chilly Kentucky Speedway, when the Penske driver was able to put his #12 car into pole position with a two-lap time of 48.5848s (219.283mph), two tenths clear of Graham Rahal and beating the old qualifying record of 217.933mph set by Ed Carpenter last year.
"It was a great result for Verizon Team Penske today," said Power afterwards. "We've been working really hard and the team has done a lot of work on the car to get the absolute most out of it. This is a really good start to the weekend and it's good to get the point for the championship ... Hopefully we'll keep it going tomorrow and get a good result in the race."
While Power has been peerless on road courses this year and picked up seven pole positions already in 2011, this is the first time this year that he will start from the front of an oval race. He'll take the green flag alongside Graham Rahal whose time of 48.8028s was two-tenths slower than the pole time.
"I thought Will was going to be tough to beat, but I didn't see that kind of speed coming from him," admitted Rahal, who nonetheless will be hoping for a good race on Sunday.
The timing couldn't have been better for Power as the drivers head into the penultimate race of the season: not only does it give Will the bonus point for clinching pole, he will also start well ahead of Dario Franchitti who could manage only 11th place on the grid for the start of the Kentucky Indy 300 on Sunday afternoon.
Dario was frustrated by the lack of speed in the car this afternoon, following an emergency engine change during the afternoon after the original power unit was overheated during the practice sessions. The variable conditions during the session (which saw alternate bursts of sunny and overcast periods) may also have played a part in upsetting the handling of the #10 and a number of others during the hour-long session.
"We just didn't have the speed we did in the first session," Franchitti admitted, whatever the reason was. "I'm pretty upset with qualifying, it's not what we need to be doing. But the good thing is, being part of the Target Chip Ganassi team, we know we can rebound and we know we've got all the stuff to come back tomorrow."
There was also disappointment for Dario's Ganassi team mate Scott Dixon, who had easily topped both practice sessions during the day but could only manage seventh place in qualifying itself: "This morning in traffic we put up some good numbers and it feels good in that scenario, but obviously the way we qualified is not where we want to be," he said. "We'll do our best to overcome that and try to get to the front of the field in the first ten for sure, and we need to get around Will so he doesn't get the most laps led.
Similar changes of fortune hit Vitor Meira (second in the first practicesession, but only able to qualify in 21st) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (second in the later practice session, and who will start alongside Dixon on the grid from eighth position.)