Will Power might have looked fairly comfortably in charge of qualifying for the Sao Paulo Indy 300, but he was never allowed to run away with it and didn't have the sort of crushing dominant pace that we've seen him unleash in the past.

Instead, the Penske driver's final lap of 1:21.4045s - despite being a new record for the event - was only half of a tenth of a second faster than Dario Franchitti's best time.

"It was satisfying," summed up the championship leader. "Being on pole is a good start to the weekend." The pole position is Power's 26th in his IZOD IndyCar Series career, the same number as Dario Franchitti.

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But Power's not taking anything for granted, and reckoned that they could all be in for a wild ride come Sunday. "I have a feeling it's going to be wet, or maybe wet-dry for the race," he said, which was pretty much the picture being painted by all the 24 hour forecasts. "It will mix things up a lot."

"I feel a lot more happy than I have in the last few races," said Franchitti, agreeing that it was his best qualifying performance so far this season, but the Scot was nonetheless disappointed not to come out one better in the final standings.

"I'm a little disappointed in myself but at the same time I feel a lot more happy than I have in the last few races," he said. "The time is in the car. On the first lap, Justin was in the runoff in the hairpin so I took it a bit easy there. And then the next lap I just messed it up to be honest, and I actually made up all of the time back again."

Dario's Ganassi team mate Scott Dixon recovering from an early overrun in the final round of qualifying to still manage to get to within almost four tenths of a second of them by the chequered flag.

"We had a pretty good car. It was fairly loose, which is a bit odd actually for this year," he said. "Thought we could go for the top spot in Q3. Went out and went straight through the run-off in turn 1 and couldn't slow the car down; the brakes were a bit strange.

"Then went down into turn 11 and the left-front locked straight away with a big flat spot and went into the run-off," he continued. "I had to get turned around and then take a lap to get going. We got back to third - I was lucky."

James Hinchcliffe still start alongside Dixon on the second row of the grid, after the new 'GoDaddy.com Guy' in the distinctive bright green livery continued to impressive in his sophomore year after winning rookie of the year in 2011. He's now qualified on the front three rows of the grid for all four of 2012's street and road course events.

"I guess four is the number of the day: fourth place, fourth time in the Firestone Fast Six," said Hinchcliffe. "We were 11th in the first practice, sixth in the second and now we qualified fourth. We're steadily improving and if we can keep that trend up for the race we're looking good."

It was notably even between Honda and Chevrolet-powered cars throughout all three rounds of qualifying, with neither engine manufacturer having a notable edge over the other following the decision to allow Honda to upgrade the compressor covers on their single-turbochargers to make up for a performance deficiency against the two-turbo Chevy units.

"Honda seems to have an advantage on the straights at the moment," was Power's assessment of the new situation.

In terms of relative team performances, both Ganassi and Andretti Autosport managed to get two cars apiece into the final Firestone Fast Six round. Penske, however, may well be troubled by only getting Will Power through, with Ryan Briscoe falling short in round 2 and local hero Helio Castroneves failing to even progress from his group stage after the team had rebuilt the front of his car following a heavy practice accident.

"It's disappointing to just miss out on the top six by a couple hundreths of a second, but the balance wasn't quite there in Q2 and I just couldn't pull out a good enough lap time" explained Briscoe. "But if there's a track where you can pass, this is it. So I'm looking forward to the race."

"We needed just a little bit more," said Castronecves of his own early exit. "The braking felt inconsistent during qualifying but the Penske crew did a great job fixing the car after practice. We just couldn't put it together today but we will be ready for a good performance tomorrow."

Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson performed strongly throughout to make it through to the final six, holding off stiff challenges from the likes of Ganassi's Graham Rahal, AJ Foyt's Mike Conway and Sarah Fisher's Josef Newgarden in round 2 to do so.

"It's great to make into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time this year," said Wilson. "We're really pleased with that. I was hoping to get a bit more once we got in there ... but we messed up on the last change and the car was a bit of a handful. But that's how it goes sometimes. We're starting sixth, we're in a good spot and we'll see what happens in the race."

"I'm just so bummed that we were so close," said Rahal. "I'm still not really happy with the car ... But tomorrow is another day and we will do better."

But there will be consternation in the KV Racing camp that their highest qualifier is Tony Kanaan back in 12th place, after neither Rubens Barrichello nor EJ Viso could deliver in the first round and were eliminated early.

"We have been chasing ourselves since the first practice," said Kanaan. "We made a ton of changes from the first to the second practice and then again from the second practice to qualifying. The car kept improving, but during qualifying we made one change that did not go our way."

"I am disappointed with how the day went," contributed Viso. "It was not the qualifying run we expected. I truly thought we were going to show the speed and performance that we did during qualifying in the previous races, but we couldn't do it this time. We need to address a couple of things to get us back to where we belong."

At least Rubens was still looking on the bright side.

"I enjoyed qualifying," he said. "For five laps I pushed the car hard. I didn't want to give away any small percentage. I just learned the track this morning and I am still learning about the red tyre. I think it was a good qualifying. It is just so close and I am still working my way up to get into the top ten."

Another former F1 driver, Takuma Sato, was unable to participate in the qualifying session after his engine fire in second practice. In any case, he would have had a ten-place starting grid penalty for an unscheduled engine change to overcome if he had made it out on track, so the back row was evidently always going to be his vantage point for Sunday's green flag.

"It wasn't a good day for us unfortunately," the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver admitted. "The first practice session was cut short because the engineers weren't happy about some parameters and we had to stop early to check the gearbox. Everything ended up okay but the session was cut short which didn't help us in terms of setting up the car.

"And then in the second practice I only ran a few laps before we had an engine problem which led to us not being able to take part in qualifying because of the amount of time it took to change the engine," he finished.

Starting grid

1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 1:21.4045s
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 1:21.4485s + 0.0440s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 1:21.8545s + 0.4500s
4. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 1:21.9956s + 0.5911s
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 1:22.2408s + 0.8363s
6. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 1:22.2681s + 0.8636s
7. Graham Rahal Ganassi-Honda
8. Mike Conway AJ Foyt-Honda
9. Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher-Honda
10. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet
11. Marco Andretti Andretti-Chevrolet
12. Tony Kanaan KV Racing-Chevrolet
13. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet
14. Charlie Kimball Ganassi-Honda
15. James Jakes Dale Coyne-Honda
16. Rubens Barrichello KV Racing-Chevrolet
17. Helio Castroneves Penske-Chevrolet
18. JR Hildebrand Panther-Chevrolet
19. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda
20. Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter-Chevrolet
21. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon-Lotus
22. Ana Beatriz Andretti-Chevrolet
23. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold-Lotus
24. Simona de Silvestro HVM-Lotus
25. Katherine Legge Dragon-Lotus
26. Takuma Sato Rahal-Honda *

* includes ten place starting grid penalty for unscheduled engine change

Full details of the three rounds of qualifying are available.