Roger Penske wasn't able to dominate qualifying for the 2012 Indianapolis 500 after all, despite getting all three of his cars into the final fast nine pole shootout session on Saturday afternoon.
But he will be happy enough to have pole position thanks to Ryan Briscoe's best lap speed of 226.484mph in the final 90 minute pole shootout for the top nine. It was a slender 0.013mph faster than that of Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe, who himself had to hold off a late-session charge from his team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay to keep hold of second place.
"This is unbelievable," said Briscoe. "Those four laps were so good and so consistent. It was lap 4 that won me the pole today; that was the setup I had on it.
"Everyone at Team Penske has worked so hard. Chevrolet, man, they gave us the horsepower. I'm really proud of them and [sponsors] IZOD. Getting a pole at Indy, this is huge."
His boss, Roger Penske, was pretty pleased too: "It is all about our people, the team, and certainly Ryan needed this one. He's done a great job for us. Today he stretched himself."
One of the most thrilling moments of the entire day was when James Hinchcliffe went out and put in a warm-up lap
topping 227mph before his first pole shootout run. When it fell short by just 0.013mph (0.0023s) - the smallest margin between pole and second place in the history of the race - there was a massive groan of sympathy from the grandstands, as fans showed just how much they'd taken to the likeable Canadian in his first Indy 500 at the wheel of the GoDaddy.com car made famous by Danica Patrick.
"The smallest of margins," agreed Hinchcliffe. "It's heartbreaking in a sense, you know, but at the end of the day we get to start on the front row of the Indy 500, and that's just the coolest thing ever.
"Qualifying at Indy is the most terrifying 10 miles of your life," he admitted. "You're holding your breath the whole time. You don't blink. You're just nervous for the entire run. Your foot shakes on the throttle pedal trying to keep it down. But it was a great run for us, and the car was awesome from the word 'go.' We knew we were going to be close."
"It so much fun having a fast race car at IMS, I'm definitely taking it in," said Hunter-Reay, who last year failed to make qualify for the grid at all and ended up with the team having to buy out a seat at AJ Foyt Racing to get him into the race. "I've felt the lows here, and I'm certainly taking it in and absorbing the temporary high of being on the front row. Next week is what counts, and I think we have a race car capable of doing two better next week."