It had been looking as though pole position for this year's Indianapolis 500 would be a matter of which of the five Andretti Autosport drivers would do the honours.
After dominating a week of practice at the 2.5-mile speedway, it could easily have been Marco Andretti, EJ Viso, reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, EJ Viso - or even the new boy Carlos Munoz, who has been blitzing the pace all week ever since passing his Rookie Orientation Program just a week ago.
Sure enough, when the gun was fired to mark the end of qualifying on Saturday - Pole Day - all five drivers had finished in the top nine, meaning that they would take part in the 90-minute Fast 9 shootout that locked down the starting positions of the front three rows of the grid for next Sunday's race - including, most significantly of all, who would be this year's pole winner.
The only real competition left at this stage was from Team Penske, with Will Power and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves both through; and just like their Andretti counterparts they too had their own 'super rookie' in two, with AJ Allmendinger proving to be in spectacular form in his first appearance in Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an open-wheel car rather than the NASCAR Sprint Cup tank he's used to bringing to the July Brickyard 400 event.
In the no-mans land between these two arrayed armies was the one-man band of owner-driver Ed Carpenter. Just by sheers numbers alone the odds were against him by eight-to-one, but in reality they were much higher since his small outfit was competing against two of the current giants of the series. All he could really hope for was to hang in there, get a good spot on the third row, and take it from there.
Except that's not what Carpenter had in mind. He rather fancied the top seat at the table - and went out and snatched it with a four-lap average of 228.762mph, the fastest since Sam Hornish Jr. won pole for Penske in 2006 with a speed of 228.985 mph. No one could match that, not even the current Penske crop. The pole - and the invaluable $100,000 cheque that came with it - were Carpenter's
"I knew we had a shot at it, but the field is so tight and Chevy brought such a great engine, and I wouldn't have been surprised if we were outside the top ten, too," he said after clinching pole. "It's an honour to win this pole because it is a really competitive field.
"This is a good start. I want to make sure we keep the team focused. I hope this is part one of a really magical month, and we're here for race day," he continued. "This is awesome, and it's bigger than our wins and it's huge for the team, huge for Fuzzy's Vodka. It's definitely a landmark day, but I don't want to get overly focused on this because we have a lot of work to do yet."
Alongside Carpenter for the start of next Sunday's race will be Munoz, who is bidding to match the achievement of fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya who won the race in 200. Like Munoz, Montoya had started that race as a rookie and from second spot, so there's plenty of history there for the 21-year-old to draw inspiration from as he prepares for the biggest day of his racing career to date.