CLICK: Full qualifying times for Pocono
Will Power was looking set to claim his third pole position of the year, when there was a shock in store from the last man to make a qualifying run at Pocono Raceway on Saturday afternoon.
It was Power's Penske team mate Juan Pablo Montoya who knocked Power off what had seemed a certain pole, setting a new track speed record of 223.871mph averaged over two timed laps. His first lap reached 223.920mph which sets the new single-lap record for an IndyCar at Pocono, while his second was barely slower at 223.822mph to make for an impressively consistent high speed run.
"It's the luck of the draw, but the big thing was we had good balance," said Montoya, who is used to running somewhat lower speeds on the 2.5-mile tri-oval after 14 races here in a NASCAR stock car albeit at much slower speeds. "It's so different [from NASCAR], we run wide open all the way around here. I think the average speed is 30 or 40 miles per hour faster than we do in a Cup car. It's fast!"
His pole position seems to confirm that Montoya is back to his old form after a disappointing slump in his NASCAR form saw him lose his Sprint Cup race seat to a 22-year-old rookie driver at the end of last season.
"Am I back? Well, I'm getting there," he agreed. "I feel like I'm getting there every week. We keep working harder and keep finding speed and more results. So it's exciting. I think we're going in the right direction."
Montoya's pole speed compared with Power's effort of 223.725mph set just a few minutes earlier in the session. Power had already seen off a concerted effort to deny him pole from Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz, who had managed a two-lap average of 223.083s as the penultimate runner in the session. Munoz will start alongside Montoya and Power on the three-wide grid for the Pocono IndyCar 500.
While it's the first pole position that Montoya has secured since joining the Verizon IndyCar Series at the beginning of 2014 following years competing in F1 and NASCAR, it's the Colombian's 15th pole in US open-wheel racing going back to the two years he spent in the CART World Series in 1999-2000 with Ganassi.
Power was disappointed not to claim pole, but happy for his team mate: "I knew Montoya was going to be tough to beat," he said afterwards. "They ran a little more downforce.
"I probably lifted a little too much into Turn 1," Power admitted. "Since I wasn't flat, I think he probably went wide-open on that run.
"It's always good to start at the front," he added. "You've got less of a chance of getting caught up in something at the start of the race and probably on restarts, as well. Apart from that, you look at Dixon who won it last year and all the Ganassi cars last year came from quite a ways back. Strategy is going to be a big deal, fuel windows and so on. If you qualify last, you can win from last. But it is good to be in the front."
Takuma Sato will lead the second row for AJ Foyt Racing, with Andretti Autosport team mates Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe alongside him.
Two drivers were not able to set times during the session. As expected, the Bryan Herta Autosport team was unable to rebuild the wrecked #98 car after Jack Hawksworth crashed in the second hour-long practice session earlier in the afternoon, but should be ready to start from the back of the grid for Sunday's race.
Also not setting a qualifying time was Josef Newgarden, after the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver spun in the #67 car during his qualifying run. That means he will join Hawksworth at the back of the grid for the start of Sunday's race.
See full qualifying times for Pocono