Scott Dixon took another small step towards his second IndyCar Series crown as he pipped Vitor Meira to pole position for the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.
It was a sixth top spot in qualifying for the Kiwi, whose four-lap aggregate time of 1min 37.3293secs was more than two tenths quicker that Meira could manage around the 1.5-mile oval, and lifted the Target Chip Ganassi driver into second in the all-time list with 13.
It was a welcome boost for the Ganassi team, which appeared to have been dealt a blow by Tony Kanaan's decision to remain with Andretti Green Racing instead of swapping camps for 2009.
The man the Brazilian was rumoured to be replacing, Dan Wheldon, showed that he was still worth a punt by claiming third spot on the grid, a fraction behind Meira, who was returing to the scene of his IndyCar Series debut in 2002.
While the Brazilian took a season-high second, Wheldon was third fastest at 1min 37.6127secs, enough to knock early pacesetter Hideki Mutoh back to the outside of row two.
The Japanese rookie had been the first to hit the track in qualifying and remained the man to beat until Meira bettered his time midway through the early evening session.
Team Penske duo Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves both came up short in their efforts to beat Mutoh, and will share row three, while the rookie's AGR team-mate Kanaan shares rwo four with Ed Carpenter.
The third AGR entry of Marco Andretti heads off row five, alongside the other Vision car of AJ Foyt IV, but team-mate Danica Patrick will start from the very back after crashing in practice and not being able to make a qualifying run.
The series darling will be joined on the final row by Dale Coyne Racing's Bruno Junqueira, who was also unable to to qualify on time, and will line up just behind team-mate Mario Moraes, who heads an all-Brazilian twelfth row with Enrique Bernoldi.
Marty Roth managed to push his self-run Dallara ahea dof KV Racing Technology's Oriol Servia and Will Power to start on the inside of row six, while Sarah Fisher, who returns to the series for the first time since crashing out of the Indianapolis 500, will start 16th in the reliveried Dollar General-sponsored entry. Fisher and the race's third female runner, Milka Duno, sandwich Britain's Darren Manning in 17th.