Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe maintained Team Penske's hot streak in road course qualifying to burn their rivals with a 1-2 result in the timed session at Infineon Raceway.

The pair again shrugged off the loss of their primary race cars in Wednesday's transporter fire to run at the front of each of their groups during the IndyCar Series unique qualifying format, before leaping straight to the head of the times in the Firestone Fast Six segment and holding fast in the face of some concerted opposition.

Castroneves was the first to show in the final ten minutes, laying down a 1min 17.3544secs marker and then improving to 1min 17.2425secs, but quickly had to give best to Andretti Green's Tony Kanaan. It was Penske team-mate Briscoe, however, who took the benchmark into the 1min 16s, before Castroneves bounced back with an unbeatable 1min 16.9027secs effort that eventually claimed a 26th career pole.

"I'd be happy to swap them for wins," the Brazilian, who has finished second seven times this season, joked, "but this is great considering what has happened this week.

"The guys did an incredible job moving past the fire, turning the page and moving forward. If there is a team that can rebound, it's Team Penske. They proved it today. We're happy with every accomplishment that we've made this weekend. Starting on the front row is big for us. We're going to continue working hard tomorrow and, hopefully, have a good finish."

Briscoe's second-fastest time also held firm, despite late attempts by both Kanaan and points leader Scott Dixon, the Kiwi failing to make it back to the start-finish line in time to start one final effort. Dixon was joined in getting his timing wrong by Oriol Servia, who missed the arrival of the chequer by a matter of seconds, the pair eventually bringing up the rear of the six-man final group.

"It's been pretty clear we have really fast cars on the road courses," Briscoe commented, "I think, apart from St Petersburg, we've had the front row every time. It's been really good.

"Also, between Helio and myself, we really push each other a lot, too. And that's a big bonus, having two really fast cars on these tracks. We compare the data after every session, and I'll pick up a bit where he's strong and he'll pick up a bit where I'm strong, and we just try to put it all together, so I think that really helps too. It's great to have Team Penske sweep the front row again."

Behind Briscoe, who has two road course poles to his credit this season, Servia's KV Racing Technology team-mate Will Power bided his time before making an entrance to the final session, but quickly vaulted into the top three, displacing Kanaan as he did so. The Brazilian was the last man on track in the ten-minute segment, but failed to improve on his final lap and will start from the outside of row two in Sunday's PEAK Anti-Freeze and Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County.

"We carried it through," Power smiled, having been on the pace throughout, "We've sort of been there all weekend in the top threet. I think I could have done a better job in that last run, but it does feel good."

Dixon, meanwhile, wasn't quite so happy with his performance.

"I think we're probably disappointed with our qualifying," the Kiwi admitted, "The car was fairly decent and then, on that last qualifying run, we tried to lower the car a lot to see if we were just missing and, every time I tried to touch the brakes, I was locking them up.

"We couldn't even get within eight-tenths of our last run. It was worth a try, but I think we would have only been one spot better - maybe in fourth. We just didn't have enough for what those two Penske cars had.

"But we always seem to race a little bit better, and we're definitely happy with where we're at. We just have to make sure we can follow up with some points tomorrow."

Briscoe's presence in the Fast Six group maintained his record of making it through to the final phase in each road course qualifying session, but his only rival for a 100 per cent record, Justin Wilson, bowed out after making an error on his final lap in the twelve-man second session.

The Briton had been a part of the leading half dozen until the final minutes, when the late-starting Power moved into sixth spot, but ran wide approaching the end of the lap and cost himself vital seconds that condemned him to seventh in group and on the grid.

"I thought we had the potential," Wilson admitted, "The McDonald's car was quick, but just a little difficult to drive. It was right on the edge all the way around, so we couldn't quite put a lap together. I think we have the performance to gain some spots, but I don't think this track lends itself to overtaking. We'll just have to have a smart race, stay out of trouble and keep picking them off one at a time."

Wilson will line up alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay, and ahead of Andretti Green team-mates Danica Patrick - unable to reprise her second place from a season ago - and Marco Andretti. Rounding out the top twelve will be Mario Dominguez, setting a personal best qualifying result on Pacific Coast Motorsport's latest venture into the IndyCar Series, and Mario Moraes.

The young Brazilian had made the cut for second phase qualifying to the annoyance of veteran Bruno Junqueira, who launched another broadside at the Dale Coyne Racing team after missing out by a matter of hundredths. As he had on previous occasions this season, Junqueira openly accused his team of giving him little chance of progressing.

"If they give me a bad car, there's nothing I can do," he fumed.

Junqueira will share row seven with fellow South American Ernesto Viso, another to feel hard done by after narrowly missing out on a rare spot in the second phase. The Venezuelan had been in the top six in his half of the draw, but faded to seventh and then suggested that Wilson's last lap off may not have been entirely accidental as the Briton brought dirt back onto the track as the HVM car lined up for the corner.

Two of this season's racewinners will line up behind the disgruntled pair, with Graham Rahal and Dan Wheldon sharing the eighth row, ahead of returnee Tomas Scheckter and potential frontrunner Vitor Meira.

Townsend Bell, back in the Dreyer and Reinbold line-up in place of Milka Duno will start from 19th, ahead of the fourth AGR entry of Hideki Mutoh, Darren Manning and Buddy Rice. Marty Roth and luckless Conquest Racing duo Jaime Camara and Enrique Bernoldi - who both ran into problems in group two - bring up the rear of the 27-car field.


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