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.