The ongoing struggle for control in the IndyCar Series standings passed from Friday practice into qualifying for the Detroit Indy Grand Prix on the streets of Belle Isle Park, as title contenders Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves locked out the front row for Sunday's penultimate round.
After the Brazilian had paced the opening day, Dixon redressed the balance in the three-phase IndyCar qualifying coming out on top of the Firestone Fast Six shoot-out with a time of 1min 12.2861secs that left him nearly half a second clear of his main rival, his sixth pole of the yeat putting him in prime position to put one had on the championship trophy.
"We pride ourselves on spending most of our time on strategy as a team," Dixon commented, "I think we still have that in our pocket, and our position on pit-lane definitely helps during the race. Hopefully, we can save some fuel and keep that going.
"There are going to be a lot of people trying different strategies to improve their positions. A lot of the guys and girls, eight to 10 starting spots back, are going to try some pretty crazy things, but we'll keep our mind focused on the race and try to go for the win."
"We have a great car," Castroneves countered, "I knew this was going to be between Scott and me, [and] it will be very close between both of us.
"On the second round, I decided to predict a little bit what the track might have with the thicker tyres, and we made a very small change, but those changes were enough to unfortunately make the car a little bit difficult and loose. We changed and went back out there, and that change definitely proved that was bad. When we got to the slower section - turns four, five and six - the car just lost the edge on the tyre for it to turn quick. Unfortunately, that edge was enough to make the gap between Scott and me."
Castroneves, in turn, edged Oriol Servia by a couple of tenths as the Spaniard posted his best qualifying performance for KV Racing Technology since converting from the Champ Car series, and was joined on the second row by another ex-CCWS frontrunner, Justin Wilson, who regained his place in the top six after missing out at Infineon last week.
"I don't how it was easy for [Helio Castroneves], but I always find here you have to push so hard in qualifying," Servia, "I find this qualifying format really amazing. It really asks a lot from the drivers - if you're not a driver, I don't think you can understand how much we have to push and how many times.
"Usually in qualifying, you always find some magic from somewhere. Here, you have to do it two sets of tyres per segment. You're really pushing so hard at the end in the last segment, and you really need to have tyres and pressures to be a one-hit wonder.