Ryan Briscoe a first measure of revenge on the Chicagoland Speedway oval that threaten to claim his life the last time he ventured out onto its asphalt by claiming pole position for the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil 300, but Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves again found himself at the centre of controversy.
Briscoe's last outing at the Joliet facility ended with his Target Chip Ganassi car tearing itself to bits along the catch fencing, but the redoubtable Aussie rebuilt his career to the point where, now battling Ganassi on behalf of title contender Castroneves, he was able to claim a last-gasp pole, his third of the season, but his first on any oval.
“What a way to try to finish up this season," Briscoe commented, "It's nice to win a pole on an oval. The car was great right off the truck this weekend. We just have to try to keep Dixon behind us.
"I was really hoping I'd have the speed for the pole. It looks like everyone has slowed up since practice, but I was hoping I could maintain some of that speed, and that's exactly what we were able to do. It's a great feeling to get the pole here in Chicago.”
Briscoe was the last of the 28 listed runners to take to the track and, having seen Castroneves manage only the third best four-lap avaerage in pursuit of pacesetter - and title rival - Scott Dixon, put in his best run on an oval all season, eventually recording a 215.818mph run that pushed the Kiwi back into second spot.
“I was actually surprised that [the time] held that long," the points leader admitted, "[Tony] Kanaan was definitely looking very quick this morning, as were a couple of other people, and we knew [Ryan] Briscoe was super fast.
"It's cooled off a little bit – I don't know if that helped or hurt it - but I knew Briscoe was going to be the guy to beat and unfortunately, he went last."
Until that point, Dixon had looked on course for his sixth pole of the year, having made full use of mid-session run to post a 215.553secs and knock Tomas Scheckter off top spot.
“We didn't really change much for our qualifying set-up," a confident Dixon revealed, "I felt pretty comfortable in race trim when we were in traffic, so I don't think that's going to be much of a problem tomorrow. It's going to be strategy and staying out of trouble.”