Firestone Indy Lights points leader Raphael Matos won pole position for the season-ending SunRichGourmet.com
100 at Chicagoland Speedway, extending his pre-race advantage to four points over Richard Antinucci.
It is the Brazilian rookie's fifth pole of the season, and his third on an oval in 2008, but he has yet to win a race away from the road and street courses on which he has excelled.
“It's another point that we definitely needed - we have a four-point lead now, and we'll see what happens tomorrow," the AFS/AGR driver admitted, "We're 67 laps away from the title, but there's a lot of work and hard racing tomorrow.
"I feel great about my car, and I feel great about the opportunity. We've been good all year long. We've had some ups and down this season, but we've found good momentum. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum into tomorrow.”
Antinucci title hopes will require him to come through from a disappointing ninth on the grid and hope that Matos runs into problems, but the American is determined to give his all in pursuit of the crown.
“I thought we had a little more [in the car] as, in testing in the morning, we ended up pretty well in qualifying trim," he lamented, "But the race is what counts and that's what we spent most of our time doing. Tomorrow is when it's all decided. Rafa got an extra point today, so we just need to go out tomorrow and win the damned thing. It's attack all the way. I need to move as far ahead as I can. There's not much to lose, we have to go for the win.”
Ana Beatriz qualified second behind countryman Matos, tying her best qualifying efforts at Nashville and Kentucky, as the top three from Kentucky in August was repeated by Arie Luyendyk Jr qualifying third.
“It's my first time here at Chicagoland, and we were really focused this morning on race set-up," Beatriz revealed, "After the second practice, we focused on qualifying, and I think my Healthy Choice Sam Schmidt crew did a really good job. I think it was a very good run. I was really wishing I could stay in the top three, so the second position is pretty good. Matos went really, really fast - I don't know what he did, but I'm very confident for the race tomorrow.”
Mike Potekhen qualified a season-best fourth, improving on his previous best of twelfth, last time out at Infineon, and only one place shy of his career-best start, third at Indianapolis in 2007. Behind him, however, the order received something of a shuffle as several drivers found themselves in unfamiliar seats for the finale.