Carl Edwards successfully clinched pole position for this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, posting a lap of 49.056s (183.464mph) on the two-and-a-half mile oval.
"Our guys have worked so hard on this car all weekend with all the changes," said Edwards. "It's going to be hard to pass here, so it's a big deal to start up front."
CLICK: Full NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying times from Indianapolis Motor Speedway
It's Edwards' 15th pole in 393 Cup races and second consecutive of the season after he also started in front last week in New Hampshire. However it's the first time that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will start from pole position in 11 appearances at IMS, which is also the only circuit that has never seen a Toyota-powered driver go to victory lane before in the Brickyard 400.
As with Daytona and Talladega, NASCAR uses a modified qualifying format for Indianapolis with one-lap single car time trials held over two rounds. Edwards had been eighth fastest in his first run, but improved to put himself 0.087s faster than Penske's Joey Logano in the second round, with David Ragan picking up third for Michael Waltrip Racing putting him alongside Stewart-Haas Racing's Tony Stewart on the starting grid for tomorrow afternoon's race.
"There is only one spot better than that," said Logano of his qualifying effort. "Overall from where we have been this weekend to what we picked up today I am proud of what my Shell Pennzoil team has done. We have a good piece. I look forward to the race tomorrow. Clean air is king. If we can get a good start and settle in and click some laps off and run our strategy we can be there in the end."
Stewart had earlier prompted a huge cheer from the crowd when the local hero and former IndyCar star had gone to the top of the timesheets in the first round of qualifying. However, he wasn't quite able to pull off the same pace again in the pole shoot-out
"Yeah, unfortunately that wasn't the one that paid, but that got us in the second round which was the important part," he pointed out. "The second round we were a little bit freer than we were the first round. I was a little busy inside the car. We got that track bar adjuster and I was moving it around quite a bit during the lap."
Even so, fourth place is still Stewart's best qualifying showing so far in an otherwise wretched 2015 season, and only the fifth time he'll have started in the top ten.
"It's a moral victory if nothing else, for us and the team," he agreed. "It's been a rough season so far, so this is a great way to come to your home track and I wish this was the second round, not the first round. But at least we're locked into the second round and that's the main thing right now."
Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson will start from fifth place, with reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick starting to his outside in the SHR #4.
"It was a good qualifying effort for the Target team," said Larson. "I'm a little bit disappointed because I thought my second round lap actually felt good. I'm surprised I lost that much time off my first round, but a top five starting spot here at the Brickyard is still a good day."
"I think we will be okay," added Harvick. "Obviously, you want the pole, but I think as you look at both laps we had the same problem just too tight in turn 3.
MWR's Clint Bowyer will start from seventh place alongside Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr. Having already captured pole for Saturday's Xfinity Series support race earlier in the day, JGR's Kyle Busch could only manage ninth in Cup qualifying which put him just ahead of Chevy-powered cars from three different stables, with Jamie McMurray (Ganassi) in ninth, Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing) in 11th and Jimmie Johnson (HMS) in 12th.
Martin Truex Jr. missed the cut for the top 12 pole shoot-out final round and will start from 13th place for Furniture Row Racing, alongside SHR's Kurt Busch who had topped final practice on Friday but who found that form elusive in qualifying. Busch's team mate Danica Patrick will start on the row behind in 15th place.
Denny Hamlin - who had been fastest of anyone in the previous day's practice sessions - could only manage 17th place on the grid but was fortunate to still be in his primary race car after a bizarre incident in second practice in which the hood of the JGR #11 popped open at high speed and smashed the windscreen and sections of front bodywork.
As much as the crowd had cheered Stewart topping the first round of qualifying, there had been groans of disappointment and sympathy when four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon had filed to make it into the final round with a lap only good enough for 19th place for his final race appearance at Indianapolis before he retires from competition at the end of the year. Along with Michael Schumacher in F1, Gordon holds the record most wins by a single driver in a headline event at IMS, with five visits to victory lane in his long NASCAR Cup career.
"I'm really disappointed," Gordon admitted. "The car was good. The car was plenty good enough to get a top 12. It's just on me. I didn't get the lap. It's really hard to gauge just how much more speed is in the track and in the cars right now, even with the sun out. I felt like the car did what I needed it to do. I just didn't go fast enough."
Josh Wise, Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make it onto the grid for this weekend's race based on speed. RCR's Ryan Newman only got through based on owner points after his qualifying lap was disallowed after it was found that the #31 was missing a right side window during its time trial run.
"We had a personnel error and forgot to put the window in," Newman admitted afterwards. "Accidents happen, I guess you can say, but this is not the place for accidents."
The extra drag caused by the missing window meant that Newman's time had only been good enough for 36th even before it was deleted. "Definitely a big mistake and not something you can overcome on an aerodynamic track like this," Newman agreed.
Newman will now have to work his way forward from the very back of the 43-car field when the green flag comes out on Sunday afternoon shortly after 3.30pm ET (8.30pm BST) for the start of the 160-lap, 400-mile event.
See full NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying times from Indianapolis Motor Speedway