Will Power claimed his first PEAK Performance Pole Award at the same circuit where he took his last race win, producing the perfect audition for a season-long future in the IndyCar Series with top spot in qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Australian, who won the last ever Champ Car event on the famous street circuit a year ago, swapped cars between practice and qualifying before taking the new #12 Verizon Wireless-backed Penske entry to top spot in the Firestone Fast Six shoot-out with a lap of 1min 09.7107secs. He edged Target Chip Ganassi's Dario Franchitti by 0.1568secs as Penske put all three of its cars into the top ten, with Helio Castroneves jumping straight from courtroom to cockpit and putting the #3 machine onto the fourth row. St Petersburg race winner Ryan Briscoe qualified tenth in the team's other car.

Having made it through to the final segment of knock-out qualifying, Power became only the third driver to jump from sixth to first during the Firestone Fast Six - ironically following in the footsteps of team-mates Castroneves and Briscoe - as he claimed Penske's 42nd series pole. It was the Australian's first IRL pole, bettering a previous best start of second from St Petersburg a year ago.

"It was obvious in the first session that you had to use the [Firestone] 'reds' to get through," Power noted, "so it was a matter of saving your reds a little bit and saving your energy to the final round. That's sort of what I did. I saved my big lap until the end.

"It was a great job by the team. They had to swap everything over on this car, with an all-new crew, new engineer and everything. They did a good job, and we're looking to have a strong race tomorrow and hopefully move up in the championship."

Franchitti continued his strong return to the series he won outright in 2007, making the Fast Six for the second straight race and bettering his St Pete start by claiming the front row spot alongside Power.

"I'm happy to be back at Long Beach - I love this track, I love the atmosphere," the Ganassi driver enthused, "The balance of the car was really good at the end, but I was just trying to get a clear lap. You run to the limit so much here in qualifying, and we had a really good lap going, but I ran out of fuel in turn nine. Starting second's not bad though - it's better than fifth at St Pete - and the team did a great job rebuilding the car after I had a little indiscretion this morning."

The second row will be filled by drivers posting career-best qualifying results as rookie Raphael Matos and second-year driver EJ Viso claimed third and fourth for Luczo Dragon and HVM respectively on their first visit to the Fast Six finale.

Reigning Indy Lights champion Matos bettered his previous best start, ninth on debut in St Petersburg two weeks ago, with a result that also saw Luczo Dragon improve on the fourth-place start it took with Tomas Scheckter at Kansas in 2008.

"I've got to give all the credit to the boys here on the team," Matos admitted, "It was a great comeback from the huge wreck we had in St Pete, and the whole team did an awesome job."

Road course expert Viso, making his second appearance in Long Beach having debuted there in last year's Champ Car send-off, improved on the ninth-place start he recorded at Belle Isle in 2008, giving Keith Wiggins' HVM team its best-ever IndyCar start.

"It was a great day," the Venezuelan reported, "The tyres were good, and everything happened as we expected. Things didn't come together in St Pete, but hopefully it will happen here in Long Beach. We've had very good pace on this track since we came here."

Justin Wilson, who won the pole last year at Long Beach and starred on his debut with Dale Coyne Racing in St Pete a fortnight ago, will start from fifth, having made the Fast Six for the second time in as many races in 2009.

"We gave it all we had today, but came up a bit short," the Briton admitted, "I think we used the red stripes a bit too early in the second session and really had nothing left for the last run."

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon completed the Fast Six sextet, but had to settle for a spot on the outside of row three after also admitting to a poor tyre strategy.

"We were trying to put on another set, and it didn't really work out the way we wanted it to," the Kiwi confessed, "The set we were trying to put on wasn't what the Target boys had, and we were going to put on a flat-spotted set, so it was kind of chaos in the pits there. It's disappointing, as qualifying is so important on road and street courses and we had a chance to start up front. We just didn't make the most of the chance."

Briscoe did not qualify for the Fast Six for the first time since Mid-Ohio 2007 and will start from row five, behind St Pete polewinner Graham Rahal, returning team-mate Castroneves and Conquest Racing's Alex Tagliani, the Canadian turning in another strong performance for Eric Bachelart's team.

It was also the first Fast Six not to feature either Castroneves - albeit understandably on his part - and Tony Kanaan, both of whom have made 15 of the previous 17 editions of the format.

St Petersburg runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay will start alongside Kanaan, in twelfth, for Vision Racing, with Mario Moraes, Dan Wheldon and rookie Robert Doornbos completing the top 15.


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