Will Power continued to be the man to beat on Australia's Gold Coast after he secured pole position for the non-championship Nikon Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise.

Qualifying was held in challenging conditions for the 24 drivers after a storm hit the circuit barely half an hour before the session was due to begin. It meant the opening phase of qualifying was held on a wet track, and meant a number of fancied runners failed to make it past the first part of the session.

As conditions improved, Power was able to make it through to the Firestone Fast Six, and a best time of 1min 34.9451secs saw him take pole by eight-tenths of a second.

"It was quite a difficult session, to be honest," the Team Australia man said. "I went out there and half the track was wet and half the track was dry. It was a matter of getting through each round and in the last round it was all dry. It was back to what I knew quite well. Just before that last lap, I backed off and made sure I got a good run in. I'm very happy for the team.

"We turned up with a pretty good car out of the box and the guys did great work. Hopefully we can get it done this weekend, because that's what we've been trying to do for the last three years. I can't believe I have another pole start here. But, it's only the pole and the goal is to win the race on Sunday."

Power will be joined on row one by the new IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, although the Kiwi was lucky to make it through to the final stage of qualifying having been down in ninth place before his last lap of Q2 put him through into the top six. However, he admitted that even a perfect lap might not have been enough to match Power's pace.

"Today was pretty interesting qualifying with the different conditions," he said. "We nearly got caught out a couple times not getting a lap in and then getting a yellow. Getting though Q2 was quite nice because we were sitting in ninth before the last lap. It was definitely a good day for Team Target. A lot of credit goes to Will for putting together a lap like that in the conditions that we had. I don't think we would have had that if we had gotten all the corners right."

Ryan Briscoe slotted into third place for Penske, although he said he hadn't been able to push as much as he wanted through the early stages of the session due to the conditions, while the returning Dario Franchitti showed he was quickly up to speed by slotting into fourth - even though the Scot wasn't too happy with his time having claimed that the rain had knocked his rhythm.

Eager to secure himself a seat for the 2009 season, Ryan Hunter-Reay did his chances no harm at all by qualifying fifth, while Helio Castroneves had to settle for sixth after the Penske team changed the gearing on his car in a gamble that rain would continue to fall throughout the session.

Alex Tagliani will start seventh as the leading driver not to make it through to the Firestone Fast Six, and the way the circuit improved was shown by the fact that the Conquest Racing ace was some six second away from pole. However the Canadian racer admitted he had hoped for more.

"I think we showed that Conquest Racing is a very competitive team," he said. "I think we deserved a lot better than P7, we had a car that could easily be in the top four this afternoon. We should have been in the top six in qualifying. Our position in the pits, being at the end of pit lane, hurt us quite a bit. It made qualifying pretty difficult because we were quick, but other guys in front of us were able to get out of the pit earlier and were able to complete one extra lap.

"Throughout qualifying, we were consistently at the top and looking good to move on to Segment 3 but unfortunately guys that did extra laps got us. The team has worked really hard and done a great job. We're confident for the race tomorrow. We feel that we have a car that can compete with the guys in front of us. Starting seventh is not a bad spot, we just have to stay out of trouble and do our best."

Tony Kanaan was eighth, with Justin Wilson and Ernesto Viso rounding out the top ten. Further back, Dan Wheldon will start his first race with Panther from 18th on the grid while Danica Patrick and AJ Foyt will both start from the back of the grid after incidents in the first phase of qualifying - where drivers were split into two groups with the top six advancing.

For qualifying times, CLICK HERE.



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