As is the norm for road and street races, qualifying at Detroit consisted of half the field running in the 15 minute Group 1 and the other half in Group 2. The top six from each group progressed to the ten minute Top 12 session, with the top six from that round then going through to the pole shoot-out Firestone Fast Six.

Round 1 Group 1

Group 1 consisted of Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oriol Servia, Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, JR Hildebrand, Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato and Ed Carpenter.

Carpenter was first out on track for a couple of shakedown laps posting a best time of 1:18.0828. After a short lull, Takuma Sato headed out and that seemed to encourage most of the rest of the field to come out just before the halfway point of the 15 minute session.

When Sato had a near miss on the turn 3 tyre wall on his first flying lap, he allowed Simon Pagenaud on the red wall soft compound tyres to go top with a lap of 1:12.2122s, and the two Ganassi drivers Franchitti and Dixon duly slotted in to second and third place respectively.

Dixon went top next time around with a lap of 1:11.4650 which he quickly trimmed to 1:11.2495s, with Ryan Hunter-Reay stealing third place from Franchitti who was then immediately bumped from fourth as well by a flying Sebastien Bourdais.

With less than two minutes to go the times started to tumble and the timing screens went almost fully purple, the exceptions being Pagenaud, Franchitti and Kimball. Dixon lowered his time to 1:11.0332s and decided that was safe, and Ryan Hunter-Reay also pitted early from second place ahead of Wilson, Bourdais, Pagenaud and an under the weather Josef Newgarden.

Pagenaud's final flying lap propelled him past Hunter-Reay for second, with Wilson, Bourdais and Sato ending up in the top six. The notable absentee was Franchitti, who was frustrated after being held up by slower traffic including Ed Carpenter in his final run and ended up in a disappointing eighth place, putting him into 15th place on the grid for the start of Sunday's race.

Newgarden was also bumped out at the last minute by Sato, while JR Hildebrand showed off the scuffed rear wheel from contact with the barrier that had cost him a chance of making it through.

1. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 104.909mph 1:11.033s (4 laps)
2. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda 104.304mph 1:11.445s + 0.412s (6 laps)
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 104.24mph 1:11.489s + 0.456s (4 laps)
4. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 104.088mph 1:11.594s + 0.560s (5 laps)
5. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon-Chevrolet 103.77mph 1:11.813s + 0.779s (6 laps)
6. Takuma Sato RLL-Honda 103.369mph 1:12.091s + 1.058s (7 laps)
7. Josef Newgarden SFHR-Honda 103.347mph 1:12.107s + 1.074s (5 laps)
8. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 103.031mph 1:12.328s + 1.294s (6 laps)
9. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR-Chevrolet 102.679mph 1:12.575s + 1.542s (6 laps)
10. JR Hildebrand Panther-Chevrolet 102.668mph 1:12.584s + 1.550s (5 laps)
11. Charlie Kimball Ganassi-Honda 102.667mph 1:12.584s + 1.551s (6 laps)
12. Ed Carpenter ECR-Chevrolet 99.517mph 1:14.882s + 3.848s (6 laps)

Round 1 Group 2

Group 2 consisted of Will Power, Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Mike Conway, Graham Rahal, Rubens Barrichello, Marco Andretti, EJ Viso, James Jakes, Alex Tagliani and Simona de Silvestro.

There were no early takers for the track in the second group, despite Franchitti's earlier example of how traffic later in the session can wreck one's prospects.

Finally with five minutes gone the first car headed out on track, with Mike Conway the first to break cover, and like the first session he set the fashion in wearing red compound tyres for the occasion.

HVM won no brownie points with Conway by putting Simona de Silvestro out right in front of him as Conway came down the straight, meaning his first time of the session was an unrepresentative 1:16.8350s. Next time around he swiped over 4s off that and posted a follow-up lap of 1:12.4867s which was soon bested by Helio Castroneves going almost half a second faster again.

First under the 72s mark was Hinchcliffe with a lap of 1:11.8172s, but that was blitzed by Will Power with a lap of 1:11.0721s. Hinchcliffe fought back and narrowed the gap slightly, but then made a glancing hit with the tyre wall with the left rear of the car in turn 14 and had to take to pit road to have the #27 checked over for suspension damage.

Back out on track and times were still falling, with Power now at 1:10.7900 and Tagliani just three hundredths of a second further back. As the times tumbled, all three Penske cars forged into the top six along with Tagliani, Rahal and Viso - leaving Hinchcliffe duly ejected from progressing to round 2, that mishap with the tyre wall having ultimately proved very costly to him.

Viso's final effort was enough to see him as the sole KV Racing car through to round 2, with Tony Kanaan visibly angry not to have posted a strong time during the session. Marco Andretti and James Jakes were also well off the expected pace in the session and will start behind the Lotus-powered car of de Silvestro for the Sunday race.

1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 105.269mph 1:10.790s (3 laps)
2. Alex Tagliani BHA-Honda 105.226mph 1:10.819s + 0.029s (4 laps)
3. Graham Rahal Ganassi-Honda 104.865mph 1:11.063s + 0.273s (5 laps)
4. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet 104.569mph 1:11.264s + 0.474s (6 laps)
5. Helio Castroneves Penske-Chevrolet 104.446mph 1:11.348s + 0.558s (6 laps)
6. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 104.096mph 1:11.588s + 0.798s (6 laps)
7. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 104.003mph 1:11.652s + 0.862s (2 laps)
8. Mike Conway AJ Foyt-Honda 104.003mph 1:11.652s + 0.862s (8 laps)
9. Tony Kanaan KV Racing-Chevrolet 103.777mph 1:11.808s + 1.018s (6 laps)
10. Rubens Barrichello KV Racing-Chevrolet 102.921mph 1:12.405s + 1.615s (6 laps)
11. Simona de Silvestro HVM-Lotus 102.643mph 1:12.601s + 1.811s (6 laps)
12. Marco Andretti Andretti-Chevrolet 102.57mph 1:12.653s + 1.863s (5 laps)
13. James Jakes Dale Coyne-Honda 102.297mph 1:12.847s + 2.057s (5 laps)

Round 2 - Top 12

The twelve drivers through from round 1 were Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson, Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Alex Tagliani, Graham Rahal, EJ Viso, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, making it an even split of Honda and Chevrolet cars but missing a number of high-profile runners.

After three minutes of inactivity at the start of the ten minute session, Takuma Sato headed out on track and pretty much everyone piled out shortly thereafter and only Alex Tagliani hanging back.

Sato's first effort of 1:14.7779s was quickly beaten by Rahal lowering the benchmark to 1:12.1779s. Penske duo Castroneves and Briscoe muscled past Rahal with the first laps in the 1:11s range, and Rahal responded with a new lead time of 1:11.1333s.

Times were falling with every circulation: with two minute to go, Viso went top with a lap of 1:10.9312s but 30 seconds later he was already shuffled back to fifth place as Dixon, Tagliani, Power and Pagenaud all went faster still. Power's final lap of the day put him top with a lap of 1:10.4977s. Rahal made a spirited last flying effort but fell 0.036s short of bumping Ryan Hunter-Reay from the top six as the chequered flag came out.

Ryan Briscoe's day continued to be eventful, when he looked to be on a final charge to get into the top six when he brushed the wall with his left rear and caused a puncture that left him crawling back to pit lane, neither he nor Castroneves able to join their Penske team mate Will Power in the Firestone Fast Six despite clearly impressive speed.

1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 105.706mph 1:10.498s (4 laps)
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 105.685mph 1:10.512s + 0.014s (4 laps)
3. Alex Tagliani BHA-Honda 105.588mph 1:10.577s + 0.079s (3 laps)
4. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda 105.396mph 1:10.705s + 0.207s (5 laps)
5. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet 105.06mph 1:10.931s + 0.434s (5 laps)
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 105.047mph 1:10.940s + 0.442s (5 laps)
7. Graham Rahal Ganassi-Honda 105.041mph 1:10.943s + 0.446s (6 laps)
8. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 104.963mph 1:10.996s + 0.499s (4 laps)
9. Helio Castroneves Penske-Chevrolet 104.947mph 1:11.008s + 0.510s (5 laps)
10. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon-Chevrolet 104.718mph 1:11.162s + 0.665s (5 laps)
11. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 104.461mph 1:11.338s + 0.840s (5 laps)
12. Takuma Sato RLL-Honda 103.771mph 1:11.812s + 1.315s (6 laps)

Round 3 - Firestone Fast Six

The final six drivers left in contention were Power, Dixon, Tagliani, Paganeud, Viso and Hunter-Reay: not only did that keep the even split in numbers of Honda and Chevrolet runners, it also meant that six different teams had made it into the top six pole shootout for the first time in 2012.

As ever, it wasn't until under seven minutes to go that cars started to come out to play on the 2.07-mile, 14-turn Belle Isle street course. Finally Ryan Hunter-Reay blinked first and headed out with Power, Dixon and Pagenaud in hot pursuit. Tagliani and finally Viso were the last to rouse themselves, cutting it very fine to get three runs in before the chequered flag.

Hunter-Reay's first effort was a 1:12.9466s but Power immediately wiped off six tenths from that to take provisional pole. Hunter-Reay improved but Power posted a time of 1:11.3263s.

Pagenaud demonstrated that he wasn't about to let the championship leader have it his own way by going top with 1:11.2862s, but Viso continued his strong day with a lap of 1:11.0852s.

Then normal service was resumed with first Power going top with a lap of 1:10.7592 and then Dixon going even faster with a lap of 1:10.6700s. Those times proved too fast for Pagenaud whose next next lap was still half a second off the provisional pole.

Dixon and Power went even faster with their next laps as the chequered flag came out while Alex Tagliani put in a flier of 1:10.6684s to steal third from Pagenaud. Viso was unable to improve on his earlier laptime, and Hunter-Reay seemed to have settled for simply being on the third row for the start of the race.

1. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 105.978mph 1:10.316s (4 laps)
2. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 105.972mph 1:10.321s + 0.004s (5 laps)
3. Alex Tagliani BHA-Honda 105.45mph 1:10.668s + 0.352s (3 laps)
4. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda 105.191mph 1:10.843s + 0.526s (4 laps)
5. EJ Viso KV Racing-Chevrolet 104.832mph 1:11.085s + 0.769s (3 laps)
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 104.288mph 1:11.456s + 1.140s (5 laps)


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