Ryan Briscoe was fastest in Long Beach IndyCar qualifying, but it is Dario Franchitti who will start from pole due to the engine change penalties awaiting all the Chevrolet-powered cars.
Ganassi driver Franchitti was the only Honda powered man in the Fast Six session so was assured pole, even though he was only fourth fastest behind Penske duo Briscoe and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"It's a lot better than St. Pete and Barber, particularly Barber," Franchitti said. "It was still a pretty straightforward session. We wanted to push for pole outright, but didn't quite get there."
For Briscoe, who will now start 11th, it marks his first pole since Chicagoland 2010, and his first road and street course pole since Mid-Ohio 2009 - the last year before Power joined Team Penske full-time.
"It's huge. It's pretty satisfying," Briscoe said. "Whenever you're able to beat Will, you've beat the master."
Impressive rookie Josef Newgarden will be elevated to the front row alongside Franchitti, ahead of Justin Wilson and Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden's front row starting position came despite him missing the Firestone Fast Six, just ending in seventh. Still learning, Newgarden felt he still had something left on the table.
"That's not how we want to beat them," he said. "We have to pounce on the opportunity, and I think the Hondas are like that. We wanted to qualify up front outright. I'm bummed we didn't make it to the top six. The car was unbelievable, as I don't think the crew gets enough respect. I want the best for them, they've done the best for me. We sat back in the trailer, and didn't make many changes because the car was damn good. We've done well maximizing the red tires. I think the coolest thing for us, we've gone further up each time. The next time we're going into the fast six."
Wilson starts third - his best grid position of the season for Dale Coyne Racing. Better to be lucky than good, Wilson reckoned, on the day.
"It's the way it goes," the Englishman said. "There's days where you can't buy a break and some where it comes back. The potential was there. I screwed up a couple corners. That's just how it goes. I think we've made some big gains from Barber, and now we're understanding what this car is really like."
Scott Dixon, who was fifth fastest among the Honda entries, had a fire in the back of his Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry. His team will change the transmission on his car, but will not face a grid spot penalty.
Unofficially, the rest of the drivers who would move up are all but one of the Honda runners Takuma Sato, Mike Conway, Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball, and then Alex Tagliani's Lotus. All of the Honda drivers bar James Jakes outqualified all of the Lotus runners, and three of the Lotus cars (Katherine Legge, Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia) are also slated to receive a grid penalty.
IndyCar is set to release the official grid after the Sunday morning warm-up. With many of the fast cars starting at the back, it will be interesting to see how the race develops.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Ryan Briscoe* Penske DW12-Chevy 1m08.6089s
2. Will Power* Penske DW12-Chevy 1m08.7073s + 0.0984s
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay* Andretti DW12-Chevy 1m08.7163s + 0.1074s
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m09.0327s + 0.4238s
5. EJ Viso* KV DW12-Chevy 1m09.0634s + 0.4545s
6. James Hinchcliffe* Andretti DW12-Chevy 1m09.2109s + 0.6020s
7. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda 1m09.0697s Round 2
8. Helio Castroneves* Penske DW12-Chevy 1m09.0846s Round 2
9. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 1m09.0910s Round 2
10. Tony Kanaan* KV DW12-Chevy 1m09.1987s Round 2
11. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda 1m09.2078s Round 2
12. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m09.3658s Round 2
13. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 1m09.9000s Group 1
14. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 1m09.8868s Group 2
15. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m09.9796s Group 1
16. JR Hildebrand* Panther DW12-Chevy 1m10.3794s Group 2
17. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m10.0188s Group 1
18. Marco Andretti* Andretti DW12-Chevy 1m10.5939s Group 2
19. Rubens Barrichello* KV DW12-Chevy 1m10.0651s Group 1
20. Oriol Servia* Dreyer & Reinbold DW12-Lotus 1m10.6835s Group 2
21. Alex Tagliani BHA DW12-Lotus 1m10.8168s Group 1
22. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda 1m10.7579s Group 2
23. Ed Carpenter* Carpenter DW12-Chevy 1m11.4519s Group 1
24. Sebastien Bourdais* Dragon DW12-Lotus 1m10.8154s Group 2
25. Katherine Legge* Dragon DW12-Lotus 1m12.1142s Group 1
26. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 1m12.0590s Group 2
* = Will be given 10-place engine change penalty