Helio Castroneves will start from pole at Motegi for the fourth time in five years after leading a Penske one-two-three sweep in IndyCar qualifying.
Last year, Penske had been unable to match its arch-rival Ganassi at the Japanese track, but so far this weekend it has emphatically turned the tables, leading both practice sessions and then showing dominant qualifying pace.
The team's main title contender Will Power took third on the grid, behind Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, for his first start at Motegi. Power's championship rival Dario Franchitti was the best of the non-Penske drivers, claiming fourth for Ganassi.
A trio of Andretti Autosport cars follow Franchitti in the lineup, with Marco Andretti ahead of Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
EJ Viso maintained his strong form from practice to take eighth, but even more impressive was his KV Racing teammate and local hero Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver only had 20 minutes of running in practice after a split oil line sent him spinning into the wall minutes into this morning's first session, but he shrugged off that lack of preparation to secure 10th on the grid with a bold qualifying run.
Dan Wheldon's Panther Racing entry will start between the KV duo in ninth.
Drivers likely to be particularly disappointed with their qualifying results include championship outsider Scott Dixon, only 11th for Ganassi, and his row six partner Danica Patrick (Andretti Autosport), who won here in 2008.
Newman/Haas duo Graham Rahal and Hideki Mutoh only managed 16th and 17th, while last year's front row starter Mario Moraes struggled to 20th – a long way behind the other KV cars.
Paul Tracy (Dreyer & Reinbold) was back in 22nd after a slide on his first lap, just ahead of compatriot Alex Tagliani (FAZZT), who had been seventh in morning practice.
Conversely, underdogs Bertrand Baguette (Conquest), Vitor Meira (Foyt) and Alex Lloyd (Dale Coyne) did well to take 13th, 14th and 15th places respectively. Baguette's team-mate Roger Yasukawa was 21st on his one-off return to the series.
Pos Driver Team Speed
1. Helio Castroneves Penske 201.992mph
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske 201.594mph
3. Will Power Penske 201.463mph
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 200.964mph
5. Marco Andretti Andretti 200.187mph
6. Tony Kanaan Andretti 200.011mph
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 199.623mph
8. EJ Viso KV 199.487mph
9. Dan Wheldon Panther 199.225mph
10. Takuma Sato KV 199.191mph
11. Scott Dixon Ganassi 199.020mph
12. Danica Patrick Andretti 198.935mph
13. Bertrand Baguette Conquest 198.794mph
14. Vitor Meira Foyt 197.950mph
15. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 197.556mph
16. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas 197.402mph
17. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas 197.361mph
18. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 196.850mph
19. Raphael Matos De Ferran Dragon 193.813mph
20. Mario Moraes KV 196.460mph
21. Roger Yasukawa Conquest 196.296mph
22. Paul Tracy Dreyer & Reinbold 195.709mph
23. Alex Tagliani FAZZT 195.483mph
24. Simona de Silvestro HVM 193.561mph
25. Milka Duno Dale Coyne 192.527mph