Dario Franchitti moved one point closer to Scott Dixon in the IndyCar championship by beating his Ganassi teammate to pole position at Homestead.
Ryan Briscoe, who is third in the standings and eight points behind series leader Dixon coming into tomorrow's deciding race, will start on the inside of row two, as the three championship contenders dominated the session.
Franchitti was concerned that his early qualifying draw would harm his chances if the sweltering temperatures cooled and as the rubber from the preceding Grand-Am session was worn away. But as things turned out, his four-lap average of 212.696mph proved unbeatable, and the bonus point Franchitti collected for pole means he will start the race just four points adrift of Dixon.
Franchitti had a comfortable quarter of a second margin over his closely matched main rivals around the four laps. A mid-run twitch cost practice pace-setter Dixon momentum, while Briscoe came within 0.010sec of getting between the Ganassi cars but was left stunned by Franchitti's qualifying pace.
Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter emerged as the title trio's main challenger. The American had been a top-10 contender in practice and raised his game further in qualifying trim -- coming close to Dixon and Briscoe's pace early in his qualifying run. Carpenter's fourth place equals his career best at Michigan three years ago.
The Newman/Haas/Lanigan cars completed the top six -- newcomer Alex Lloyd out-qualifying his teammate Graham Rahal at the first attempt as the Briton returned to the series with an outstanding fifth on the grid.
Andretti Green had languished in the midfield in practice, but the drivers said they had been focusing on a race setup. There was little wrong with Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti's qualifying settings, either, as they qualified seventh and eighth, ahead of rookie points leader Raphael Matos (Luczo Dragon).
Mario Moraes (KV) was disappointed to fall back to 10th in qualifying after being a top five threat in practice, while his compatriot Helio Castroneves just missed out on the top 10 in the spare Penske Dallara-Honda hurriedly prepared following his big crash at the end of the final practice session.
Pos Driver Team Speed
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 212.696
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi 212.160
3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 212.137
4. Ed Carpenter Vision 211.769
5. Alex Lloyd Newman/Haas/Lanigan 211.702
6. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 211.653
7. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 211.258
8. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 210.884
9. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 210.834
10. Mario Moraes KV 210.819
11. Helio Castroneves Penske 210.658
12. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 210.453
13. Justin Wilson Coyne 210.420
14. Dan Wheldon Panther 210.407
15. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 210.315
16. Sarah Fisher Fisher 210.174
17. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 210.020
18. EJ Viso HVM 209.773
19. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 209.623
20. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 208.971
21. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt 208.536
22. Robert Doornbos HVM 207.352
23. Jaques Lazier 3G 205.606