Dario Franchitti said the hot, greasy racetrack made his pole run at Richmond International Raceway far from easy.
The Scot was clocked at 1m04.5488s (167.315 mph) on his four-lap run around the 0.75-mile oval to unseat his Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon, and create yet another Ganassi front row. The team now has two poles in eight races this season while Ganassi and/or Penske cars have started one-two five times.
The 90-degree heat created a slippery line that caught several drivers by surprise, and gave Franchitti a tough time as well.
"It was by no means easy," Franchitti said. "The thing was understeering in [Turn] 2 and oversteering in [Turn] 4. I had my hands full. It's just so hot.
"That's part of the fun, though, is trying to hang on to the thing when it's like this. It makes it interesting."
Dixon, who led every lap while winning a rain-shortened race at Richmond in 2003, hoped that missing out on pole would not prove too costly given the recent trend of the Richmond race to be a single-file parade as opposed to the side-by-side battle of years past.
"Passing is always a premium here now," Dixon said. "It's always hard to get around people, so you rely on pit stops to gain ground. Hopefully it doesn't play out that way, because we're starting second."
Ganassi's usual main rival Penske will fill the second row of the grid, with Helio Castroneves ahead of Ryan Briscoe despite the Brazilian nearly crashing at Turn 2 on his third qualifying lap. The sudden loss of traction reminded Castroneves of Milwaukee, where he crashed during qualifying last month, but this time he managed to save it.
"Oh man, did you see that?" he asked reporters after the run. "That was too close. I was just glued to the steering wheel, trying to steer as little as possible. We lost a little bit of time because of it. Milwaukee came into my mind a little bit. I just thought, 'Man, let's just finish the thing.'"Full qualifying report