Dario Franchitti crept a little closer to Will Power in the IndyCar title battle by grabbing the bonus point for pole position at Homestead.
As well as seeing his points deficit come down to 11, which means if he wins and leads most laps tomorrow night, Franchitti is champion regardless of where Power finishes, the Scot has his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon alongside him on the front row.
"They all add up," said Franchitti of his extra point. "We weren't the best in the morning, I didn't feel, and [engineer] Chris [Simmons] worked his magic and the balance was very, very good.
"To have Scott there with me is a big help. So we'll see what we can do tomorrow night. If we can make the same jump with the racecar as we did with the qualifying car then we'll be in good shape."
Power held provisional pole for much of the session, deposing his Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe and looking secure until Franchitti produced a two-lap run 0.1432 second quicker than the Australian, who then lost second to Dixon, too. Although naturally disappointed, the championship leader was philosophical.
“Our next step is to make sure we have a car good enough to win the championship,” Power said.
Briscoe held on to fourth, but Penske's third driver Helio Castroneves was back in 10th, relieved just to end his run "in one piece" having lacked grip.
Dan Wheldon, who it emerged this week is taking legal action against his current team Panther Racing, took a superb fifth on the grid, with his occasional teammate Ed Carpenter also showing well in seventh. They were split by a great run from Justin Wilson, as the Dreyer & Reinbold driver scored his best oval qualifying result in the series in sixth.
Tony Kanaan was Andretti Autosport's top runner in eighth, while his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was way back in 20th, but optimistic his car would work better in the race.
Takuma Sato (KV) produced another good oval qualifying run in ninth place. Other rookies catching the eye were Bertrand Baguette (Conquest) in 14th and Dreyer & Reinbold's substitute driver Ana Beatriz in 15th.
Newman/Haas had a tough day, a mystified Graham Rahal and Hideki Mutoh qualifying only 18th and 26th respectively.
The season finale starts at 7 p.m. local time on Saturday night, with a final half-hour practice session under the lights at 7:45 p.m. this evening.
Pos Driver Team Speed
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 213.187mph
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi 212.908mph
3. Will Power Penske 212.580mph
4. Ryan Briscoe Penske 212.158mph
5. Dan Wheldon Panther 211.933mph
6. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 211.630mph
7. Ed Carpenter Panther/Vision 211.444mph
8. Tony Kanaan Andretti 211.392mph
9. Takuma Sato KV 211.355mph
10. Helio Castroneves Penske 211.240mph
11. Danica Patrick Andretti 211.013mph
12. EJ Viso KV 210.928mph
13. Mario Moraes KV 210.741mph
14. Bertrand Baguette Conquest 210.738mph
15. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 210.715mph
16. Marco Andretti Andretti 210.698mph
17. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 210.671mph
18. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas 210.629mph
19. Alex Tagliani FAZZT 210.520mph
20. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 210.030mph
21. Vitor Meira Foyt 210.017mph
22. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 209.433mph
23. Raphael Matos De Ferran Dragon 209.311mph
24. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 209.308mph
25. Simona de Silvestro HVM 208.986mph
26. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas 208.579mph
27. Milka Duno Dale Coyne 207.961mph