Ryan Hunter-Reay's hopes of remaining in the IZOD IndyCar Series title hunt received a boost after the Andretti Autosport driver triumphed in qualifying at Mid-Ohio.
Hunter-Reay set his 1m05.3519s with just over a minute still on the clock, but it was good enough to hold up against the last-ditch efforts from his rivals.
"Last year we clawed back from bigger deficits," he said of his points disadvantage, which sees him in third place, 68 points down to championship leader Helio Castroneves going into Sunday's race. "Being late in the season, we need to go like we did last year at the end of the season, which is go for broke. We're not interested in banking results right now and going for second or third in the championship because nobody really remembers who finishes second a couple of years from now.
"We're going for it. Hopefully this is the first step in it. But we have a long way to go, including tomorrow's fight for the win. It's going to be a long, hard race going up against the Ganassi, Penske boys and my teammates as well."
The reigning IndyCar champion and team owner Michael Andretti gambled on making it through the Q1 and Q2 segments on one set of Firestone's red-walled alternate tires, which left them a fresh set in Q3 when others were on more worn rubber.
Penske's Will Power came closest, missing out by 0.18 second, with Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and Hunter-Reay's Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti claiming the second row.
Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti secured row three, meaning that all three Ganassi cars will start inside the top six -- a particularly impressive effort on the part of Kimball's crew, who had to repair their car after a heavy crash in morning practice.
Current points leader Castroneves joined James Hinchcliffe in providing the early upsets, with both facing the prospect of starting toward the back end of the field after being knocked out of the first group.
"We're going to try something different because what we were planning on doing tomorrow strategy wise won't work with as far back as we will have to start," admitted Castroneves. "We have not given up hope yet -- tomorrow will be a long race and I know we'll be able to make it back up."
There was also drama for Bryan Herta Autosport rookie Luca Filippi, who was stripped of his two fastest laps after going off and causing a red flag during the first qualifying phase. Had his times been allowed to stand, the Italian would have been fourth fastest in his group.
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time Gap
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy 1m05.3519s
2. Will Power Penske/Chevy 1m05.5359s +0.1840s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda 1m05.7051s +0.3532s
4. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy 1m05.8566s +0.5047s
5. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda 1m06.4415s +1.0896s
6. Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda 1m06.5854s +1.2335s
7. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda 1m05.9405s Round 2
8. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 1m05.9412s Round 2
9. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy 1m05.9621s Round 2
10. James Jakes Rahal/Honda 1m06.1778s Round 2
11. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda 1m06.3379s Round 2
12. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy 1m06.4071s Round 2
13. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy 1m06.2198s Group 1
14. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy 1m06.1856s Group 2
15. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy 1m06.2280s Group 1
16. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 1m06.1989s Group 2
17. James Davison Coyne/Honda 1m06.2839s Group 1
18. Oriol Servia Panther/Chevy 1m06.2109s Group 2
19. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda 1m06.5334s Group 1
20. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy 1m06.2537s Group 2
21. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy 1m07.0895s Group 1
22. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda 1m06.4002s Group 2
23. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy 1m07.4107s Group 1
24. Luca Filippi Herta/Honda 1m06.8757s Group 2
All drivers use Dallara DW12 chassis