Tony Kanaan claimed his first pole position for KV Racing Technology-Lotus as the IZOD IndyCar Series title contenders were upstaged in Las Vegas qualifying.
Championship rivals Will Power and Dario Franchitti will start back on row nine, with Oriol Servia, Kentucky winner Ed Carpenter and Indianapolis polesitter Alex Tagliani completing the line-up on the front two rows.
Newman/Haas driver Servia looked like he might earn his first pole since the 2005 Surfers Paradise Champ Car as he sat on a provisional pole for a long while. Kanaan's first lap at 222.034mph was slightly too slow to usurp Servia, but his second lap at 222.121 was enough to put the Brazilian on top by 0.0019sec over two laps.
"It feels awesome," said Kanaan, whose last earned pole came at Richmond in June 2008. "I guess I've got to do more Ironmans on my weekends off. I can't thank the GEICO-KV guys enough. We had such an awful race at Kentucky that we needed to turn it around. They went back to the shop to massage that car as much as they could and it paid off."
Carpenter and Sarah Fisher Racing followed up their shock Kentucky win with third on the grid, ahead of long-time provisional poleman Tagliani, who is entered by Bryan Herta Autosport this weekend.
Both Power (Penske) and Franchitti (Ganassi) complained of a general lack of speed from their cars, and were the biggest casualties of a session full of unexpected results. Ryan Briscoe in fifth and Graham Rahal in eighth were representing Penske and Ganassi respectively solo within the top 10. Alongside Power's 17th, third Penske driver Helio Castroneves salvaged 11th. His 17th spot on the grid ties Power's worst start of the season (Milwaukee).
"Speed means so much at this track and we're still just trying to get more out of the Verizon car," said Power, who started from the pole at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago. "That's definitely not the result we wanted out of qualifying but we know that this is going to be a pack race and hopefully we can use that to our advantage and move forward.
"We need to win and we have some time between now and then to make sure we are getting the most out of the car."
Franchitti, who also starts from his lowest grid spot of the year, said he was relieved his rival was in the same boat. "I'm glad I don't have to make up those 18 points," the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. "When I saw Will do his lap, I was pleasantly surprised."
It was a better afternoon for Andretti Autosport, as it got all four cars into the top 10 having monopolized the top three positions on the grid for a while. Marco Andretti will start sixth, Ryan Hunter-Reay seventh, Danica Patrick ninth and Mike Conway 10th.
Scott Dixon took 13th for Ganassi, behind Wade Cunningham (Sam Schmidt/AFS) and ahead of Rookie of the Year title rivals James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand.
Both EJ Viso and James Jakes missed the session - Viso as a penalty for having taken an engine change after Thursday practice, and Jakes following his violent crash at the start of final practice. Buddy Rice was later disqualified for running below the white line and will have to start from the back alongside Dan Wheldon.
The Indy 500 champion entered qualifying despite knowing he would be put to the back of the grid to try and win from last place as part of the Las Vegas event's $5 million challenge. He was 29th quickest.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Tony Kanaan KV 222.078
2. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 222.061
3. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher 221.509
4. Alex Tagliani Bryan Herta 221.330
5. Ryan Briscoe Penske 221.130
6. Marco Andretti Andretti 221.129
7. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 221.040
8. Graham Rahal Ganassi 220.958
9. Danica Patrick Andretti 220.925
10. Mike Conway Andretti 220.922
11. Helio Castroneves Penske 220.907
12. Wade Cunningham AFS/Sam Schmidt 220.790
13. Scott Dixon Ganassi 220.715
14. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 220.701
15. JR Hildebrand Panther 220.639
16. Takuma Sato KV 220.627
17. Will Power Penske 220.524
18. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 220.489
19. Buddy Rice Panther 220.392*
20. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 220.335
21. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 220.314
22. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 219.982
23. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold 219.942
24. Tomas Scheckter Sarah Fisher 219.816
25. Davey Hamilton Dreyer & Reinbold 219.493
26. Vitor Meira AJ Foyt 219.273
27. Paul Tracy Dragon 218.661
28. Jay Howard Rahal Letterman Lanigan 218.577
29. Dan Wheldon Sam Schmidt 218.410
30. Pippa Mann Rahal Letterman Lanigan 218.157
31. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 219.153
32. Simona de Silvestro HVM 218.132
33. EJ Viso KV No speed
34. James Jakes Dale Coyne No speed
*Rice's speed disallowed for going below the white line.