Juan Pablo Montoya claimed his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup pole position in qualifying for Sunday's race at Watkins Glen.
The Colombian, a winner at the track two years ago, set a new track record with a time of 1:09.438, which placed him more than half a second clear of the previous benchmark set by Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer.
Later both Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch and Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson were able to run within less than a tenth of the Earnhardt Ganassi driver, ending up second and third respectively in the 43-car field.
Montoya started from pole last week at Pocono but strategy and circumstances played a part in his feat. This time he is confident he can really contend for his first win of the season.
The last time he set consecutive poles was in his final full season in Formula 1 back in 2005, driving a McLaren to the top spot at Monza and then Spa Francorchamps, where he set his 13th and final F1 pole position.
"Last week I knew we were going to struggle," Montoya said after setting his ninth Cup career pole. "Our race pace in practice was horrible. When we went out and put it on pole I was like 'yeah!', you know, one of those 'how did that happen?'
"This week we've genuinely been good all weekend. We did the Michigan test and I felt we gained a lot on the car. We put some more in Pocono, ran better, [but] we missed our race set-up completely and we knew we did when I got into Turn 1 on the first lap...
"I think this week we can contend. A few guys are really, really strong and you've got to run your own race and save the brakes. Having track position is a good thing because you can do it smart and see what it brings us."
Having looked strong during practice, Penske's Brad Keselowski, who finished second at the Glen a year ago, claimed his best ever Cup starting spot on a road course with fourth, ahead of last year's race-winner Marcos Ambrose.
Stewart-Haas' Ryan Newman was sixth fastest ahead of his team-mate Tony Stewart, a favourite to contend for a sixth win at the Glen on Sunday. Bowyer, his MWR teammate Martin Truex Jr. and Montoya's team-mate Jamie McMurray rounded out the top 10.
Points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr was 16th fastest, behind the quickest of the non-guarenteed drivers Michael McDowell, who was an impressive 11th.
Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton had to switch to their back-up cars after crashing during the opening practice session on Friday, losing control while driving over oil left from Patrick Long's car. Long qualified a backup car not set up for road courses for his Sprint Cup debut.
The weekend's schedule was modified due to morning rain and the second practice, which was also scheduled for Friday, took place very early on Saturday morning.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 1m09.438s
2. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota 1m09.488s + 0.050s
3. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 1m09.490s + 0.052s
4. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 1m09.654s + 0.216s
5. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 1m09.710s + 0.272s
6. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 1m09.827s + 0.389s
7. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 1m09.917s + 0.479s
8. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 1m09.966s + 0.528s
9. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 1m09.973s + 0.535s
10. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 1m10.023s + 0.585s
11. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 1m10.160s + 0.722s
12. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 1m10.199s + 0.761s
13. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 1m10.216s + 0.778s
14. Joey Logano Joe Gibbs Toyota 1m10.269s + 0.831s
15. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 1m10.270s + 0.832s
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 1m10.279s + 0.841s
17. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge 1m10.324s + 0.886s
18. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 1m10.330s + 0.892s
19. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 1m10.341s + 0.903s
20. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 1m10.369s + 0.931s
21. Scott Speed Leavine Ford 1m10.372s + 0.934s
22. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 1m10.448s + 1.010s
23. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 1m10.515s + 1.077s
24. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 1m10.607s + 1.169s
25. Boris Said FAS Lane Ford 1m10.678s + 1.240s
26. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 1m10.721s + 1.283s
27. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 1m10.869s + 1.431s
28. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 1m11.010s + 1.572s
29. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 1m11.022s + 1.584s
30. Casey Mears Germain Ford 1m11.054s + 1.616s
31. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 1m11.067s + 1.629s
32. David Ragan Front Row Ford 1m11.205s + 1.767s
33. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota 1m11.296s + 1.858s
34. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 1m11.373s + 1.935s
35. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 1m11.434s + 1.996s
36. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 1m11.454s + 2.016s
37. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet 1m11.550s + 2.112s
38. Josh Wise Front Row Ford 1m11.982s + 2.544s
39. Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 1m12.097s + 2.659s
40. Chris Cook Humphrey Smith Toyota 1m14.193s + 4.755s
41. Jason Leffler Robinson-Blakeney Toyota 1m14.279s + 4.841s
42. Patrick Long Inception Toyota 1m15.031s + 5.593s
43. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota