Mario Moraes was not too downcast about narrowly missing out on his first IndyCar pole position at Motegi, and expects to be a strong factor in the race.
The KV Racing driver took provisional pole away from Ganassi's Dario Franchitti with his qualifying run, and looked on course to stay in front as all the cars following him in the qualifying order failed to match his pace.
But reigning champion Scott Dixon was last in the qualifying line and was able to depose Moraes with a run 0.5mph quicker.
"I'm still happy," Moraes said. "It's my first front row. It is going to be a long race, but we will change a few things tonight and I feel confident because we already have a fast car, so hopefully we can have a good result.
"We have a really good car on ovals, and though It's a tough track I had a good car today. We were fifth in the second practice and I think we're going to have a good finish. KV Racing has been doing a great job."
KV was one of several of the former "transition" squads showing their oval progress at Motegi. Justin Wilson put Dale Coyne Racing in the top 10 with ninth place, and Graham Rahal is eyeing Newman/Haas/Lanigan's first win of the season – and its first on an oval in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series – after qualifying fifth, two places ahead of teammate Oriol Servia.
"I'm definitely happy with that; I couldn't ask for much more," said Rahal. "We're working hard. Obviously we still have room to develop but we're competitive and that's where we want to be.
"It would be great to get a win this year – that's the biggest thing. And there is a great opportunity for us here since the car has been good since we showed up."