Will Power took yet another pole position in qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
Having been fastest in his round one group, then only narrowly beaten by Scott Dixon in round two, Power quickly put in a 1:11.455 lap for Penske in the "Firestone Fast Six" pole shootout to guarantee a repeat of his St. Petersburg pole.
Just like practice yesterday, a Penske 1-2-3 looked to be on the cards, with Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves becoming Power's closest rivals. But right at the end of today's unusually scheduled early morning qualifying, Ganassi driver Dixon managed to snatch third from Castroneves.
"It was very tiring but we saved it until the end and put a good lap together," said Power. "I'm happy to have the the No. 12 Verizon car up front again. It's really important to start from the front at this track. I feel we should have won the race last year with the speed we had, so we're pretty focused on the strategy."
"Well, at least I was beaten by the guy who no one seems to be able to beat in qualifying!" quipped Briscoe, who is running in Penske Truck Rental colors this weekend. "The car is feeling great; we really unloaded strong and we've been right up there in every practice session. Wish we could have gotten the pole, but we got the front row. It's going to be a long race and I'm looking forward to it, because I need to get some points back from St. Petersburg."
Dixon said his car was past its best by the time of Fast Six session.
"On the second run tires the car was so loose I couldn't get into the corner," related the New Zealander. "The weather conditions can play havoc on the way the car handles, which we saw yesterday after the rain, so we'll have to keep an eye on that and hopefully have good balance."
Despite driving with a broken wrist and having spun early in the Fast Six, Justin Wilson took an excellent fifth for the grid for Dreyer & Reinbold, just ahead of the similarly impressive Oriol Servia (Newman/Haas), who was competitive from the outset in only his second weekend back in the series.
Reigning champion and St. Petersburg winner Dario Franchitti looked good for a place in the Fast Six until Servia edged him out by 0.016sec at the last moment in round two, leaving the Ganassi driver seventh. He shares row four with Newman/Haas' second driver James Hinchcliffe, as the Canadian newcomer produced an outstanding performance in qualifying for his IndyCar debut.
Graham Rahal was only 10th for Ganassi's new second team, but there were encouraging results for several smaller squads, with Alex Tagliani getting Sam Schmidt Motorsports into the top 12 again, and HVM's Simona de Silvestro and AFS' Raphael Matos only just missing out on qualification for round two.
Andretti Autosports and KV Racing Technology both struggled. Marco Andretti was the only member of his father's team to get beyond the group stages and ended up ninth, while teammates Mike Conway – a front row starter at Barber last year – and Ryan Hunter-Reay were 16th and 17th, and Danica Patrick 22nd.
Takuma Sato was KV's top man in 11th, as Tony Kanaan's difficult weekend continued and he struggled to 24th.
Simon Pagenaud, substituting for Ana Beatriz at Dreyer & Reinbold due to the Brazilian's broken wrist, took 23rd on the grid for his IndyCar debut.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske 1m11.4546s
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m11.7361s + 0.2815s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m11.8826s + 0.4280s
4. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m12.1247s + 0.6701s
5. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 1m12.3085s + 0.8539s
6. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 1m12.4394s + 0.9848s
7. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m11.7090s (Round 2)
8. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 1m11.8183s (Round 2)
9. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m11.8672s (Round 2)
10. Graham Rahal Ganassi 1m11.9712s (Round 2)
11. Takuma Sato KV 1m12.1667s (Round 2)
12. Alex Tagliani Schmidt 1m12.3485s (Round 2)
13. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m12.2559s (Group 1)
14. Raphael Matos AFS 1m12.4094s (Group 2)
15. JR Hildebrand Panther 1m12.2684s (Group 1)
16. Mike Conway Andretti 1m12.5191s (Group 2)
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m12.3370s (Group 1)
18. EJ Viso KV 1m12.6582s (Group 2)
19. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m12.5677s (Group 1)
20. Sebastien Bourdais Coyne 1m12.6896s (Group 2)
21. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 1m12.5857s (Group 1)
22. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m12.7257s (Group 2)
23. Simon Pagenaud Dreyer & Reinbold 1m12.5900s (Group 1)
24. Tony Kanaan KV 1m12.8892s (Group 2)
25. James Jakes Coyne 1m12.7147s (Group 1)
26. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 1m13.0858s (Group 2