Penske took its first top three sweep since the Edmonton Grand Prix last year as Will Power led Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe in Watkins Glen qualifying.
The result gave Penske its eighth consecutive IndyCar pole - equaling the all-time record in major U.S. open-wheel racing - and means it remains unbeaten in Indy Racing League-run qualifying sessions at the famous 3.4-mile road course, though it has yet to convert any of those into a win.
Castroneves had been quickest in the first qualifying group, with Power leading the top 12 session, crucially setting his time on used red (soft) tires, and able to save a fresh set for the Firestone Fast Six shootout - a session that all three Penske drivers had no difficulty reaching. Power then instantly established his authority in the final session, setting a 1m29.3164s early on, and though Castroneves whittled the advantage down to 0.15sec, he drove into the gravel Turn 8 on his final flying lap.
Behind Briscoe, group two pacesetter Dario Franchitti was the best non-Penske driver in fourth. He was the only Ganassi driver in the Fast Six, with Scott Dixon missing the cut by 0.0777s and ending up seventh. Takuma Sato was a frontrunner all session and took a career-best fifth on the grid for KV, while last year's race-winner Justin Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold) could not emulate his 2009 front row start but completed the third row.
Outside the Fast Six, the star of the session was debutant Adam Carroll. After a deliberately low-key practice performance, AFS/Andretti Autosport's new signing breezed through his first qualifying group and took 10th on the grid. That made Carroll second best among Andretti's quintet, behind only eighth-placed Marco Andretti. Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Danica Patrick all failed to make it out of the group stages and will start 13th, 16th and 21st.
The situation was particularly agonizing for Hunter-Reay, who spun and got stuck in the gravel at Turn 8, which meant his best two laps were deleted once he was pushed back on course. That left him with one shot at getting through, but he felt that lap was ruined by Milka Duno - and made his feelings very clear to the struggling Dale Coyne Racing driver in the pits afterwards.
KV managed to get two cars in the top ten, with Mario Moraes backing up Sato's good result by taking ninth. But the squad's third driver EJ Viso missed qualifying, the team unable to prepare its back-up car in time after Viso's huge practice crash.
Paul Tracy made it into the second leg of qualifying on his return with Dreyer & Reinbold and will start 12th for his first IndyCar race in almost a year.
Pos Driver Team Time Session
1. Will Power Penske 1m29.3164s
2. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m29.4608s
3. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m29.9346s
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m29.9600s
5. Takuma Sato KV 1m30.1410s
6. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 1m30.2667s
7. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m30.1389s
8. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m30.2042s
9. Mario Moraes KV 1m30.2643s
10. Adam Carroll AFS/Andretti 1m30.4886s
11. Raphael Matos De Ferran Dragon 1m30.5276s
12. Paul Tracy Dreyer & Reinbold 1m30.8413s
13. Tony Kanaan Andretti 1m31.1933s
14. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas 1m31.1723s
15. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m31.3268s
16. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m31.4333s
17. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m31.4088s
18. Mario Romancini Conquest 1m31.5797s
19. Alex Tagliani Fazzt 1m31.5218s
20. Dan Wheldon Panther 1m31.5987s
21. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m31.5328s
22. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 1m33.9832s
23. Bertrand Baguette Conquest 1m32.1888s
24. Milka Duno Dale Coyne 1m40.4911s
25. EJ Viso KV, no time