Will Power took pole position for Saturday's IndyCar season finale at Fontana, inadvertently taking a point from Penske teammate and championship contender Helio Castroneves in the process.
Castroneves had been the provisional polesitter until Power took his turn on the track, and the Australian's two-lap average of 220.775mph was enough to bump the Brazilian from the top spot by 1.1mph.
"It would have been nice for Helio to get the point," Power said. "But Scott [Dixon, Castroneves' title rival] didn't, so it still keeps it alive."
Even if he had beaten Power, the 10-place grid penalty that Castroneves carries into the weekend would still have prevented him from lining up for the race on pole. Dixon, who qualified seventh fastest, has a similar penalty and will start from 17th.
Power had commented during the session that his main job had been to keep Dixon from claiming pole; an idea that the New Zealander found baffling. "I'm surprised he thought we had that much pace," he said.
AJ Allmendinger, called in by Penske to drive a third car to reinforce Castroneves' title hopes, did a great job to finish up third fastest to complete a Team Penske sweep, despite not having driven an IndyCar since Detroit in June. Despite the result, the NASCAR regular was convinced that he could have gone quicker. "I still feel like I'm chasing the car," he said.
Sebastien Bourdais' last qualifying session for Dragon Racing ended with him setting the fourth-fastest time ahead of Ganassi's Charlie Kimball and Rahal Letterman Lanigan's James Jakes.
Alex Tagliani, who is standing in for the injured Dario Franchitti at Ganassi, finished up 13th fastest.
"There is a lot at stake with Scott, and we need to make sure we have a good car in the race," said Tagliani. "We didn't go out to try and push and try to do anything special in qualifying."
Pos Driver Team/Engine Speed
1. Will Power Penske/Chevy 220.775
2. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy 219.677*
3. AJ Allmendinger Penske/Chevy 218.894
4. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy 218.513
5. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda 217.986
6. James Jakes Rahal/Honda 217.979
7. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda 217.979*
8. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy 217.958
9. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy 217.932
10. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda 217.871*
11. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy 217.798
12. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy 217.566
13. Alex Tagliani Ganassi/Honda 217.419
14. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Chevy 217.050
15. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy 216.898
16. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda 216.447
17. Oriol Servia Panther/Chevy 216.213
18. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda 216.106*
19. JR Hildebrand Barracuda/Honda 215.967
20. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda 215.207
21. Simona de Silvestro KV/Chevy 214.679
22. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy 213.262*
23. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda
24. Pippa Mann Coyne/Honda
25. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda *
* Set to take 10-place grid penalty
Grid set by average speed over two-lap run