Will Power shrugged off his hefty morning practice crash to claim his seventh pole of the IndyCar season. Penske's championship-leading Australian was fastest in the top 12 sesson, then after initially keeping a low profile in the Fast Six pole shootout, he blasted to the top spot with a 1m07.1997s.
“Bad mistake on my behalf this morning,” said Power, who got out of the car without assistance. “The guys had to put together the spare car in a two-hour space. I can't thank them enough.
“All I did was obviously go over the data that my teammates had in that session and just did everything I could mentally to prepare and did my best. Obviously, I didn't suffer in Turn 1 because I was lacking confidence. You just got to put that out of your head and get it done. I was not sure going into this qualifying session, but I just put my head down, did my best, tried to get through each section.”
Power deposed Dario Franchitti (Ganassi), who had only just taken first place from the impressive Takuma Sato, as KV's former grand prix driver showed his best IndyCar form yet to claim the inside second row place.
“We struggled last year with the surfaces and the sealers and stuff,” said Franchitti, "but the test here last week went very well. We had to go back to the drawing board last night. My engineer, Chris Simmons, and I spent a lot of time at the bus going over data late last night. We could see the bits we needed to improve on the car, but also the bits I needed to improve. There are two corners I'm really not doing a good job at. I knew it myself before we looked at the data.
“Passing, as we know, is difficult here [but] in the last couple years, I've seen more passing than in other years combined," Franchitti added, "so I expect a pretty competitive race.”
Andretti's Ryan Hunter-Reay joins Sato on row two, with Scott Dixon (Ganassi) and Helio Castroneves (Penske) completing the Fast Six participants. Ryan Briscoe was the only Penske driver outside the top six, having ended the top 12 part of qualifying embedded in the Turn 5 tire barriers after a tangle with Justin Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold) that left the two men remonstrating with each other in the run-off area.
Simona de Silvestro was challenging for a top six spot for the second event in a row when the clutch of her HVM car broke in the pits, leaving her 10th on the grid.
EJ Viso backed up his KV teammate Sato's strong run with eighth, but after flying in final practice, Mario Moraes could only manage 16th. There were bigger shocks too, with Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan a deeply unhappy 20th and Friday pacesetter Graham Rahal way back in 26th for Newman/Haas.
“We definitely struggled in qualifying. It wasn't any one thing," related Rahal. "The front of the car had a ton of understeer and the rear wasn't good either. I cannot attack; I can't go faster. Then when we put red tires on it made both of those things worse. Other teams improved since Friday but we went backwards due to some decisions with the setup that didn't work. Its going to be a tough race but we're going to see if we can play with the strategy."
Debutant JR Hildebrand (Dreyer & Reinbold) will start 18th, alongside Adam Carroll, who is making his second appearance with Andretti Autosport.