Roush Fenway Racing's David Ragan claimed pole position for the Brickyard 400 as the team continued its dominance of the Indianapolis weekend.
Ragan, who claimed his maiden Sprint Cup win earlier this month at Daytona, beat the early benchmark set by three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson with a lap of 49.182 seconds at an average speed of 182.994mph. Red Bull Racing's Kasey Kahne would later get to within 0.018sec of Ragan's lap, bumping Johnson from the front row of the grid and securing his best start at Indy.
"It was just a good, solid lap," said Ford driver Ragan after claiming his second Cup pole. "I always criticize myself and think I could have gotten more, but I don't really know. The car was fast. It did what I needed it to do.
"We were off a little bit in race practice but I think we made a lot of changes, we made some improvements. The key for tomorrow is staying up front. I don't think you can fall any further back than 10th or 15th.
"We've got to have a good day on pit road, I've got to make good adjustments on the race car. It'll be hot, it'll be slick. We've got to stay in that top-10 all day."
Kahne, who escaped a massive crash in a sprint car event last weekend, took his second front-row start of the season, giving his team reason for hope as it still seeks investors to stay afloat in 2012. He anticipates tire wear will increase relative to the past and feels confident on his car's consistency on long runs.
"Top-two or three rows starting here is really good the way things are right now," said Kahne. "One thing that's going to be a little bit different is that the tyres are going to fall off a lot tomorrow, which will be good I think for the race.
"I think there will be a little bit more passing because of that. Some cars get slower than others as the race runs go. I think we'll be in a good spot. Our cars didn't fall off too bad today."
Johnson's Hendrick Chevrolet will share the second row of the grid with Penske Dodge driver Kurt Busch, making it four different manufacturers in the top four spots, while the second Penske car of Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger was sixth ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, who had a solid qualifying effort alongside his new Earnhardt Ganassi Racing crew chief Jim Pohlman. Johnson's Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon was eighth while the Roush Fenway Fords of Matt Kenseth and points leader Carl Edwards completed the top 10.
Greg Biffle, fastest final practice, ended up only 18th. Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 25th driving Roush Fenway machinery for the Wood Brothers, while Sprint Cup returnee Scott Speed qualified on time in 24th for Max Q Motorsports.
David Stremme, Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell, JJ Yeley and Scott Wimmer failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 49.182s
2. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 49.200s + 0.018s
3. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 49.234s + 0.052s
4. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 49.269s + 0.087s
5. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 49.300s + 0.118s
6. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 49.330s + 0.148s
7. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 49.351s + 0.169s
8. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 49.385s + 0.203s
9. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 49.392s + 0.210s
10. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 49.437s + 0.255s
11. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 49.444s + 0.262s
12. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 49.459s + 0.277s
13. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 49.479s + 0.297s
14. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 49.480s + 0.298s
15. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 49.486s + 0.304s
16. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 49.492s + 0.310s
17. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 49.528s + 0.346s
18. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 49.537s + 0.355s
19. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 49.550s + 0.368s
20. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 49.608s + 0.426s
21. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 49.617s + 0.435s
22. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 49.632s + 0.450s
23. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 49.636s + 0.454s
24. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 49.655s + 0.473s
25. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 49.687s + 0.505s
26. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 49.729s + 0.547s
27. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 49.744s + 0.562s
28. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 49.748s + 0.566s
29. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 49.764s + 0.582s
30. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 49.829s + 0.647s
31. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 49.831s + 0.649s
32. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 49.963s + 0.781s
33. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 50.021s + 0.839s
34. Scott Speed Max Q Ford 50.126s + 0.944s
35. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 50.153s + 0.971s
36. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 50.196s + 1.014s
37. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 50.202s + 1.020s
38. Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 50.282s + 1.100s
39. Andy Lally TRG Ford 50.300s + 1.118s
40. TJ Bell LTD Powersports Chevrolet 50.564s + 1.382s
41. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 50.600s + 1.418s
42. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 50.601s + 1.419s
43. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford 51.577s + 2.395s
Did not qualify:
David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 50.579s + 1.397s
Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 50.729s + 1.547s
Erik Darnell Whitney Ford 50.734s + 1.552s
JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 51.009s + 1.827s
Scott Wimmer Gordon Dodge 51.415s + 2.233s