New Zealander Scott Dixon dominated the "Saturday Six" qualifying-within-qualifying to claim pole position for yesterday's Indy Racing League (IRL) Sonoma Grand Prix.
Dixon, who was fourth after the timed single laps in the main qualifying session, improved to first in the 10-minute session in which the six quickest return to the track to battle it out for the final starting order.
"I was cautious to get in the top six, then in the 10-minute session I just went for it," Dixon said.
"We messed up on our last lap because we only put five laps of fuel in, but I was lucky enough to hold on for the pole," he said.
Dixon's fast lap of 172.978kmh in a Panoz/Honda knocked rookie Marco Andretti off the pole.
The 19-year-old son of Michael Andretti was fastest in the single-lap time trials at 171.927kmh in a Dallara/Honda but dropped to fourth during the 10-minute run-off.
Andretti ran a lap at 172.870 kmh to start second, the first front-row start of his short IndyCar career.
Still, he would rather the starting grid be determined by timed laps rather than the run-off.
"We could always do better, but we have to learn how to do it in all aspects and this is how they do it [in the IRL]," Andretti said. "We almost had it in the 'Saturday Six' as well. It's something we have to learn."
Dixon is very impressed with Andretti, who nearly won the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year and has proven he belongs on the IRL circuit.
"Marco has done a great job," Dixon said. "He's been strong all season and with more experience, next year he will be tough to beat."
Brazilian Helio Castroneves was third at 172.579kmh for Penske Racing, followed by Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan of Brazil at 172.536 kmh and Dario Franchitti of Scotland at 172.409kmh.
Defending IRL champion Dan Wheldon of England rounded out the "Saturday Six" at 171.729 kmh.
Sam Hornish junior, who clings to a seven-point lead over Castroneves in the IRL standings with just two races remaining, qualified 10th.
Sebastien Bourdais captured his third straight pole at the Montreal Grand Prix on Saturday in his bid to become the first driver in 58 years to win three consecutive American open-wheel championships.
The Frenchman outdueled A.J. Allmendinger to win his seventh pole in 11 tries this season and the 25th of his career.
Bourdais' car had to be repaired after a broken front wing sent him headlong into a tire barrier during morning practice.
"There was quite a bit of damage, but the guys fixed it and the car was great," Bourdais said. "It was like nothing had happened."
It was the second straight day the virtually unflappable Bourdais overcame a crash to post a fast lap.
He made a mistake and hit the wall in Friday's qualifying, but managed to put up the day's fastest speed anyway.
By leading both qualifying sessions on the 4.361km Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Bourdais added two points to his lead entering yesterday's race.
He was 34 points ahead of Allmendinger and 37 in front of Justin Wilson in the Champ Car standings with four races remaining.
"With so few races left, every race is key," said Allmendinger, who also overcame difficulties on both days to earn the outside spot on the front row.
An engine failure in the warmup on Friday kept Allmendinger from posting a speed in provisional qualifying. On Saturday, he managed to deliver the fastest lap in practice.