Scott Dixon saw off a late challenge from Will Power to secure pole position for Sunday’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio.
The track record was broken three times over the course of the session, and two of those came from Dixon on consecutive laps right at the end of the Fast Six, when the Ganassi driver backed up a 1m04.6588s with a 1m04.5814s on scuffed tyres.
As it turned out, that late improvement was needed: while Dixon’s second-last lap was almost 0.4 seconds faster than the rest of the field, a last-gasp improvement from Penske driver Power meant that the final margin between the pair was just 0.09s.
Sebastien Bourdais was best of the rest for KV, with Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Charlie Kimball completing a Chevrolet lock-out of the first three rows.
Championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya was unable to summon the pace to progress from the second knockout round and starts 10th, while eighth-place qualifier Tony Kanaan probably lost the tenth or so that he needed to make the pole shootout when he had a huge wiggle at Turn 9.
Further back, Graham Rahal’s championship hopes took a hit when he got bottled up behind a cruising Sage Karam late in the opening phase and lost several tenths.
“Typical Sage Karam, just not using his head at all,” said Rahal, who ended up 13th on the provisional grid.
“That lap probably would have been second or third quickest. It cost me all my momentum and killed my entire lap.
“Until the kid gets penalised he’s just going to keep doing stupid stuff.
“This was a huge race for us. It’s a shame when backmarkers like that get in the way of the championship.”
Karam was unrepentant.
“It’s the nature of this track,” he said.
“I got held up by Gabby [Chaves] three laps in a row.
“I went off that lap and the car felt like it was pretty badly damaged so I was trying to get back.
“I don’t know where Graham wanted me to go.”