Josef Newgarden did his championship ambitions no harm as he took pole position for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, with the point he has earned for it extending his advantage to four points.
It was the ideal time for the young American to secure his first pole position of the season as he bids to clinch his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series title on Sunday, although all five championship contenders will start inside the top six.
Team Penske have locked out the top four grid positions at Sonoma, with Will Power joining Newgarden on the front row, just ahead of Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, with all four in contention for the title.
Newgarden’s best of 1:15.5205s gave Penske their eleventh pole position of the season, but it was a close run thing between him and Power, with the Australian just 0.0351 seconds down, while Pagenaud took third, 0.1151 seconds back, with the Frenchman also seeing his 2016 track record beaten.
Castroneves could not better fourth, but he will start on the outside of the second row, ahead of Takuma Sato, the only non-championship contender to make it through to the Fast Six shootout, and Scott Dixon, the lone Chip Ganassi Racing driver in the battle for the title and the one looking to deny all four Penske drivers the crown.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi will form an all Andretti Autosport row four after both missed out on advancing into the Fast Six, with Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais on row five ahead of Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan.
Conor Daly recovered from difficult practice sessions to just miss out on advancing into the second segment of qualifying, with the AJ Foyt Racing driver set to start thirteenth, alongside Max Chilton, with Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe on row eight ahead of Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones, while the field will be rounded out by Jack Harvey, JR Hildebrand, debutant Zachery Claman DeMelo and Carlos Muñoz.
Sonoma Raceway Qualifying Result
|1||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||1:15.5205|
|2||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||1:15.5556|
|3||1||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||1:15.6356|
|4||3||Helio Castroneves||BRZ||Team Penske||1:15.8032|
|5||26||Takuma Sato||JAP||Andretti Autosport||1:16.2208|
|6||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:16.3978|
|-||-||Eliminated in Q2||-||-||-|
|7||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||USA||Andretti Autosport||1:16.1815|
|8||98||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Herta Autosport||1:16.1934|
|9||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||1:16.1968|
|10||18||Sebastien Bourdais||FRA||Dale Coyne Racing||1:16.5811|
|11||27||Marco Andretti||USA||Andretti Autosport||1:16.8221|
|12||10||Tony Kanaan||BRZ||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:16.9718|
|-||-||Eliminated in Q1||-||-||-|
|13||4||Conor Daly||USA||AJ Foyt Enterprises||1:17.1016|
|14||8||Max Chilton||GBR||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:16.7581|
|15||83||Charlie Kimball||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||1:17.1417|
|16||5||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:16.9539|
|17||20||Spencer Pigot||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||1:17.2662|
|18||19||Ed Jones||UAE||Dale Coyne Racing||1:17.0231|
|19||7||Jack Harvey||GBR||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:17.2722|
|20||21||JR Hildebrand||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||1:17.1602|
|21||13||Zachery Claman DeMelo||CAN||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||1:17.2814|
|22||14||Carlos Munoz||COL||AJ Foyt Enterprises||1:17.2507|