With only two races remaining in the IZOD IndyCar Series season, a good starting position is key to establishing yourself out front for the duration of each event.
Team Penske took this philosophy to heart in qualifying for the Indy Japan 300, placing drivers Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, and Will Power in the first three starting positions.
Power, the championship leader, will share the second row with Dario Franchitti, his closest championship rival. The two drivers are separated by a mere 17 points going into the final two races, by no means an insurmountable deficit.
Behind them, Andretti Autosport's top three drivers, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, took the fifth through seventh starting spots.
The KV Racing Technology cars of E.J. Viso and Japanese favorite Takuma Sato took eighth and 10th, respectively, with Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon between them.
Sato's recovery was a fine run considering he had suffered a practice incident earlier in the day.
Posting somewhat disappointing qualifying runs were Scott Dixon, who will line up 11th, and 2008 race winner Danica Patrick, who will start this year's running in 12th.
But the field was competitive: 23 of the 25 drivers in the event qualified within one second of pole-sitter Castroneves, with the lone exceptions Simona de Silvestro and Milka Duno.
Time zones always make the logistics of the race interesting for the American fans at home. Qualifying took place at 3:40 PM local time, which translates to 2:40 AM Eastern time.
Meanwhile, the race broadcast on Versus begins at 11:00 PM on Saturday night. Many fans, especially those on the East Coast, will either have to DVR the event or alter their sleeping schedules to enjoy the race.