With the help of a backup car and the immense effort of teammates, Helio Castroneves won pole position for Sunday's IndyCar race at Sear's Point.
A Penske transporter caught fire on Wednesday on the way to the circuit, destroying Castroneves' primary road-course car, along with teammate Ryan Briscoe's.
Briscoe will start alongside Castroneves as both Penske drivers put their back-up cars on the front row.
It will be the third consecutive 1-2 start for Team Penske in road and street races; the duo also started on the front row at Mid-Ohio and Edmonton in July.
Castroneves said his first concern was for the truck drivers, Greg Shuker and Keith Goslin, who were not injured and later coordinated efforts to salvage parts and equipment from the trailer.
"My first reaction was that somebody got hurt," Castroneves said. "The phone rang and the first thing I heard was, 'The truck caught fire.' I thought, 'Oh, my God.' After they said nobody got hurt, then I said, 'What can we do to save the cars? What can we replace? What can we not replace?' Apparently we didn't have any problems. We just tried to stay positive."
Shuker and Goslin returned to Penske headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., and drove another semi-trailer carrying backup cars and parts across country in time for the weekend's event. The team already had cars on-site because of an earlier test by Briscoe, but one car was missing an engine and the neither were prepared.
"Those guys drove without stopping for 2,200 miles," Castroneves said. "They really worked a lot this week. All of these guys worked hard for this and it showed with the front row. They did an incredible job, you can't tell these cars were backups. It was a great result."
Instead of losing ground in his battle for the championship with Scott Dixon, Castroneves gave himself a chance to close the gap. With three races remaining, he is 78 points behind Dixon - a difficult but not impossible margin to overcome.
"We're in a situation where we've got to go; we've got to try," Castroneves said. "We've got to make this gap smaller and that's what we plan to do."
Briscoe, noting the lack of equipment and the fact that the team lost a large amount of the hardware seen in the pits each weekend, noted the effort of the team.
"They've had a lot of work this weekend," he said. "It was great to reward them with a front row."
Saturday's qualifying session also was impressive for KV Racing, who put both drivers in the fast six final qualifying session. Will Power will start third with Oriol Servia sixth.
"As a team, we're just trying to mingle with the big guys," Servia said. "We're showing we have the speed and we're catching up. Every race we're getting closer. To lead the transitional teams, we just want to take another step forward."
Tony Kanaan qualified fourth, earning just his sixth top-five start in 15 races this season.
"We were one change behind," Kanaan said. "We tried everything, but as a team we've come a long way. We've been struggling on the road courses, so I'm glad to be in the top four. You don't want to start worse than the second row here."
Dixon will start fifth, four positions behind Castroneves.
"We just didn't seem to have enough for what the Penske cars had," he said.
"We always seem to race a little better than we qualify. In the last session we lowered the car to try to pick up some time, but I magically went a little slower."
Pos Driver Team Time Speed
1. Helio Castroneves Penske 1:16.9027 107.809
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1:16.9185 107.787
3. Will Power KV Racing 1:17.0875 107.551
4. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 1:17.1286 107.493
5. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi 1:17.6682 106.746
6. Oriol Servia KV Racing 1:17.8377 106.514
7. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1:17.0056 107.665
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 1:17.0378 107.620
9. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 1:17.0458 107.609
10. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 1:17.2705 107.296
11. Mario Dominguez Pacific Coast 1:17.4614 107.031
12. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 1:17.5882 106.856
13. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne 1:17.8306 106.524
14. EJ Viso HVM Racing 1:17.4189 107.090
15. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1:17.9012 106.427
16. Dan Wheldon Chip Ganassi 1:17.4738 107.014
17. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon 1:18.1238 106.124
18. Vitor Meira Panther 1:17.5399 106.923
19. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold 1:18.3267 105.849
20. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 1:18.0038 106.287
21. Darren Manning AJ Foyt 1:18.3885 105.766
22. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold 1:18.1139 106.137
23. Ed Carpenter Vision Racing 1:18.4034 105.745
24. AJ Foyt IV Vision Racing 1:18.3715 105.788
25. Marty Roth Roth Racing 1:19.9435 103.708
26. Jaime Camara Conquest Racing 1:19.4711 104.325
27. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest Racing no time no speed