Title contender Helio Castroneves has been put to the back of the grid at Chicagoland Speedway for crossing the white line at the edge of the track during his qualifying lap.
His championship rival Scott Dixon will start on the outside of the front row, alongside Castroneves' Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe.
Castroneves had taken a provisional fourth place in this afternoon's qualifying session, but there was controversy as soon as he had completed his run, with television footage showing that the Penske Dallara-Honda's left-hand wheels had dropped below the white line separating the race track from the apron.
Indy Racing League chief steward Brian Barnhart duly ruled that Castroneves had crossed the line "numerous times" during his four laps, and disallowed the Brazilian's time, putting him to the back of the 28-car field.
When told that the qualifying attempt was about to be scratched, Castroneves and Penske Racing president Tim Cindric took off on scooters through the paddock in search of Barnhart. Upon returning, Castroneves said only "no comment," but Cindric said he was not allowed to meet with Barnhart.
"He said he only wanted to talk to Helio," Cindric said. "I was de-invited."
Before the official ruling, Dixon complained to reporters about Castroneves dropping below the white line during his qualifying effort. When told that Dixon was complaining, Castroneves responded.
"I don't have anything to say about it," he said. "It was a clean lap. It was fine."
Minutes later, the official ruling was handed down. Castroneves would start 28th instead of fourth, his chances of a championship all but hone.
It was the second serious sanction handed down by Barnhart against Castroneves in a span of six days. On Sunday in Detroit, Castroneves was penalised one position for blocking Justin Wilson. The ruling cost Castroneves a win and meant he trailed Dixon by 30 points rather than 20 going into the Chicagoland finale.
During the press conference before he found out about the disqualification, Castroneves joked about the Detroit penalty. When a reporter asked Briscoe if he would block for his teammate, Castroneves chuckled. "Blocking," he said, rolling his eyes. "Oh, boy."
Briscoe indicated he would do his best to stay ahead of Dixon, but wouldn't resort to chicanery to assist in a championship.
"All I can do is be up front and be competitive and stop Dixon from leading the most laps," Briscoe said. "That's going to be a tough task in itself. He's been very fast in practice, but so have I. Hopefully I can keep him from leading the most laps, but there's not much you can do.
"Helio needs to go out and have a good strong race. We don't wish bad fortune on anyone, but Dixon needs to have a bit of bad luck. I'm just going to try to run a good race."
Dixon has to finish eighth or worse for Castroneves to have a chance of beating him to the title.
"Helio has a lot of work to do," Dixon said. "I would hate to think we couldn't do any better than eighth."
Pos Driver Team Speed
1. Ryan Briscoe Penske 215.818
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi 215.553
3. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 215.548
4. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 215.368
5. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 215.064
6. Dan Wheldon Ganassi 214.967
7. Tomas Scheckter Luczo Dragon 214.855
8. Vitor Meira Panther 214.796
9. Marty Roth Roth 214.794
10. Will Power KV 214.583
11. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 214.444
12. Oriol Servia KV 214.441
13. Ed Carpenter Vision 213.875
14. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 213.523
15. AJ Foyt IV Vision 213.485
16. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 213.430
17. Jaime Camara Conquest 213.417
18. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 213.389
19. Alex Tagliani Conquest 213.305
20. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 212.857
21. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 212.753
22. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold 212.682
23. Darren Manning Foyt 212.406
24. Franck Perera Foyt 212.126
25. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne 212.040
26. EJ Viso HVM 211.996
27. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 211.451
28. Helio Castroneves Penske no speed